News Abortion

‘Personhood’ Leader: Localize the Fight Against Abortion Rights

Jason Salzman

A leading "personhood" activist, in the wake of repeated losses, is advocating for his allies to focus on municipal measures instead of statewide initiatives. And a national anti-choice group, launched in October, has announced plans to do just that.

A leading advocate for “personhood” lawsa backdoor approach to outlawing abortion—lamented in a recent op-ed that “the statewide personhood ballot measure is dead for now,” after voters rejected “personhood” measures in Colorado and North Dakota.

But in his LifeSiteNews opinion piece, Gualberto Garcia Jones, who authored Colorado’s failed 2014 personhood initiative, didn’t advise his fellow anti-choice activists to give up the cause of pushing ballot initiatives aimed at banning abortion by granting legal rights to zygotes (fertilized eggs).

Garcia Jones made the case that his allies should forgo statewide votes and place personhood proposals on municipal ballots, chipping away at abortion rights on a much smaller scale. This comes after the third rejection of personhood measures in Colorado.

In a news release last month, the Personhood Alliance, an anti-choice organization run by ardent anti-abortion activists from around the country, announced plans to do just that.

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Launched this year and claiming member organizations in Alabama, Alaska, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Mississippi, Missouri, New Hampshire, New York, Ohio, Virginia, and Wisconsin, the Personhood Alliance aims to insert anti-choice language in local “ordinances and codes,” according to the news release, which points to local efforts in Alabama, New Hampshire, and Mississippi as examples of what its future activism might look like.

“Local laws deal with many powers that touch upon the personhood of the preborn, from local health and building codes to local law enforcement such as child abuse prevention,” Garcia Jones, policy director for the Personhood Alliance, wrote in his opinion piece. “It is time to establish the recognition of universal human personhood into these laws.”

“Even at the local level, where anti-abortion groups tried to ban abortion at 20 weeks in Albuquerque, New Mexico, voters upheld the value that women should be making their own health-care decisions in consultation with their doctor and their family and without government interference,” Cathy Alderman, vice president of public affairs for Planned Parenthood of the Rocky Mountains, told Rewire. “The fact that the proponents of personhood measures claim that they will continue to push their extreme political agenda on voters despite being defeated time and time again demonstrates a true failure to respect that voters have spoken, time and time again to protect a woman’s right to access safe and legal abortion services.”

Voters defeated a municipal ballot measure last November in Albuquerque that would have banned abortion after 20 weeks’ gestation. Twenty-week abortion bans are considered some of the most extreme anti-choice measures, and one the U.S. Senate could consider in 2015.

In his opinion piece, Garcia Jones, who did not return an email seeking comment, acknowledged his repeated defeats. “As it is, the crushing defeat of the North Dakota amendment and the lackluster improvement in Colorado should make Personhood supporters stop to think about the strategy going forward,” he wrote. “Right now, fighting the abortion industry at the state level is akin to having lined up a battalion of colonists against the well-trained and well-armed redcoats.”

He conceded that voters in metropolitan areas roundly reject the radical right-wing views of personhood supporters, leaving personhood activists no choice but to engage “the enemy in municipalities and counties that we know we control.”

“The personhood movement has fought honorably and maintained the standard of the sanctity of life, but it is time to switch up the strategy,” Garcia Jones wrote.

Pro-choice activists said they are preparing for the ultra-local fight about to be waged by personhood extremists, and they’re confident that voters will strike down ballot initiatives in municipalities as readily as they did on the state level.

“Because of the overwhelming and repeated defeats of so called ‘Personhood’ measures at the state level, we believe they will be defeated at the municipal level as well,” Cristina Aguilar, executive director of the Colorado Organization for Latina Opportunity and Reproductive Rights, told Rewire via email. “We’ve already seen municipal defeats in Albuquerque where our Latino community came out powerfully against the measure. In any event, we welcome the opportunity to use these municipal efforts to expose the fact that what these measures are really about is creating the basis for punishing pregnant women, new mothers and taking away their ability to make personal and private decisions.”

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