On 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