The Personhood Movement: A Danger To All Women?

by sockii

The Personhood movement threatens the reproductive rights of women by declaring unborn the unborn fetus a "person".

Are you familiar with the Personhood political movement in the United States? If you are a woman concerned about your reproductive rights and health, you most certainly should be. This dangerous legislative movement is being presented by staunch conservatives and those on the "Religious Right" as being about protecting "the rights of the unborn", but in doing so it strips away many of the legal rights, freedoms, and access to potentially life-saving medical procedures and health care for women around the country.

On this page you will find basic information on Personhood as it applies toward the current United States political movement. I will present arguments as to why I feel Personhood is dangerous legislation to allow to pass, be it on either a state or federal level. With a presidential election coming in 2016, it will be important to follow how and if these issues are presented in party platforms and if any legislation is proposed before or after it.

You can also have a chance to sound off with your own opinions on the subject - whether you agree with me or not.

Author's Note and Disclaimer

I will not pretend that I am unbiased on this issue. I am 100% in opposition to Personhood legislation. However, on this page you will have an opportunity to share your opinions openly for or against Personhood legislation. The only comments which will be screened/deleted are those containing profanity, personal insults, or other forms of abusive language.

Your Familiarity With The Personhood Movement

How familiar are you with the current Personhood political movement in the United States?

Personhood: Basic Facts You Need To Know

Personhood as a philosophical and political concept

Personhood is, at its most basic level, the status of being a person. While that sounds simple enough to understand, the state of "personhood" is actually a long-standing philosophical and political debate. Our laws grant certain rights, protections and civil liberties only to those possessing personhood, and in the past personhood status has been an issue in debating slavery, women's rights, animal rights, and of course abortion. Today, there is even debate over the subject of corporate personhood, and whether corporations can be treated as a "person" under the law.

Fetus in utero, between fifth and sixth months.
Fetus in utero, between fifth and six...

The issue of not just when life begins but when a fetus becomes an actual "person" is why the Personhood campaign has become so powerful within the anti-abortion movement and the religious right. Those in support of Personhood would seek to define an embryo a "person" from the very moment of fertilization, thereby granting full political protections and rights under United States law beginning at conception. To do so would of course have the effect of outlawing abortion, but it also has many other potential ramifications as well for women's health, access to birth control, and even access to fertility treatments (see section below).

Personhood as a political movement found an organized base and group in 2008, with the formation of Personhood USA ( Personhood USA was created by Colorado anti-abortion activist Keith Mason, after the "Colorado for Equal Rights campaign" that year to enact a state constitutional Personhood amendment. (The amendment failed to pass in 2008 with 73 percent of voters in opposition.[Source])

Since then, numerous states have attempted to pass similar Personhood laws, often leading to heated and passionate campaigning from both sides of the argument. In every case to date where it was brought to public vote, Personhood propositions have failed. In some states, proponents of Personhood are now going directly to state legislature, bypassing popular vote to sneak in Personhood legislation. On February 14, 2012, Virginia's House passed the first Personhood law in the United States - however the popular backlash was such that the state senate has tabled the law until 2013.[Source]. On February 16, 2012, Oklahoma state senate passed a fetal personhood law as well. North Dakota's house passed HB 1572, the "Personhood of Children Act" in February 2009, but it was defeated in the state senate months later.

With a Presidential Election to contend with in 2012, Personhood USA pushed all Republican Primary candidates to sign a pledge that they would "support a human life amendment to the Constitution, and endorse legislation to make clear that the 14th Amendment protections apply to unborn children." Candidates Michele Bachmann, Rick Santorum, Newt Gingrich and Rick Perry agreed and signed the pledge. Personhood is still a topic that is very much alive this election season in 2015 and 2016, both on a national and state level around the country. It is a political issue which voters should be aware of and know where their candidates stand on the issue.

Arguments Against Personhood

Why Personhood Legislation Is Dangerous

To a person who in general - or perhaps even very strongly - opposes abortion, Personhood legislation may sound like an idea to support, a way to shut down the availability of abortions in the United States for good. But there are many other issues, questions, and potential problems besides abortion related to enacting such legislation which should be considered as well. Have you thought about each of these points before jumping on the Personhood "bandwagon", even if you consider yourself "pro-life"?

1. Personhood legislation could criminalize routine health care procedures for women.

In 2011, Mississippi doctors spoke up in opposition to the state's ballot initiative for Personhood, stating that it could seriously hamper their ability to provide routine and even life saving care to their patients, in cases such as ectopic and molar pregnancies. And what about the ability to perform diagnostic procedures such as amniocentesis, which carries a small risk of miscarriage?

2. No exceptions for rape victims - you MUST carry the baby to term.

Personhood legislation carries no exceptions for allowing rape victims to have an abortion in the case of pregnancy resulting from rape. They would not even be allowed access to the "morning after pill". Of course, given that Red. Todd Akin doesn't think "legitimate rape" can result in pregnancy, is it any surprise he is one of the sponsors of personhood legislation?

3. Personhood laws could limit couples' access to fertility treatment, particularly IVF.

RESOLVE, the National Infertility Association, has compiled a lengthy list of questions about Personhood legislation and the effect it could have on women seeking fertility treatments, particularly when In Vitro Fertilization is required. As their page states, "if microscopic fertilized eggs/embryos are full humans, anything that puts an embryo at risk could be a criminal violation, even if its goal is the undeniable social good of helping someone have a baby."

4. Personhood could prevent pregnant women suffering from cancer from receiving lifesaving treatments.

If Personhood legislation passed, a doctor could become unable to provide care such as chemotherapy to a pregnant cancer victim, because the treatment could harm the fetus. The fetus' potential chance of life would be given precedence over the adult woman's ability to fight cancer. Such situations have already occurred in other countries, such as when a pregnant teenager died in the Dominican Republic because the country's abortion ban delayed her chemo treatment until it was too late.

5. Women who suffer stillbirths or miscarriages could potentially be prosecuted for homicide under Personhood laws.

Women are already being prosecuted under expanding homicide laws if their actions are suspected in any way to have caused the loss of an unborn child. Women are increasingly being treated like "baby making machines" in this country, with their own rights & protections under law at risk if they even potentially might be pregnant. How long before all women of child-bearing age are forbidden from smoking, drinking or taking medications that could harm a fetus in case she might be pregnant?

6. Personhood would restrict access to hormonal birth control for women.

Concern has been raised - and only sometimes discussed with amendments necessary to allow exceptions, that Personhood laws could make illegal any form of birth control that could possibly be an abortifacient (induce an abortion). Some of these hormonal forms of birth control are used not even by women looking to prevent pregnancy, but to control severe pain and menstrual bleeding, fibroids or PCOS. And of course, say goodbye to the "Morning-After Pill".

Personhood Videos on YouTube

Explore these news videos featuring interviews with Personhood USA founder Keith Mason, discussion of current political candidates views on Personhood, as well as debates and discussions of what Personhood laws would mean for Americans.

Must-Read Short Story: "ILU-486"

Amanda Ching's short story "ILU-486" is a powerful look at what life could be like in the not-so-distant future for women. What if the Personhood Act had passed in Virginia in 2012? Could this be the future for women in other states as well?

Links and Resources in Opposition to Personhood

Need to read more? Please visit these links and other websites.

Do You Support Personhood Legislation?

Give Your Opinion On The Issue Here

Do you feel that an embryo should receive "personhood" status from the moment of conception, to protect the rights and lives of the unborn?

Or do you feel this is a dangerous movement that threatens womens' rights to reproductive freedom and health?

Share your opinion here - and as stated above, comments will ONLY be screened and deleted for foul language, hate speech and threatening language.

Although I am firm in my personal beliefs, my intent here is to give a platform for all to rationally and clearly speak their opinions.

Do you support the Personhood movement and associated legislation?

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Previous comments received opposed to Personhood legislation

ratetea 3 years ago

I respect people who have different views on the issue of abortion, because I understand that some people believe life begins at conception. But I think it does not make sense to define an embryo as a person unless there is a clear consensus in society that life begins at conception. Because I can see both sides of this issue, I don't think it's right to force one definition on everyone. I think if people want to end abortions, they would be better off convincing people to stop having abortions of their own initiative, not trying to force it on people through laws that half the population disagrees with. The last thing I want to see is ugly, illegal, unsafe abortions.

Virginia Allain 3 years ago from Central Florida

I believe the religious right is gaining too much political power and women will suffer greatly. It's frightening.

HuggsX3 LM 3 years ago

HELL NO! They aren't even living until week 25! They are ridiculous and people who are doing this for religion know nothing. The Bible says nothing abortion, some actual stuff the Bible states that all women and children who are raped automatically go to Hell unless they marry their rapist. Sounds like a MAN wrote that? So if they are saying its for religious reasons they are full of it bcuz you can't trust BS like that. Not to mention that not everyone in American is Christian so what makes one religion so special... so everyone should have the right to their body and physical and emotional health. I support human rights and i personally think that these people are evil lol.

TeacherSerenia 3 years ago

I would have to oppose this legislation. As I understand US law, personhood currently starts the second a baby is born and is OUTSIDE the mothers womb. I believe that is pretty standard for most western countries.

I have had several miscarriages - 2 of them spontaneous and 1 was a D&C abortion due to a missed miscarriage. The fetus had already died, but since I was about to take a long plane trip, I did not want to have a miscarriage while I was on the plane. I had several blood tests taken to prove that my HCG hormone was dropping or at least was staying steady rather than rising and there was no heartbeat on the ultrasound so a D&C was permitted.

If this legislation was passed, then I would not have been allowed to have a D&C and would have had to wait for a spontaneous abortion each and every time and then try to prove that I was not at fault.

NO I do NOT like this personhood legislation at all.

PNWtravels 3 years ago from Wandering the Pacific Northwest USA

This type of law would be as bad for women as the Salem witch hunts and would lead to a complete lack of privacy and women possibly arrested for suffering a miscarriage if they were perceived as doing anything that could have possibly been construed as potentially harmful to a fetus like participating in sports or even working at a job that involved physical activity.

hartworks lm 3 years ago

NO. Thanks for writing this lens.

sockii 3 years ago from New Jersey

I oppose Personhood for all of the reasons described above. I say this even as a woman who *personally* is opposed to abortion, yet I absolutely believe in protecting the right of other women to chose differently than I might. You can never put yourself in another woman's shoes and know what difficulties she might be facing in a pregnancy. As someone suffering from infertility, Personhood legislation could restrict my ability to receive fertility treatments in the future should I chose to pursue them.

Previous comments received in favor of Personhood legislation

None, actually...

Personhood and Future Elections: Will Personhood Affect Your Vote?

Will a candidate's position on Personhood affect your voting in the next election?

Please feel free to continue the debate in these comments. I appreciate your taking the time to read about this important political issue.

Updated: 01/30/2017, sockii
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sockii on 09/28/2015

I also realize when I first updated/moved this page from its original publication (formerly at Squidoo), I left out a section on the reasons why Personhood was a dangerous movement, how even if you are "pro-life" it could potentially limit women's access to health care procedures that carry any potential threat to a baby (whether the woman is pregnant or not). How it could keep couples from receiving IVF treatment that would HELP them have a baby. How it could outlaw certain forms of contraception if, for instance, they work by preventing a fertilized egg from implanting in the uterus. That section is now included.

sockii on 09/28/2015

"you can educate people to have more respect for life, but this is not just respect for life but also their own minds, bodies, and souls." - wonderfully put, Mira. I agree completely.

Mira on 09/28/2015

I agree with your comment. Over-regulation is seldom a good idea. After WWI, for instance, contraception was prohibited in France because they wanted to increase their population. We've come a long way but apparently there's still much we need to do in order to stop controlling people's bodies (and minds: I'm thinking of your example with the ultrasound). Okay, you can educate people to have more respect for life, but this is not just respect for life but also their own minds, bodies, and souls. As I said, it's a very difficult issue.

sockii on 09/28/2015

Mira, true, but as I stressed earlier in the discussion, no form of contraception is foolproof. What is ironic to me is how those who push "abstinence only" education in the US then turn around and complain about so many unmarried mothers on welfare and assistance. Maybe if they put more money into educating people about using contraception - and made it more affordable and accessible - there wouldn't be so many people struggling with the burden of more children than they can afford.

And there'd probably be far fewer abortions as well.

I do not believe abortion should be relied upon as a form of contraception, but I feel we need to give women the option and availability to have an abortion if contraception has failed them. Offer counseling, yes. Make sure they are aware of alternatives like adoption, yes. But if they are firm in their desire/need for an abortion, do not block their efforts to do so, which is becoming increasingly common in the U.S. in more religious/conservative states. (Forcing a woman to receive and look at an ultrasound before giving them an abortion, hoping to change her mind, for instance. To me that is nothing but cruel torture.)

There are many things which can increase our risks for cancer, breast or otherwise - including not having children at all, or having them later in life. I believe in personal freedom more than over-regulation. Let people make choices with their own bodies if they can and are willing to live with the potential consequences of those choices.

Mira on 09/28/2015

This is a very difficult issue, and one that won't be solved here, but I wanted to bring my own two cents to the table to clarify something I believe makes sense regarding abortion and breast cancer. If you've never had a child and have an abortion, the milk glands in your breasts start to form and then the process is stopped abruptly. So you're left with an increased chance of breast cancer. Of course I know people who have had said abortion and are fine, but it's definitely something to think about. Not in terms of having an abortion or not but in terms of contraception, as Veronica said.

sockii on 09/28/2015

"I merely pointed out that potential death does not always result in maternal death and abortion is linked to breast cancer."

Of course potential death does not always result in actual death. But neither does abortion always lead to breast cancer. In some cases abortion helps women who are at high risk for other diseases, already suffering from different forms of cancer. Everything must be balanced and each person deserves the right to make the choice they feel is best for their own health and future well being.

We can argue this to death because studies are always going to contradict each other depending on the agenda of the people promoting it. I am at higher risk for breast cancer because I never had a child - oh well. I wasn't about to run out and have a baby (even if I could) just to *potentially* lower my risk of a disease (if I even could have a child, but I can't.) I am at a higher risk of cancer because I drink alcohol occasionally - oh well. Choice I have made and I will live with it. New Jersey has a both higher cancer incidence rate and death rate than the national average. Am I going to move because of it? No.

veronica on 09/28/2015

I do indeed see the other woman's point of view. I haven't said you are wrong about abortion at all. In fact I have not come down against it. I merely pointed out that potential death does not always result in maternal death and abortion is linked to breast cancer.

I would like to see a proper analysis of data re women who die in childbirth and women who die as a result of an abortion. See which is highest. I think that contraception is very good. It does fail at times.

In 2010, Dr Louise Brinton, a senior researcher with the U.S. National Cancer Institute who did not accept the breast cancer link previously, reversed her position to say she was now convinced abortion increased the risk of breast cancer by about 40 per cent.

Uncomfortable reading but there it is.

sockii on 09/28/2015

"Why would I save myself before a child?"

You have a strong maternal instinct. Not every woman does, nor needs to.

And it's clear your statistics all come from right-to-life advocates and not unbiased scientistific organizations. The American Cancer Society finds no link between abortion and breast cancer occurence. (

The National Cancer Institute report that I found clearly states "They concluded that having an abortion or miscarriage does not increase a woman’s subsequent risk of developing breast cancer." (

Besides, lots of people do things that may increase their risk for diseases. It's *their choice* to do so. Fertility treatment can raise one's chances of cancer. Having a baby over 30 can increase one's chance of breast cancer. Everything we do carries risks and rewards. For some who have no desire to have a child - who are physically, mentally, financially, or emotionally unequipped to have a child (even to carry it to term because of the physical and mental effects it could have on them), the "risks" of abortion are far less than what they would face carrying a baby to term.

But it is clear to me you have your agenda and cannot see any other point of view besides "Rights to babies first; who cares about the rights of a pregnant woman"?

Veronica on 09/28/2015

1983 ; I had an hour to live when I was C sectioned in a bid to save the child's life. I said .. "save the baby, I'll die. Let him live." I was unconscious for a while after . But, we both pulled through eventually but I'd have sooner died myself. No problem with that. I'd had 26 years; he could have life not me. Why would I save myself before a child?

These women who "have an abortion to save their life " need to be informed that ;-

* every abortion a woman increases her risk of breast cancer 50%

* American National Cancer Institute study in Seattle, showed a clear link between having an abortion and the subsequent development of breast cancer.

If the abortion was performed before age 18, the risk was increased by 150 %. If the woman was over 30 and had a family history of breast cancer the risk went up by 270%.

every woman in the survey who had an abortion before age 18 and had a family history of breast cancer developed breast cancer by the age of 45.

sockii on 09/28/2015

The doctors actually were on the family's side and argued to allow the termination to happen when in court. They were afraid to do so initially because of the constitutional law in Ireland which is pretty much the strictest in the world on anti-abortion. They couldn't perform a C section in that case because the foetus was not of viable age yet at only 16 weeks.

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