By Rob Boston
The theocrats who yearn to take away our freedoms and run our lives according to their strict fundamentalist dogma are nothing if not resourceful. They’re always thinking up new strategies.
Case in point is a group called Personhood USA, a new entry in the world of the Religious Right. The organization’s theory is that it can ban legal abortion by passing state constitutional amendments declaring that a fertilized egg is legally a person.
The amendment would declare that, for legal purposes, personhood is defined as the “beginning of the biological development of that human being.” Such a sweeping definition of personhood would not only ban all abortions (even in cases of rape, incest and threats to the mother’s life), it would also make certain forms of birth control, stem-cell research and even some fertility treatments illegal.
Is it time to cue the classic Monty Python song “Every Sperm is Sacred” yet?
But Personhood USA’s drive is no laughing matter. The group actually managed to get this monstrosity on the ballot in Colorado, where it will face a vote next month. A 2008 attempt to pass it was a spectacular failure, with voters trouncing the proposal at the ballot box 73 percent to 27 percent, but things could be different this year: Colorado faces hard-fought U.S. Senate and gubernatorial races and an influx of “Tea Party” conservatives, which could affect the outcome.
Personhood USA was founded by two fundamentalist pastors, Cal Zastrow and Keith Mason, who call themselves “missionaries to preborn children.” Zastrow and Mason are backed by very extreme anti-abortion organizations – the kind of groups that even oppose birth control (other than the so-called “natural” techniques such as the rhythm method).
“They are still murdering children, and that must stop,” said Zastrow. “Anybody can plan their family anyway they want to, but if they use surgery or drugs…then those are innocent children who need to be protected.”
So, we can plan our families anyway we want – we just can’t use drugs or surgery to do it, which happen to be the most effective forms of birth control. What’s next – a ban on vasectomies and tubal ligations?
Personhood USA is so out there that even the hierarchy of the Roman Catholic Church, which is well known for its opposition to legal abortion, hasn’t fully embraced the group. In 2009, the Colorado Catholic Conference issued a letter to its churches explaining that while they were free to work with Personhood USA, the church as an institution would not be on board.
Part of the problem may be that Personhood USA, despite its claims of moral superiority by virtue of its religious beliefs, likes to get down in the gutter. The group recently released a television ad portraying President Barack Obama as an angel of death leading the nation into hell and asserting that he’s a dupe for the abortion industry, which the ad says makes billions every year.
We can expect to see more of this in other states. As PoliticsDaily.com noted, Colorado is just the beginning.
“They’re trying to get the issue on the Montana ballot this year, with Zastrow, his wife and four children living in Billings to work on the effort,” the site reported. “Mississippi will vote on the issue in 2011, and signatures are being collected in Florida. They’re also encouraging state lawmakers to introduce ‘personhood’ laws.”
Planned Parenthood President Cecile Richards put it bluntly: “It reaches into birth control, it reaches into fertility treatments. The legal turmoil this could create is so immense. I think that’s just the purpose of this amendment…to go far beyond choice; it’s to take away women’s right to family planning.”
Another group, the Coalition for Secular Government, is making an argument against the amendment grounded in the separation of church and state. One its Web site, the Coalition says it opposes “any laws or policies based on religious scripture or dogma, such as restrictions on abortion and government discrimination against homosexuals.”
About the only positive thing I can say about Personhood USA is that it doesn’t try to hide its agenda. If you go to the group’s Web site, you will see plenty of religious references and pretty straightforward descriptions of its amendment.
Take a look for yourself. It’s always good to be educated about the forces that want to take away our rights.