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Pro-Life Wisconsin Renews ‘Personhood’ Effort

Robin Marty

With several abortion restrictions on hold, anti-choice activists are using their down time to prepare for a new push to grant legal rights to fertilized eggs via a "personhood" measure.

AB 227, a Wisconsin forced ultrasound bill that would also require abortion doctors to have admitting privileges at a local hospital, is on hold while parties await a hearing to argue its constitutionality. A number of other restrictions that were proposed in the Wisconsin legislature did not pass before recess and will not return until at least September. But anti-choice activists in the state aren’t taking a vacation, even if the politicians are. Instead, they are using their down time to prepare for a new push to grant legal rights to fertilized eggs via a “personhood” measure.

According to Pro-Life Wisconsin, the state’s most extreme anti-choice action group, state Rep. Andre Jacque (R-Green Bay) is gathering legislative sponsors to assist him in introducing a “personhood” bill once the legislature returns. Rep. Jacque was behind a number of anti-choice bills that were introduced this year, including one that would mandate how “fetal remains” are disposed of, one to ban insurance coverage of abortions for state employees, and another to provide taxpayer funds to deceptive crisis pregnancy centers.

Rep. Jacque announced in April his intention to bring a “personhood” bill to the floor this session. But although a number of restrictions were introduced, “personhood” wasn’t among them. Now, Pro-Life Wisconsin is asking its supporters to contact their representatives, urging them to sign on to Jacque’s bill as co-sponsors.

Pro-Life Wisconsin also lent its technical assistance to the campaign by creating a new “personhood” website. The site reads:

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The amendment extends the inalienable right to life already found in the Wisconsin Constitution to all preborn children from the beginning of their lives. It seeks to end abortion in Wisconsin, not to regulate or restrict it.  It seeks to end all violence toward preborn children in Wisconsin – surgical, chemical, experimental, etc. – at all stages of development.

Although the site doesn’t specifically say it will ban hormonal contraception or intrauterine devices (IUDs), it does cite Personhood USA in its frequently asked question” section; in response to a question about whether birth control will be banned under “personhood,” the group says a “personhood” law wouldn’t ban all contraception—”only birth control devices that kill an unborn human being.” However, Pro-Life Wisconsin believes that hormonal birth control does exactly that.

So far no organized “personhood” effort has resulted in a law. Wisconsin may be no different, as the amendment is being opposed not just by reproductive rights advocates but by anti-choice groups, too. Leading the charge is Wisconsin Right to Life, which published its own website and video outlining the reasons why a “personhood amendment strategy is not necessary, risky—and just plain wrong for Wisconsin.” In the video, Sue Armacost, president of Wisconsin Right to Life, says that a “personhood” amendment could undermine the state’s existing abortion ban. Also of concern is the amount of money it would cost not only to gather the public support necessary to pass the amendment, but to defend it in court when it is inevitably challenged.

“Honestly, sometimes an idea is just too good to be true,” concludes Armacost, who says the effort would “cause more harm than good.”

Whether the opposition of their own allies remains enough to persuade Pro-Life Wisconsin and Rep. Jacque not to continue remains to be seen, likely until the legislature meets again in September.

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