The Next Stop for Personhood Mania

Picking up the pieces after their Mississippi failure, zygote rights activists are taking their sideshow to Virginia

By Akiba Solomon Nov 22, 2011

Ah. Another day, another stab at establishing equal rights for zygotes.

Yesterday, Robert Marshall, a Republican member of the GOP-dominated Virginia House of Delegates filed HB-1, a bill that, at its core, mimics Personhood Mississippi’s failed Amendment 26. An excerpt:

Be it enacted by the General Assembly of Virginia:

§ 1. The life of each human being begins at conception.

§ 2. Unborn children have protectable interests in life, health, and well-being. […]

§ 4. The laws of this Commonwealth shall be interpreted and construed to acknowledge on behalf of the unborn child at every stage of development all the rights, privileges, and immunities available to other persons, citizens, and residents of this Commonwealth, subject only to the Constitution of the United States and decisional interpretations thereof by the United States Supreme Court and specific provisions to the contrary in the statutes and constitution of this Commonwealth.

§ 5. As used in this section, the term "unborn children" or "unborn child" shall include any unborn child or children or the offspring of human beings from the moment of conception until birth at every stage of biological development.

Now, unlike the ridiculously broad Mississippi amendment, the Virginia bill addresses the Achilles heel of in vitro fertilization:

§ 7. Nothing in this section shall be interpreted as affecting lawful assisted conception.

And just in case a woman fails to take care of her body while she’s carrying her little bundle of Constitutionally protected cells there’s this:

§ 6. Nothing in this section shall be interpreted as creating a cause of action against a woman for indirectly harming her unborn child by failing to properly care for herself or by failing to follow any particular program of prenatal care.

Phew. That’s a relief. Not. 

Anyway, Personhood Virginia is all on it. They’re asking fanatics people to sign and send a petition full of racialized rhetoric to their lawmakers. To keep things interesting, they’re not just targeting black folks, but Jewish and indigenous people:

By stripping personhood from the unborn, their right to life was revoked. By returning personhood to the weak and the powerless, we can restore their dignity and right to life as human beings. It really is that simple.

African slaves were denied their personhood and were therefore treated as property, bought, sold, and bred as animals. Jews were not considered full persons, so their property could be confiscated and their people eliminated. When Spanish conquistadors colonized America, many wealthy landowners fought to convince the Spanish crown that non-Christian "indians" were not legal persons and could therefore be enslaved.

One pesky problem with this tact: Women who make the decision to end a pregnancy are not white slave owners, German Nazis or Spanish conquistadors.  They do not deploy dehumanization to justify the Middle Passage, rampant rape, kidnapping, beatings, forced labor, murder, breeding, psychological warfare, neglect, and all of the other heinousness enslaved Africans and their successors endured then fought to eliminate.  They do not systematically terrorize, steal from, separate and annihilate millions of actual people on the basis of ethnicity and religion. Nor do they make sick propaganda films, bury people in mass graves or deny all of this activity later.  Women who make reproductive health decisions are not ruthlessly exterminating an entire group of people under the cloak of God when all they really want to do is steal their land.  To compare women who end pregnancies to slavers, Nazis and conquerers is to distort, minimize and mock those who suffered and died as a result of these great crimes of humanity.  Now that that’s out of the way, a couple more Personhood factoids to note.  "Inspired by Mississippi’s heroic efforts for Amendment 26," Personhood USA activists are taking their crazy to Colorado for a third time. Because there’s nothing more inspiring than losing in one of the most conservative states in the country.  Also, they’re blaming the failure of the Mississippi amendment on outside agitators funded by Planned Parenthood.  Sigh. It can’t be that people–like actual people–don’t agree.