The effort to classify zygotes and fetuses as “persons” completely separate from their mothers and with full legal rights first appeared in Colorado, where voters have consistently voted down a so-called “personhood amendment” to the state constitution. Personhood laws would not only criminalize abortion with no exceptions, but also ban common forms of birth control, stem cell research, and in-vitro fertilization. This year, personhood measures are under serious consideration in Iowa, Mississippi, Florida, North Dakota, and Georgia, and the organization Personhood USA hopes to bring personhood campaigns to states including Texas, Montana, and Wisconsin.
In Mississippi, a personhood amendment to the state constitution will be on the ballot in 2011. Supporters of the measure include the American Family Association, Liberty Counsel, Lt. Governor and Republican gubernatorial candidate Phil Bryant, U.S. Rep. Alan Nunnelee, and Sen. Roger Wicker, who plans to introduce a bill “identical” to the personhood amendment in the U.S. Senate.
Les Riley, the architect of the Mississippi personhood amendment and the leader of Personhood Mississippi, is a featured blogger for the group Christian Exodus, which has the “goal of forming an independent Christian nation that will survive after the decline and fall of the financially and morally bankrupt American empire.” Christian Exodus, which has close ties to the separatist and Neo-Confederate League of the South, has attempted to move thousands of supporters to South Carolina in order to “form a biblically inspired government and secede from the United States.” The group also encourages adherents to move to Panama and Idaho in order to build theocratic settlements.
On February 11, the GOP-controlled North Dakota House, by a 68-25 vote, approved a bill that declares personhood “at every stage of development.” Daniel Woodard of North Dakota Right to Life and the North Dakota Life League asserted that “this bill should shut down [the last] clinic” in the state that offers abortion coverage.
Republicans in an Iowa House subcommittee approved a personhood measure, HF 173, which declares that a zygote and a fetus have all of the same legal rights as a “person.”
Personhood legislation introduced in the Georgia Senate has already garnered the support of Tony Perkins, head of the Family Research Council, who called the measure “a reflection of a growing pro-life sentiment across the country.” The personhood bill introduced in the Georgia House declares that “a fetus is a person for all purposes under the laws of this state from the moment of conception” and would classify miscarriages caused by “human involvement” as “pre-natal murder,” a crime that would be punishable by death. Jen Phillips of Mother Jones writes, “Under Rep. Franklin’s bill, HB 1, women who miscarry could become felons if they cannot prove that there was ‘no human involvement whatsoever in the causation’ of their miscarriage.”
The “Florida for Life Act,” introduced by Republican state representative and ordained minister Charles Van Zant, declares that “all life comes from the Creator and begins at conception.” The bill goes on to delcare that “the Supreme Court’s removal of moral and political questions from the political power of the people to determine, under color of constitutional adjudication, is a violation of the peoples’ right to self-government guaranteed under the Constitution of the United States.” According to the Sarasota Herald Tribune, Van Zant’s personhood bill “contains no abortion exceptions for victims of rape and incest” and “would turn abortion doctors into felons for violating the measure’s strict provisions.”"