Category Archives: Human Life Amendment

The Personhood split, Part II: Strategy

2935348.largeRead The Personhood split, Part I: Structure for background.

Aside from their structural variations, Personhood USA and National Personhood Alliance at first seemed to have similar goals – until the November 4 election.

At that time both the Colorado “Definition of Person and Child” Initiative and  North Dakota “Life Begins at Conception” Amendment failed, by 65% and 64%, respectively.

After the defeat of those two initiatives, added to the defeats in 2008 and 2010 of PUSA-sponsored personhood initiatives in Colorado by 73% and 70.5%, respectively, NPA publicly threw in the towel on state initiatives.

The hoister of the white flag was NPA National Policy Director Gualberto Garcia Jones, a former PUSA board member. Jones proclaimed in a post-election op ed, “[I]t isn’t an overstatement to say that the statewide personhood ballot measure is dead for now.”

Ironically, Jones complained in his op ed that at least one previous statewide personhood initiative had lost because it was “sabotaged” by “opposition from state leaders who should have been our allies.”

But isn’t that what Jones was doing to future statewide personhood efforts?

In fact, the personhood movement constantly criticizes – and rightfully so, in my opinion – incremental groups and leaders who publicly oppose their initiatives. Here’s one such letter… co-authored by Jones.

So I don’t understand the compulsion of one personhood group to publicly condemn a strategy spearheaded by another personhood group. You’d think they’d know better.

Pro-aborts ate it up, though.

As Jones should know, personhood efforts, like incremental efforts, are about more than winning at the ballot box or in a legislature, as this PUSA infographic shows (click to enlarge):


Keith Mason, head of PUSA, confirmed to me that PUSA now has a database of 7 million believers. 7 million. No other pro-life group can touch that.

Jones wrote that NPA is taking its efforts local – an incremental strategy, I might add (as are statewide personhood efforts, actually):

We need to start engaging in more asymmetrical tactics, and this means engaging the enemy in municipalities and counties that we know we control.

This can be done at the legislative and political level, as Georgia Right to Life and other groups have done by the endorsement of state officials, or it can be done by engaging in municipal ballot measures.

Dan Becker, former employee of PUSA and founder of NPA, expounded in an email:

We are adding a FOURTH “leg” to the NRLC (National Right to Life Committee) 3-legged stool – judicial tension through the interposition of “lesser magistrates.”

The legal doctrine of interposition is a well established principle. This is especially important as Personhood Alabama has a supportive state supreme court in Justice Tom Parker and Chief Justice Roy Moore. We are looking for various state supreme courts to issue conflicting rulings as an inducement for the U.S. Supreme Court to grant cert. The timeline for a USSC appeal would be after the 2016 election (assuming a GOP victory) and AFTER a replacement of Kennedy or the more liberal old folks.

Becker provided a link to the story of the Georgia city banning abortion clinics (which it has since walked back).

It’s fine, great, to work on any and all of the above. But we again return to the question, why the need for two national personhood groups?

In the final analysis, I think it all comes down to NPA leadership’s animus toward NRLC, with a healthy dose of personhood infighting. (Welcome to the club.) Both leaders of NPA are former employees of PUSA. As I wrote in Part I:

PA wants to formulate an organization of affiliates to compete against the National Right to Life Committee. (It helps to know NRLC disaffiliated Georgia Right to Life, of which Becker is still president, in March 2014 for a difference of opinion on strategy that culminated in GRTL’s public attempt to thwart a piece of NRLC’s legislation.)

PUSA wants to maintain a tight decision-making framework composed of a small leadership team and donor board, also with affiliates, but with no plan to rival and replace NRLC.

PUSA and NPA are working on the same efforts, some just different in scope. As Mason wrote in an email to supporters after the aforementioned op ed was published:

We have increased support for Personhood by 10% since the first initiative in 2008. Clearly, this is a social change model that works. Moreover, these initiatives are tools to build the grassroots infrastructure within a state to actually pass an amendment – it identifies people who consider themselves pro-life so that we can activate them to act pro-life. That’s how Personhood USA grew to become the largest grassroots pro-life organization in the country!

The state ballot initiative is also an educational tool that simultaneously provides a pro-life standard for lobbying and candidate endorsements.

Nevertheless, we realize the fatigue that can set in when we focus exclusively on state measures. That’s why the Personhood USA team developed the idea for regional and local personhood resolutions and measures – an idea which has now been bandied about in the media! We support “all-of-the-above” to work to pass Personhood.

PUSA and NPA share many if not most of the same affiliates. They even share the same name, over which there is now a trademark dispute.

The only real difference between the two is NPA wants to rival NRLC and PUSA doesn’t.

I saw it get personal between Georgia Right to Life/Dan Becker and Karen Handel. (And I was drawn into that, so I speak from experience as well.)

There seems to be a trend.


The Personhood split, Part I: Structure

988-BreakupOn June 14, 2014, came the news:

Georgia Right to Life President Daniel Becker today announced the formation of a new national pro-life organization, the National Personhood Alliance, a confederation of faith-based, pro-life organizations and leaders who believe pursuing Personhood is essential to protecting all innocent human beings in the 21st century.

Reading that I became confused, because last I knew Becker was working for Personhood USA, a group that sounded an awful lot like this new group.

Both organizations are founded on the “immediatist” principle of supporting only endeavors and political candidates with no abortion exceptions, such as for rape and incest.

But what could really be the difference between an organization named Personhood USA and one named National Personhood Alliance?

One major difference, I came to learn, was organizational structure.

PA wants to formulate an organization of affiliates to compete against the National Right to Life Committee. (It helps to know NRLC disaffiliated Georgia Right to Life, of which Becker is still president, in March 2014 for a difference of opinion on strategy that culminated in GRTL’s public attempt to thwart a piece of NRLC’s legislation.)

PUSA wants to maintain a tight decision-making framework composed of a small leadership team and donor board, also with affiliates, but with no plan to rival and replace NRLC. Plus, PUSA has worked hard to amass a HUGE (seven million and counting) national database of believers.

I’ll pause to say I have friends and colleagues in both PUSA and PA, and I support both immediatist and incremental approaches to stop abortion – pretty much anything short of violence that attempts to move the ball forward. I only get riled when either camp attempts to thwart the others’ efforts.

That said, and as an aside, in my opinion there is really no such thing as immediatist, or nonincremental, efforts.

While immediatists charge that a 20-week abortion ban omits babies younger than 20 weeks, or that any pro-life law with a rape/incest exception leaves out babies conceived by sexual perpetrators, they cheer initiatives to establish personhood in one state – but which omit 49 other states, or a protest at one abortion clinic – which is not to protest at the other 749 or so others, or saving one baby headed for death – which is not to save the 2,999 or so others murdered by abortion that day. Etc.

In reality, short of a human life amendment to the Constitution, all pro-lifers are working on incremental steps to stop abortion. [UPDATE: A couple people have pointed out to me that even a human life amendment is incremental, since it omits babies in all other pro-abortion countries.]

Some immediatists will then argue there are “principled” vs. “unprincipled” incremental efforts. In other words, there are those babies it is morally acceptable to try to save and those it is not. This really upsets me on a personal level, because I held an aborted baby that immediatists who eschew a 20-week ban would let die. That’s principled?

But back to the split.

PUSA gave PA its blessing upon launch, but the relationship quickly soured. PUSA publicly announced in a September 1 email it would “not be participating in the new National Personhood Alliance.”

In that email PUSA lodged these complaints against PA:

NPA has incorporated in Georgia as a 501c4 under the name “Personhood Inc.” and will be doing business as “Personhood”, Violating Personhood USA’s trademark of Personhood. In addition, the emails and documents we have seen indicate that they intended to use our logos, branding, and intellectual property.

One of the main concerns here is duplication of focus and confusion among all grassroots supporters.


In fact, there have now been three trademark applications submitted: 1) August 28, 2014, for “Personhood” by Georgia Right to Life Committee; 2) October 6, 2014, for “Personhood” plus the design, right, by Personhood USA; and 3) October 6, 2014, for “Personhood USA” by Personhood USA.

I’m told PUSA and PA are trying to settle their differences through private, not legal, mediation, but if they’ve both now applied for the same trademark, it doesn’t look promising.

NEXT: The Personhood split, Part II: Strategy

Thoughts on National Right to Life severing ties with GA Right to Life

imageOn March 29 the National Right to Life Committee announced it was disaffiliating Georgia Right to Life.

In the same statement NRLC announced it was credentialing a new state pro-life organization, Georgia Life Alliance.

Read NRLC’s press release here, but its rationale for severing ties with GRTL boiled down to insubordination: GRTL had publicly attempted to thwart two pieces of NRLC’s “top-priority federation legislation,” the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act last year, and the No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act this year.

In its statement, NRLC subtly responded to GRTL’s reason for defying its parent organization, which was that GRTL opposed the rape/incest exceptions in the aforementioned bills:

NRLC and its affiliates seek to restore legal protection for all unborn children from the moment of their conception. Until the Supreme Court allows broad protections for unborn children, we work to protect as many children as possible by passing the strongest possible laws at the state and federal level. That legislative strategy has helped save millions of lives – and continues to save lives today.

Likewise, in its response, GRTL subtly explained its reason for defying NRLC:

In 2000, GRTL changed its candidate endorsement criteria and legislation policy to ensure that all pre-born children are protected, except in cases where the life of the mother is threatened.

As a result, Georgia is the only state where all its statewide constitutional officers do not support rape or incest exceptions. Georgia is one of only two states that have kept exceptions out of their legal codes….

GRTL PAC has an 89% success rate in helping to elect candidates who are truly pro-life and do not support rape and incest exceptions. spelled out the disagreement:

The national pro-life group decided Saturday to affiliate instead with [GLA], a new group that says it aims to protect all unborn children, but will support legislation that includes the exceptions as an incremental strategy. GRTL has opposed exceptions – except for the “life of the mother,” provided that the health care provider tries to save both lives – since 2000.

The GRTL/NRLC split is symptomatic of an ongoing battle within the pro-life movement between those who think certain incremental legislation is immoral and those who think either the all-or-nothing personhood/immediatist approach, or more sweeping legislation (such as a 12-week abortion ban), is imprudent.

Some on Facebook have taken my use of the term of “insubordination” as a judgment call in favor of NRLC. It isn’t. I, myself, was fired for “insubordination,” as it was written on my termination letter, for publicly opposing my hospital’s pro-abortion policy. Firing is what organizations do when subordinates are… insubordinate.

I saw this picture and caption yesterday and thought it provided a good example of what I’m talking about. In this case General MacArthur publicly stated he wanted to expand the Korean War into China, which President Truman opposed….


I’ve heard versions of what went down between NRLC and GRTL from well-placed sources within both camps. And I think both sides are responsible for some rights and some wrongs, as is usually the case. If I thought one group was clearly in the wrong, I’d say so.

I’m generally for doing anything to move the ball forward, so I’m usually happy to see personhood/immediatist endeavors as well as incremental endeavors. Then again, I’m no strategist.

What I don’t like is when either camp undermines the other camps’s efforts, of which both camps are guilty.

And I don’t like when personhood/immediatist pro-lifers attack incrementalist attempts as immoral or not pro-life.

imageI agree with Ryan Bomberger (pictured right), the adopted biracial pro-lifer who is the product of rape. Ryan wrote in an email (which he gave me permission to post):

I was born as a result of rape and am often expected to solely advocate “no-exceptions” policies. I do believe in Personhood as a concept. But just as with slavery, the 13th Amendment didn’t materialize out of thin air. It was a long exhausting haul of political failure and seemingly impossible triumphs.

I long for the day when abortion is unthinkable. But we have to perform massive “heart” surgery for millions out there including many in our own camp along the way.

I’m a passionate abolitionist… an incrementalist… a realist. I cheer when 20 week abortion bans stand up to judicial scrutiny. I applaud when Pain-Capable bills pass. As a parent I rejoice when parental notification and consent laws ensure the State doesn’t meddle in our children’s personal lives. I tear up when I see mobile ultrasound units uninhibited by bogus zoning restrictions as they provide services where they’re needed most. Some victories are bigger than others, but none are too small in this monumental battle.

I admire different approaches. As a creative professional, I firmly believe that one-size-never-fits-all…. We can be unified yet still diversified.

I support GRTL/Personhood USA’s efforts to establish the legality of personhood at conception. But GRTL was just as wrong – according to its own “no exceptions” standard – to oppose a 20-week federal ban with a rape/incest exception as it was to support a state 20-week ban with no rape/incest exception – but which excepted all babies under 20 weeks.

Here is GRTL’s rationalization, which is instructive to read, taken from page 33 of Pillars of Personhood Educational Handbook. Click to enlarge:


IMO, the above is Pharisaic blather to rationalize GRTL’s support of a 20-wk ban with no exceptions, etc.

GRTL’s analogy…

Passing laws that discriminate against such classes with the intent to “come back and save them later” is essentially the same as running into a burning building and saving who you can but then shooting those you can’t on your way out.

… is false. All abortion-bound babies will “burn” if not saved by incremental laws. Pro-lifers don’t shoot the ones they are unable to save. These babies are going to die anyway.

Likewise, to support a 20-week ban that laudably excludes a rape/incest exception is still to “shoot” all babies under 20 weeks left in the burning building. And to support a ban on taxpayer funded abortion is still to “shoot” all babies aborted with personal funds. Even to ban any and all abortions in Georgia is still to “shoot” babies burning in 49 other states.

How can GRTL not see its own hypocrisy? It’s quite frustrating. Mirroring it own principles back at it shows it, too, is guilty of classism (prejudice against preborn babies whose mothers have money), geographical prejudice, and ageism.

That the very nature of abortion is ageism is something I’m reminded of every day, because I carry these drop cards by Created Equal in my wallet to leave in public places…


imageMy final thought is that NRLC’s disaffiliation of GRTL has lit a long smoldering spark into a fire. It will be seen as a tipping point. I have no evidence, only a strong sense, that other NRLC disenfranchised affiliates like Cleveland Right to Life and Colorado Right to Life (which birthed American Right to Life), together with Personhood USA, whose National Field Director is Dan Becker (pictured right), the president of GRTL, and another group or two I can think of, will coalesce into a new national pro-life organization to rival NRLC.

I don’t fear or abhor this potentiality. Although unity is preferred, God uses adversity to advance the message as well. My only concern is whether this development will hinder or help everyone’s goal to stop abortion.

Colorado Planned Parenthood blames personhood initiatives for two clinic closures

roe-and-colorado-blogWell, God works in mysterious ways.

Poor planning by Planned Parenthood of the Rocky Mountains, ironically due to two successful attempts to preserve its bottom line, has resulted in overextending itself to the point it has to close two of its 23 clinics. At least that’s PPRM’s claim. From the Colorado Springs Independent, August 14:

It’s been widely reported that in 2008 and 2010, opponents of personhood greatly outspent supporters.

And they won easily. In 2008, Amendment 48 failed 73.2% to 26.8%. In 2010, Amendment 62 failed 70.53% to 29.47%.

But the victories have come at a cost, particularly to Planned Parenthood of the Rocky Mountains, which is gearing up for another fight should Brady backers get enough signatures by early September to qualify for the ballot. PPRM spokesperson Monica McCafferty notes that her organization led the funding in both campaigns, which together cost about $3 million.

Though donations are up, McCafferty says the campaigns’ costs have hurt. It’s one of the reasons why PPRM is closing two centers (neither of which offers abortion) in September. One is in La Junta, the other in eastern Colorado Springs.

McCafferty says she believes personhood organizers have taken to the ballot repeatedly as “a tactic … to just drain our resources.”

[Personhood USA spokesperson Jennifer] Mason says that’s untrue – her group has run Personhood in Colorado, she says, because Personhood USA is based in Colorado. Not that she’s shedding any tears over the clinics: “It was an unintended consequence. And I can’t say I’m disappointed.”

Actually, I don’t believe for a minute that personhood initiatives were responsible for PPRM’s clinic closures. As we saw recently in TexasPlanned Parenthood Gulf Coast tried to blame government defunding and a new pro-life law for three clinic closures, but it soon came out PPGC simply ran out of financial reserves to pay a Medicaid fraud settlement.

But whatev, I’ll take it.

Image_of_the_unborn_baby_Brady_Surovik_Courtesy_of_The_Brady_Project_CNA_US_Catholic_News_4_5_13Meanwhile, Colorado pro-lifers are pressing ahead with a different sort of personhood initiative in 2014. It is called the Brady Amendment and named for Brady Paul Surovik, an 8 pound, 2 ounce, baby boy who was killed en utero by a drunk driver on July 5,  2012, just days before he was due to be born.

Brady’s mother Heather, who was seriously injured but survived, was grieved to learn the four-time convicted driver would not be charged for killing Brady, because Brady was not considered a person in Colorado. (Neither was Colorado theater shooter James Holmes charged with the murder of a perborn baby who miscarried after his/her mother was shot.)

In May the Colorado legislature passed the deceptively named Crimes Against Pregnant Women Act, which upped penalties in cases such as Brady’s but did not confer personhood to preborns. Planned Parenthood approved the bill, which was stuffed with pro-abortion trinkets.

According to the Catholic News Agency:

Two personhood amendments have gone before Colorado voters, but neither attracted more than 30% of the vote. Another proposed amendment to define personhood failed to qualify the 2012 ballot. These efforts tried to define personhood from the moment of fertilization or from the moment human development begins.

The Brady Amendment differs from these previous amendments. Its phrasing only concerns victims of crime or negligence. Since abortion is legal in Colorado, the amendment may not have any effect on it.

Here’s more on precious baby Brady…

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Pro-life leader’s home vandalized in wake of Newsweek article

Warning: Vulgarity ahead.

I wrote last week that a Newsweek article favorable to the personhood movement and personhood leaders Keith and Jennifer Mason had “riled abortion proponents.” Little did I know how much.

Someone posted Mason’s home address in a comment to the Newsweek article. Newsweek closed down comments, but it was too late. At 1:30a on June 27, Mason “was in the basement, catching a movie and having a beer, to just chill,” according to a follow-up Newsweek piece, when he heard a loud noise:

“[I] thought one of our kids had fallen down the stairs.” Mason says he ran upstairs from the basement, then “ran through a bunch of glass” and “saw red.” He describes the scene as “surreal – I didn’t know if it was blood on the glass or what. It turned out to be spray paint. There was red paint all over the side of our house. They spray-painted coat-hangers all over my sidewalk and door. We called 911. The police were there within three minutes.”

Mason and his family immediately left their home and are now staying at an undisclosed location. Mason didn’t go public with the attack until July 2, after he had ensured the safety of his family.

Now, according to Mason in an email to me, he has “hired security, been forced to move, and are getting further daily threats.” And not a lot of sympathy. A sample of both in the (now closed) comments section of the follow-up Newsweek post:

Whether this is deemed a terrorist attack or hate crime will be up to the FBI, which is now involved.

Newsweek article on Personhood movement riles abortion proponents

A June 25 article in Newsweek about the Personhood movement is shaking up the pro-abortion community. Just read a sampling of the 315 comments and counting that have poured in since it was crossposted on The Daily Beast since yesterday.

Why? Because author Abigail Pesta wrote a fair piece that positively portrays Personhood leader Keith Mason (pictured above with wife Jennifer) and legitimizes the movement itself, concluding:

The group has helped spark 22 “personhood” bills and ballot initiatives; while none has passed, in each ballot vote on personhood, the margin of defeat has declined….

Personhood efforts have existed for decades, but they have never taken hold in the public imagination the way Mason’s work has.

Pesta expounds in this video…

Bottom line, great news:

His group is now collecting signatures for ballot efforts in Colorado, Ohio, and Montana for the November elections and in Florida for 2014….

He says his team has gained more than 80,000 volunteers and more than a million signatures….

As Mason’s team gathers signatures for the fall ballots in his most ambitious season so far, opponents are bracing for a fight. Planned Parenthood, the American Civil Liberties Union, and other groups have filed lawsuits and launched extensive publicity campaigns. Personhood is a “formidable presence in every state,” says NARAL’s Crane. “If any one of these initiatives passes, it could work its way through the courts. And the courts can’t necessarily be counted on these days to make decisions that will protect women’s health.”

There are those on our side who don’t think the courts should be counted on to go our way either, for example:

Paul Linton, former general counsel for the pro-life group Americans United for Life, says personhood is “fundamentally flawed,” as “no justice on the Supreme Court… has ever expressed the view that the unborn child is or should be regarded as a federal constitutional ‘person.’”

But it does look as though we will someday find out, just another reminder of the importance of this election, since the next president may select up to three Supreme Court justices.

[Photo via Newsweek]

Warning to pregnant pro-choicers: Stop treating fetuses like people

But if you really want to out-pregnant all the rest, the Daily has your trend: Pregnant woman are Photoshopping sonograms onto their naked stomach glamour-shots. (Picture Demi Moore’s famous and oft-repeated Vanity Fair cover pose. Now picture Demi’s smooth and tanned belly with a fetus on it.)…

But it got us thinking about how the more we treat fetuses like people – including them in our family photo shoots, tagging them on our Facebook walls, giving them their own Twitter accounts – the harder it will be to deny that they are people when the next, say, personhood amendment comes up, with legislators and activists arguing that “the unborn child” inside a pregnant woman’s womb should have the same rights as the living among us….

Still, casually and publicly assigning human attributes to not-yet-human embryos – including an avocado-sized embryo in the family portrait – does not seem like the best way to argue against measures that seek to treat that avocado like a member of our collective American family.

~ Slate article, “Photoshopping a Fetus Onto Your Pregnant Stomach Isn’t Just Tacky, It’s Bad for Women,” June 20

[HT: Kelsey at Secular Pro-Life; photo (click to enlarge) via The Daily]

Canadian MP: If we declared fetuses “human beings,” abortion would be homicide

If the legal definition of when one becomes a human being were to be adjusted so that a fetus is declared to be a legal person at some earlier stage of gestation, then the homicide laws would apply.

As a necessary consequence, aborting fetal development anywhere in the potentially new adjusted period would be considered homicide. Thus the ultimate intention of this motion is to restrict abortions in Canada at some fetal development stage.

… I cannot understand why those who are adamantly opposed to abortion want to impose their beliefs on others by way of the Criminal Code. There is no law that says that a woman must have an abortion.

No one is forcing those who oppose abortion to have one.

~ Canadian Government Whip Gordon O’Connor, arguing against M-312, “a motion that calls for the formation of a special committee of Parliament to review whether the definition of a ‘human being’ as described in the Canadian criminal code can be extended to unborn fetuses,” as quoted by Daily Kos, May 9

[Photo of 18 week fetus via]