Read The Personhood split, Part I: Structure for background.
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.
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.
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.