The Personhood Movement Is Flexing on the GOP. We Should All Be Afraid

Between the Iowa caucuses and the resurgence of Personhood Mississippi, the reproductive health rights terrain has gotten rougher. Are we ready to navigate it?

By Akiba Solomon Jan 06, 2012

Happy new year first Friday! 

I’d like to start my first post of 2012 with an apology. Due to a Kwanzaa- then flu-related absence, I have failed to review key zygote-rights happenings in a timely manner. 


Now, please allow me to take you back, way back, to Dec. 27, 2011. On this Tuesday, before the people-of-color marginalizing, you’re-Christian-or-you’re-invisible Iowa caucuses, four GOP presidential candidates–Michele Bachmann, Newt Gingrich, Rick Perry and Rick Santorum– participated in a Personhood USA conference call dubbed the National Presidential Pro-life Forum. To me, what individual candidates said during this so-called teletownhallforum is less significant than what the call itself represented: the normalization of previously radical anti-choice ideas. 

Here we had four candidates who had already signed Personhood USA’s sufficiently sweeping anti-choice pledge tripping over one another to win the zygote-rights vote.  

During the call, which anti-abortion zealot Lila Rose described as the "first litmus test of our candidates," Rick Perry–the sitting governor of Texas–announced that after talking to Personhood USA spokeswoman and "Conceived in Rape" tour founder Rebecca Kisessling, he’d reconsidered reproductive rights for rape and incest victims

"We had a fairly lengthy and heartfelt conversation about how she was conceived in rape. Looking in her eyes, I couldn’t come up with an answer to defend the exceptions for rape and incest."

Rick "Blah people" Santorum, who went on to lose the Iowa caucuses to Mitt Romney by just eight votes, argued for a simple approach to granting fertilized eggs the same Constitutional rights and protections as the women who carry them:

"The act would be a very simple one that would recognize life from conception to natural death as what it is, a human life. We do not differentiate stages of development, or mental capacity, or capacity at the end of life, as being any less of a person."

For his part, Newt "Black people get off food stamps" Gingrich promised to "overhaul the U.S. Foreign Service to get rid of the people who are aggressively pro-abortion." And Michele Bachmann advocated a Supreme Court-free strategy for criminalizing abortion:

What we need to do to upend Roe vs. Wade and end the horrible holocaust of life in the United States is pass the personhood amendment… We don’t have to wait just for the Supreme Court, we can be involved in this ourselves."

For all of their pitchfork-bearing and witch-hunting, these Personhood USA panderers didn’t beat non-participant Romney in the Iowa caucuses. But state-based Personhood activists have an app for that: Mississippi.  

This week, the group behind that state’s failed Amendment 26 promised to push their roundly defeated ballot initiative through the seemingly sympathetic state legislature despite the fact that 58 percent of  Mississippi voters said no to it. This appears to be a new tactic: Other state Personhood movements such as Colorado’s have responded to defeated ballot initiatives by reintroducing them and gathering more signatures. The Mississippi strategy smacks of a dangerous power grab.

Now, I don’t want to be Chicken Little crowing about how the sky is falling. So I’ll end with this: As much attention as the presidential election is getting, all politics are local. We who believe in the reproductive health and well-being of women and girls cannot rest, this year, next year or the year after next. Off soap box, back to flu bed–and stockpiling condoms. 

Extra tidbit: Keli Goff compares presidential Personhood panderers to Sharia law advocates. Hmm.