Newsweek examines Personhood movement

A November 2 Newsweek article more or less fairly portrays the personhood movement, aside from its title, that is…
Newsweek, personhood, abortion, birth control, contraceptive.jpg
… and even the title shows the growing power of our youngest human beings, newly created 2-celled zygotes, certain to send shivers down the pro-abort spine.
Speaking of, no pro-aborts were interviewed for this piece. Interesting….

Newsweek, personhood movement, contraception, abortion.jpgBiggest complaint: Newsweek links the personhood movement to contraception in a related photo gallery article, “The evolution of birth control,” which would have been great except the piece never explains the connection. Which is that hormonal contraceptives and the IUD may abort 5-9 day old humans. With no clarification, I can only conclude Newsweek intended to subliminally scare its audience.
That complaint aside, the personhood article is an interesting read. It gives the history of the personhood movement, explains its rationale, and describes its opposition within the pro-life movement. But I’m not sure about the theory advanced for its growing popularity:

What caused the recent swell in personhood activism? A generational shift within the movement, experts say. “This is a transition moment,” says Ziad Munson, a sociologist at Lehigh University who studies the pro-life movement.
“The people leading the mainstream groups started in the 1970s as young activists and are essentially reaching retirement age. As a new generation of leaders comes into the movement, that introduces the possibility of new ideas.”
In studying the movement, Munson has seen a general shift in power from large groups with powerful connections in Washington, such as the National Right to Life Committee, to grassroots activists, generally younger and less inhibited about pursuing less tested methods. Or, in the case of personhood, a method tested 2 decades ago but largely new to a fresh generation of leaders….

The fact is many personhood movement leaders are not new activists, like Judie Brown.
Am interested in your theories on the rise of the personhood movement.
[HT: Facebook friend Gualberto G J]

33 thoughts on “Newsweek examines Personhood movement”

  1. I dream of a world where the leaders of the personhood movement are in power of our nation’s political system!
    loljk. I’d rather not have a wall dropped on me.

  2. When the voters, like those in CO in 2008, understand that the proponents are far right religious extremists whose intent is to ban all contraception and give the state absolute control over the lives of women, these measures will lose badly, as they did in CO last year 23% yes 77% no.

  3. …or maybe we support equal rights, Bystander.
    But I still think that that tinfoil hat probably looks cute perched atop your head.
    Did you reshape your little tinfoil sou’wester for Halloween? Into something like the Cat in the Hat hat so that you could feel a little festive?

  4. Just looked at the history part of the Newsweek article. Seems they forgot to mention that Margaret Sanger was really trying to rid the world not of just any baby but those who would be born to the ‘inferior’ of society. Its called eugenics and racism. Her proud support of the KKK is also missing. Wonder how they forgot to mention that?

  5. The “large groups with powerful connections in Washington, such as the National Right to Life Committee” have sought the way of compromise and incrementalism. I can’t think of any other time in history where a revolution was brought on incrementally. Young people, a second generation of abortion survivors, seem to know this instinctively. They realize the simple truth that every abortion, not just the “frivolous” ones, is murder, and they are impatient to bring on the revolution. Also, I think that people in general are beginning to realize that unless you define personhood from the moment of creation, you’ve lost the argument.

  6. Posted by: Bystander at November 2, 2009 8:15 PM
    “When the voters, like those in CO in 2008, understand that the proponents are far right religious extremists whose intent is to ban all contraception and
    give the state absolute control over the lives of women,
    these measures will lose badly, as they did in CO last year 23% yes 77% no.
    Indulging in a little bombastic hyperbole?
    As opposed to left wing humanist radicals and domestic terrorists who want to use the power of the state to strip babies and the elderly and feeble minded of their inherent and unalienable right to life.
    I can to do it too, but my hyperbole is true, unlike your BS.
    yor bro ken

  7. I do love the the juxtaposition of the 19th century suffragette fending off the rapine minded stork with her parasol. What part about ‘no’ does the bird not understand.
    Kind of like holding up an apple to ward off doctors.
    yor bro ken

  8. A few years ago, when I lived on horse property, my neighbor had a jackass who would bray loudly every morning “hee haw”. Every time I see a rant from Ken, it brings back those memories….

  9. As one of those “far right extremists” whose intent is to continually drive home the truth that a zygote is a human being with potential and not a potential human being, I have no desire to ban all contraception. The only thing that needs to be banned is the right of a woman to put to death the person within her. Maybe the zygote should be afforded the right to a trial by jury before he/she is put to death for the crime of existence. No one in this world has unqualified rights. All of our rights as human beings are qualified by what effect our actions in pursuit of those rights have on others. I may have the right to drive a car, but I do not have the right to ignore the rules of the road thereby putting other people’s lives at risk. My driving rights are qualified by the right of others to operate their vehicles in proximity to mine without being harmed by my selfish desire to throw caution to the wind.
    Bystander, we will not let what happened in Co. affect our message. We will truly raise the conciousness of women and not just appeal to their immediate self interest.

  10. Vannah, I appreciate you efforts to be clever, but several proponents of “Personhood” ,notably in FL, have been honest-that their intent is to ban contraceptives, in vitro fertilization and effectively to make every woman’s uterus property of the state to only be used only under state supervision. Do you disagree with their expressed intentions?

  11. “…to make every woman’s uterus property of the state to only be used only under state supervision.”
    Posted by: Bystander at November 2, 2009 10:00 PM
    BS, are laws criminalizing rape, then, the equivalent of the state’s ownership of every man’s penis? Not the same? He’s free to use it as he chooses until it violates the rights of another human being.

  12. I participated in the Personhood campaign in Colorado in 2008. I’m a baby boomer but didn’t get involved in the pro-life movement till my 50s (although I counseled at a CPC in my 20s). The minute I heard about the campaign starting in Colorado, I knew saw how right and historic it was. I jumped right on board. Same way I jumped on board the Nuclear Freeze Campaign as I was turning 30. I heard there were Catholics working to end the nuclear arms race and I thought, “finally”.
    The reason I feel hopeful about the Personhood approach winning is that I scoffed at Freeze people who wanted to move on to end the Cold War. Never conceived that it could end. But, within 10 years, it did. I know that involved divine intervention and I know that the personhood campaign will be successful for the same reason.
    The partial birth abortion campaign never excited me – probably because it wasn’t going for the root cause – loss of respect for human life. I was horrified and scandalized to see the major pro-life groups advise the head of Colorado’s Catholic Conference (Jennifer Kraska) to withhold endorsement. The Bishops actually told us to go back to our crisis pregnancy centers and praying outside clinics. You don’t do that once you’ve started gathering signatures and been able to actually talk to people about the inherant dignity of all human life (not just those with toes). Focus on the Family (headquartered in Colorado Springs) held back, too.
    Where the old guard really blocked a possible win was in North Dakota. It’s shameful. That’s all I can think, say or feel. The argument that even if it goes to the Supreme Court, it might lose – is imprudent to me. How many times were partial birth abortion bans defeated? And to worry about Roe being reaffirmed. This from the very group that argued Casey V Planned Parenthood (a case that had exceptions and was shot down for them – same as Roe)and got Roe more firmly embedded. These folks only want work on things they think they can win without changing the culture. The act of petitioning for Personhood in front of Walmart changes the culture. Hearing the truth – being challenged by it – changes people’s thinking. Breaks some of them out of their passive acceptance of the horrible reality that abortion is. It is not prudent to wait generations until we get the right people in the Supreme Court to move against Roe’s achilles heel. We should remember how the Berlin Wall fell. How Catholics prayed for generations for the fall of Communism. The Personhood Campaign is the crack in Roe’s wall. We must pray that AUL, NRTL and the USCCB can swallow their pride and come on board.

  13. I wish the pro-choice liars who are always harping on “baning contraception” would actually read the language of the amendments:
    The words “person” and “natural person” apply to all human beings, irrespective of age, race, health, function, condition of physical and/or mental dependency and/or disability, or method of reproduction, from the beginning of the biological development of that human being.
    The reason that the abortion advocates need to tell tales is that they know that if they try to deal with the question of when a human being becomes a person, they can’t have abortion on demand through all nine months in all 50 states for any reason.
    So their tactic is to hide their REALLY extreme position behind a smokescreen of what they want the amendment to say. They want it to say that it will ban all contraception, force women to have c-sections and provoke police investigations into all miscarriages.
    But it doesn’t say that.
    In the real world, words mean things.
    History is rife with the arrogance of liberals who think that the great unwashed public is too stupid to read words and know what they mean.
    That is why they need to lie and distort. They know that most people agree with the pro-life proposition when it is framed in terms of personhood.
    Their hope is that they can win a propaganda war in deceiving people into thinking the amendment is too extreme when all it does is to ask people if human beings are persons from the beginning of biological development.

  14. Bystander,
    Actually, Dr. Patricia McEwen said at the Florida press conference that this would NOT ban contraception.
    When she was asked about RU-486 and potentially abortifacient forms of birth control, the press then took a piece of her quote, buried it in the articles and wrote headlines to suggest that the proponents of the amendment would “ban birth control.”
    (It’s not journalism, its the National Enquirer-style liberal advocacy that uses provocative suggestion instead of plain facts.)
    Then liars like you twisted this further to suggest it would include ALL forms of contraception.
    So let’s be clear about that. I know Pat and Brenda, the co-sponsors of the Florida Amendment. In fact, Pat is a good friend of mine. If you want to know what their views are on birth control and contraception, you should ask them.
    And please stop lying.

  15. If a human being exists at conception, as the Personhood Initiative aims to codify into law, it does stand to reason that hormonal contraceptives and IUDs, as well as IVF should be banned. They destroy untold numbers of lives. When did we as a society put selfishness and pleasure before the life of another human being?
    There is nothing “extreme” about not wanting innocent persons to be killed through chemicals, suction machines, or any other method of choice. It is not “extreme”. It is humane.
    What is interesting is that this whole initiative is causing PP and their ilk to tell the truth at least in one regard: that hormonal contraceptives and IUDs often act as abortifacients. So many women I’ve talked to never knew that this is one of these contraceptives’ methods of action. They never bother to read the package inserts. And PP used to deny it–until the rise of the personhood movement. But don’t say it too loudly, because maybe women will start to question what they’re doing to their babies and their own bodies. Too many “pro-life” women use contraceptives while remaining blissfully ignorant.
    And if they start questioning, they may also find that HORMONAL CONTRACEPTIVES CAUSE BREAST CANCER. The World Health Organization and the National Institutes of Health know it, having officially listed hormonal contraceptives in the highest class of cancer causing substances. But if more women would know it, like maybe through the powerful Susan G. Komen Foundation (oh, wait, they’re in bed with Planned Parenthood), then maybe women would question contraceptives altogether, and we know that big pharmaceutical companies and PP stand to lose billions, and the liberals lose societal control. Maybe that’s why Newsweek doesn’t really want to make the connection.
    And, heaven forbid, that women would actually be told that there is a method of family planning that is more effective than the Pill, with no adverse health effects, and no risk to newly conceived children—Natural Family Planning (NFP), that is (NOT the old “rhythm method”). Check it out at the Couple to Couple League. But NFP requires communication, commitment, and self control. And many humans would rather act like animals. But that is not how it was before, and that is not how it could be. We have to start renewing our society somewhere, and that somewhere may very well be this personhood movement.

  16. Jody Ward at November 2, 2009 8:53 PM
    ” I can’t think of any other time in history where a revolution was brought on incrementally.”
    Actually Jody, one needs only to look at the attempts to emancipate the slaves in England during the late 1700’s and 1800’s. The first steps took place in the 1750’s and it was not until 1807 that the slave trade was banned. Not slavery itself, but the slave trade.
    At the time it was hailed as a huge victory for the abolitionist forces (and it is today) but it did not specifically ban slavery and even “allowed it to exist” as some would make of it today.
    Emancipation for all the slaves in the British Empire would not come for almost another 30 years, finally being passed by the British Parliament in 1833.
    The effort to ban slavery was one huge, slow-moving incremental process which became the model for every future social reform campaign that has existed. Much of what is done in the pro-life movement today has its roots in the abolitionist movement, which was succesful.
    Having said all of this, I am in favor of the Personhood campaign and think it’s worth persuing. Anything that adds pressure to the system is in general, a good thing.
    But it’s important to keep a historical perspective and not get caught up in the rush of the latest and newest thing, thinking it is the only thing that is going to work.

  17. Andrew,
    I really like your perspective on Personhood, especially “Anything that adds pressure to the system is in general, a good thing. But it’s important to keep a historical perspective, etc.”
    I also wanted to say…regarding the abolition movement, it couldn’t happen overnight, but it certainly COULD have happened significantly faster, had the abolitionists kept the pressure up, and not been so hungry for victory that they were willing to be appeased by regulations, rather than by the ban of the slave trade (and abolition).
    We have made progress, and the Supreme Court is more pro-life than it’s been at any point since 1973. But, I think we could have made a lot faster progress if National Right to Life and other groups had taken a both/and approach–that we’ll work both on the 100% Right to Life Act, as well as incremental measures that will help us to actually pass the Right to Life Act. Since 1984 (the year I was born), it’s been mostly just a matter of taking what we think we can get on the first go-round. It’s hard to tell how interested they are in the Right to Life Act anymore, from reading their website.
    This is an article on William Wilberforce, prudence, political strategy, etc, by Guabe Jones of Personhood Colorado:

  18. Thank you, Sylvia for being honest about the intent of Personhood to ban contraception and in vitro fertilization. You have done voters a great service.

  19. When she was asked about RU-486 and potentially abortifacient forms of birth control, the press then took a piece of her quote, buried it in the articles and wrote headlines to suggest that the proponents of the amendment would “ban birth control.”
    Jay, please tell me EXACTLY what “potentially abortifacient forms of birth control” means.
    Thank you.

  20. Bystander,
    So all of those pro-choicers I hear who support abortion only because they are openly racist, hate the lower class, and openly hate the disabled can represent you?
    If you get to stereotype and play “You’re Evil…I Know It!” why can’t I?

  21. Joe, I read through that article you mention.
    Metaxas did not write the biography to comment on incremetalism as we know it, but instead to re-introduce modern readers to William Wilberforce, a once common house-hold name. Metaxas is clear up front that his work is not a thorough study of the man and refers people to other books that study him more deeply. Wilberforce was indeed a complex man.
    A thorough reading of Metaxas book, and a study of the campaign to abolish slavery, clearly shows Wilberforce was willing to “compromise” to make progress. He did so many times in his career and many passages from his own writings and speeches verify this. He did not like doing it, but he did it anyways.
    His ultimate goal, one which he talked about his whole life, was the abolition of slavery completely. This was always known, and when he introduced his bills into Parliament through the years, his opponents (who were well-funded from the slave trade) objected on the grounds that Wilberforce only wanted to get rid of slavery completely, a charge which was true enough.
    Wilberforce’s opposition to slavery was well-known. His objectives were not hidden at all. But he and the people he worked with on the campaigns did disagree on the best way to go about it.
    Whether or not it could have happened quicker is pure speculation only and a moot point. After all, slavery had existed for thousands of years before and in fact, continues to this day. Very easy to be a MMQB, but much harder to actually advance an agenda in the face of entrenched opposition with people who disagree with how you are doing it!

  22. The words “person” and “natural person” apply to all human beings, irrespective of age, race, health, function, condition of physical and/or mental dependency and/or disability, or method of reproduction, from the beginning of the biological development of that human being.
    If you consult the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, that would be from implantation onward. Oral contraceptives and IVF wouldn’t be outlawed, but things that should be outlawed, like, implanting 10 embryos through IVF and then killing the resulting 8 babies through abortion and just leaving that one little precious “wanted child”(TM), would.
    If that was the accepted definition, I would back this piece of legislation 100%.

  23. Andrew,
    You’ve stated what you’ve probably been told by incrementalists, that incrementalism was the method that led to victory against slavery. But, as Guabe’s artice in Joe’s link points out, that’s not actually true. Almost the opposite, in fact.
    Wilberforce did use incremental methods — not first, but in the middle of his struggle — because he was frustrated and despaired of success through any other means. That’s why NRTL and AUL have taken the incremental road — they lack the vision to forsee victory, and so they admit defeat by settling for half measures, never really believing that anything more is possible. It’s a defeatist attitude, and now they’re dead to inspiration, and bitter enough that they discourage it when offered.
    Wilberforce’s early efforts were absolutist, and they almost succeeded. And then events interfered, and he lost steam, health, etc. But later, when he finally won victory against the slave trade (which is NOT a “compromised incrementalist” goal — it’s a goal in itself which does not necessarily endorse slavery), he expected that slavery as an institution would follow shortly thereafter. It didn’t.
    I haven’t read Guabe’s essay before now, but it’s very good. It points to Metaxas’ bio of Wilberforce, and in that biography he points out that a decade after the slave trade ended, Wilberforce was disappointed that slavery continued, and he ultimately realized that the incremental measures he’d helped pass — the amelioration laws — had made slavery more palatable, and had made it seem more humane to the general public.
    At that point, Wilberforce had to virtually start again, from scratch, to overturn slavery itself, because incrementalism had not turned the people against slavery — just the opposite. He had to start arguing, for the first time since the late 1700s, that slavery was inherently immoral, no matter how “humane” the treatment of the slaves or how restricted the practice was. So long as it continued in any form, it was in its “most easily approved” form, and the public had come to think of it as harmless and natural — the more regulated and restricted slavery became, over the decades, the more the public approved of it, because it was no longer as ugly as it once was (unless you considered the rights of human beings, or the Personhood of the slaves themselves).
    So Wilberforce ended slavery itself without ever again using incrementalism — he began arguing for the Personhood of the black man, and his right to not be enslaved. And I believe he realized (and Metaxas hints at this) that if he’d taken this approach earlier, instead of his incremental steps, he would have succeeded earlier in banning slavery.
    Lastly, and most conclusively, Wilberforce was asked, shortly before his death in 1833, to endorse the American anti-slavery movement, and he did so. But immediately afterward, he was approached by William Lloyd Garrison, who was an absolutist who argued for the Personhood of the black man. Wilberforce was shocked, and angered! He had been duped by people who pretended to be anti-slavery, but whose goals were incremental in nature — who didn’t want to necessarily end slavery, but who wanted to make it more humane.
    And so Wilberforce renounced his support of the other group, and wholeheartedly endorsed Garrison’s Personhood effort, because his long experience had taught him that incrementalism was not productive. Only absolute abolition — Personhood — would do.

  24. Bystander: “Thank you, Sylvia for being honest about the intent of Personhood to ban contraception and in vitro fertilization.”
    Do you have some sort of allergic reaction to being honest, or something?

  25. I’m not “threatened” I just point out a political reality- since personhood seeks to criminalize contraceptives, ivf, and many types of medical research, it will never become law in any state. Too radical for 90% of the voters.

  26. Ed,
    Perhaps you misunderstand my position on the Personhood bills. I am in favor of them and in general think they should be persued.
    I disagree with those who openly oppose them, however I would not call their pro-life convictions into question, as you did.
    I used to work closely with many people from National Right to Life and your description of them as “dead to inspiration, and bitter” could not be further from the truth.
    Also, your little get-around about the passage of the ban on the slave trade in 1803 which you describe as something that was “a goal in itself which does not necessarily endorse slavery” is not fair either. Especially in light of the efforts today by those who oppose incremental legislation to castigate those who support it to mean “and then the baby can be killed.”
    One more thing before I go. Your post is a well-written misrepresentation of what exactly occurred during the campaign to end slavery and is a classic example of “projecting backwards” and pulling out what you want to hear to justify your own position.
    Incrementalism played a huge part in the ending of slavery, and the effort to pass these bills, and its ensuing success, is what made it possible for emancipation to occur.
    I think the same thing will happen in the modern day pro-life movement. Because I believe in establishing personhood for the unborn, I will work in the Legislatures to make sure every effort is made to advance this agenda at all times. Almost every endeavour of man works incrementally and this is more true in politics, as the history of the world shows.
    Slavery was no different, neither will abortion be.

  27. Bystander, I’ll give you another chance to address Jay Rogers’s statement:
    “Actually, Dr. Patricia McEwen said at the Florida press conference that this would NOT ban contraception.
    When she was asked about RU-486 and potentially abortifacient forms of birth control, the press then took a piece of her quote, buried it in the articles and wrote headlines to suggest that the proponents of the amendment would ‘ban birth control.'”
    Care to address this distinction, Bystander?

  28. Bystander,
    Perhaps that 90% may be drastically reduced over time to less than 50%, if truth be told. I imagine there are many people whose consciences would not sit right with them, particularly people who call themselves pro-life, if they knew the true abortifacient effects of contraceptives, especially if presented with the moral option of Natural Family Planning.
    Having had the privilege to read comment sheets from an NFP introductory class for Catholic marriage preparation, I found the large majority of couples (nearly all sexually active, presumably contracepting) had responded favorably, gratefully, to arguably one of the Catholic Church’s best kept secrets. Most were open to it and wanted to know more. And because of what they’d just learned about the true nature of marriage as God intended, more than half were considering remaining chaste until their weddings. People hunger for the truth. (A very small percentage said they’d stick with what they’re doing. But who knows…maybe over time they’d accept NFP too. The seed had been planted.)
    I don’t believe that women (and men too) really want to use drugs that have the potential to kill their babies and cause cancer. But the prospect of accepting all the children God gives them through their actions scares them too. For married couples, NFP is a rational choice. For nonmarried couples, perhaps this newfound knowledge of contraceptive dangers may cause them to rethink the seriousness of what they’re messing with and the moral implications attached to sex outside of marriage.
    Pope Paul VI was prophetic in his encyclical Humanae Vitae, as to what would happen if the world accepted contraception. He was right. It’s well worth your time to read it (available online). (Interestingly, a new study has shown that feminism and the fruits of the “sexual revolution” has made women less, not more happy. Pope Paul IV would not be surprised.)
    The liberals have been working for decades now to infiltrate our schools and change society’s values by corrupting children. It’s going to take some time to undo the damage. Education, especially of the young, is key. This Personhood movement brings some issues to light that have remained in darkness for too long. Even if current efforts fail, like with some of the couples in the NFP class, the seed will have been planted. With more of our efforts to educate, I believe God will make the seeds grow.

  29. Len, I’m not bmmg39 but I’d like to answer your inquiries by explaining that any form of hormonal birth control, including the BC pill, (also Norplant, Depo-Provera & IUDs), is supposed to work in a couple ways.
    First, by altering the woman’s hormone levels to attempt to prevent ovulation; theoretically no egg is released to be fertilized. Secondly, those same altered states produce a less-hospitable environment with a thinner uterine lining. That is the abortifacient aspect, meaning that when breakthrough ovulation occurs and sperm & egg unite, the newly conceived human being travels from his/her mother’s fallopian tube and 7 to 10 days after conception reaches the uterus to implant. The thinner lining can make it impossible for the embryo to implant, or implantation can occur but an “embryo already implanted in the endometrial lining of the uterus would be unable to maintain itself long enough to result in a clinically recognized pregnancy.”*
    How often does break-through or escape ovulation occur?
    “Scientific papers suggest that escape ovulation occurs 4-15% of all cycles in patients taking birth control pills. Thus, as this booklet points out, early chemical abortions are a real and significant concern.”
    ~ Paddy Jim Baggot, M.D., Ob/Gyn, Fellow of the American College of Medical Genetics
    4 to 15% would mean that in roughly two years of being on the pill, a woman could have this happen 1 to 4 times.
    Hope that helps and the links at least point you in the right direction to learn more. I’d be remiss to not point out the danger of these endocrine-system altering hormones. The WHO lists BC pills as a Class 1 carcinogen (cancer-causing agent).

  30. I am aware of how oral contraceptives work, but thanks for the link.
    You did not, howver, answer my question. Does the phrase “potentially abortifacient forms of birth control,” as used in the quote above, include oral contraceptives? You seem to confirm that it does without coming out and saying so. Do proponents of this amendment mean to outlaw oral contraceptives?

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