UPDATE, 1:30p: Per Keith Mason, who heads up PersonhoodUSA.com, the “Bella Movie guys” are producers Jason Jones and Leo Severino. Lead actor Eduardo Verastegui will also help promote the CA initiative. He would have liked to sponsor it, but he is not a US citizen.
ca human rights amendment logo.jpg
I’m told Lila Rose, Pastor Walter Hoye, Judie Brown, and the “Bella Movie guys” (don’t know which ones) will be present to launch the CA Human Rights Campaign at a press conference today in Sacramento….

It is there the group will submit language for the Human Rights Amendment to AG Jerry Brown, to be presented as a 2010 CA ballot initiative if all goes as planned.
The amendment “recognizes the inherent human rights, dignity and worth of all human beings from the beginning of their biological development,” said Pastor Hoye in a statement.
This is commonly known as a personhood amendment, and they’re popping up everywhere. According to Personhood USA, groups in 17 states are now at various stages of play on this.
The first was CO, where last November’s effort was soundly defeated by voters 73-27%. But PersonhoodCO will be baaack with a 2010 voter intiative. (The female speaker you’ll see in this video is good friend Leslie Hanks, who comments frequently on this blog and whose little granddaughter Tuesday died tragically of cancer in January.)…

Scanning the blogs, pro-lifers haven’t written much about personhood initiatives, although pro-deathers sure have. It’s because there are 2 schools of thought here of which you should be aware.
According to Personhood USA:

This Amendment has the promise plugging the “Blackmun hole,” a startling admission that if personhood could be established for the pre-born, the arguments in Roe would collapse.
Justice Harry Blackmun wrote in the majority opinion for Roe v. Wade in 1973, “The appellee and certain amici [pro-lifers] argue that the fetus is a ‘person’ within the language and meaning of the 14th Amendment. In support of this, they outline at length and in detail the well-known facts of fetal development. If this suggestion of personhood is established, the appellant’s case, of course, collapses, for the fetus’ right to life would then be guaranteed specifically by the Amendment.”
During Blackmun’s time, the “well-known facts of fetal development” were a far cry from what is known today. Ultrasonography and DNA testing were yet to be invented….
The science of fetology in 1973 was not able to prove, as it can now, that a fully human and unique individual exists at the moment of fertilization and continues to grow through various stages of development in a continuum (barring tragedy) until natural death from old age.
If the Court considers the humanity of the pre-born child, for which there is overwhelming scientific evidence, it could restore the legal protections of person-hood to the pre-born under the 14th Amendment as Blackmun foretold, stopping abortion in a few and then in all 50 states!

But other pro-lifers believe this isn’t true. Wrote Americans United for Life’s Clarke Forsythe earlier this month:

These “personhood” proposals have the specific aim of “challenging” Roe, yet they are heading toward a brick wall, because they are based on a clear misreading of Justice Blackmun’s language in the 1973 decision….
But the mistaken belief is that such a definition will repair an omission in Roe or present facts that the Court didn’t know about. This is wrong for several reasons.
The myth has been widely reported that Justice Blackmun stated in Roe that “we don’t know when life begins.”…
There are several fundamental problems here. 1st, this is a classic case of reading the language out of context. The phrase “suggestion of personhood” in Blackmun’s opinion clearly refers to the earlier phrase “within the language and meaning of the 14th Amendment.” It does not mean “personhood” in any broader medical, moral, or legal sense. Blackmun is emphasizing the meaning of “person” within the 14th Amendment.
2nd, no state can – by statute or constitutional amendment – change the meaning of the 14th Amendment to the federal constitution. The 14th Amendment can be changed only by another federal constitutional amendment or by the U.S. Supreme Court’s changing its interpretation of the 14th Amendment….
Basing state personhood amendments on extrapolations of Blackmun’s language in Roe is futile. This does not mean that establishing some form of legal personhood in the states is not a worthy goal. It simply means that (because of our system of federalism) it will not – it cannot – establish 14th Amendment personhood or set up a test case to overturn Roe….
Finally, with the confirmation of pro-abortion Justice Sotomayor, and the likelihood that President Obama will have the opportunity to nominate more pro-abortion justices in the next 3 years, there is no chance that the Court will reconsider Roe as long as Obama is in office. Justice Scalia (who should know) plainly told a legal audience in Europe a few years ago that there was not a majority on the Court to overturn Roe. That’s even more certain today.
There are other goals that are more important – and more achievable in the current environment – than an illusory test case to “challenge Roe” based on questions that the current justices simply aren’t asking.

I have listened to experts I respect on both sides of this debate and don’t know what to think. I do worry Clarke is right.
But because I don’t know, and because it goes totally against my grain to expend energy undercutting fellow pro-lifers’ efforts (aside from violence and flakes), and because it’s never wrong to do the right thing, and because a passed personhood state amendment would be a good problem to have, and because I think public education is critical, I support personhood initiatives.

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