California Ballot Initiative Pushes for ‘Personhood’—Again

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California Ballot Initiative Pushes for ‘Personhood’—Again

Nicole Knight

The proposed constitutional amendment would "extend constitutional protections of due process and equal protection to all fertilized human eggs.”

A California anti-choice group has proposed a ballot initiative to categorize a fertilized human egg as a person, a measure that could essentially criminalize abortion in the Golden State as well as ban several types of contraception.

The constitutional amendment would “extend constitutional protections of due process and equal protection to all fertilized human eggs,” according to the California secretary of state’s description of the measure.

The proposed initiative is backed by the California Civil Rights Foundation, a Union City-based group with an advisory board that includes anti-choice advocates Troy Newman, the head of Operation Rescue, and Lila Rose, the founder and president of Live Action.

Initiative sponsor Walter B. Hoye, who filed the measure with the state attorney general’s office October 1, did not respond to multiple requests for comment. In media reports, Hoye has stated his opposition to abortion and cited the high rate of the procedure in the Black community. Such statistics are often used as a ploy to dismantle reproductive rights under the guise of racial justice, as Rewire has reported.

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The proposed initiative needs 585,407 signatures to make it onto the November ballot.

Similar measures in California in the past have failed to secure enough signatures, including an identical initiative by Hoye and others last year.

Republican lawmakers in other states have latched onto the notion of defining life as beginning at fertilization—a concept commonly called “personhood”—and introduced a slew of bills in 2015.

The push has met with little success. Personhood measures introduced this year in IowaColorado, Missouri, Mississippi, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Virginia, and Washington have stalled in legislative committees.

A Montana bill backing a ballot measure similar to the constitutional amendment proposed in California also died in committee.

Some of the bills, such as Iowa’s failed measure, included exceptions to decriminalize accidental death or in cases where contraception was administered “before a clinically diagnosable pregnancy,” as Rewire has reported. The language submitted to the California attorney general for the proposed initiative makes no exceptions:

The term “PERSON,” as it is applied to all living human beings, applies to all living human beings from the beginning of their biological development as human beings (i.e., human organism), regardless of the means by which he or she was procreated, method of reproduction, age, race, sex, gender, physical well-being, function, size, level of development, environment, and/or degree of physical or mental dependency and/or disability.

The language also opens the door for “personhood” protections on zygotes formed through in vitro fertilization.