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When does personhood begin?

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Attempts to define the start of human
personhood in state constitutions and laws

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Overview:

Personhood USA, a national group based in Colorado, sponsored the first Personhood Amendment in Colorado during 2008. It failed to pass.

If it had passed, it would have amended the state constitution to define human personhood as starting at conception. This implies that:

  • Any device, medication, or procedure that terminates the natural processes between human conception and childbirth would, by definition, involve a murder.

  • Since the use of most devices, medications and procedures would involve planning and intent, their use might be considered as first degree murder.

  • Compulsory childbirth would be required for every woman who has conceived, whether the fetus is normal or genetically defective, and whether she became pregnant intentionally, by accident, through rape or through incest.

Critics say that there are many other negative effects that would have appeared if this Proposition been approved.

The second attempt to pass a Personhood Amendment was also in Colorado, and also failed to pass.

The third attempt was Proposition 26 in Mississippi. 1,2 It was widely felt that this amendment might pass. Mississippi is one of the most religiously conservative, socially conservative, and pro-life states in the U.S. They only have one clinic where abortions are performed. State laws closely regulate abortions. Both candidates for governor endorsed the amendment. However, on 2011-NOV-08 -- election day -- citizens of Mississippi narrowly rejected Proposition 26 by a vote of 57% to 43%.

Similar "personhood amendments" are expected to be voted upon on election day during 2012-NOV in at least four other states: Florida, Montana, Ohio, and Oregon. 3 Efforts in at least five more states are being planned.

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Topics covered in this section:

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References:

  1. "Initiatives - 26 Definition of a Person, Secretary of State, at: http://www.sos.ms.gov/
  2. "Petition for initiative measure to amend the Mississippi Constitution," at: http://www.sos.ms.gov/
  3. Emily W. Pettus, "Colorado's Failed Life-At-Fertilization 'Personhood' Initiative Lives On In Mississippi," 2011-OCT-17, at: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/


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Copyright 2012 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Original posting: 2012-FEB-21
Latest update: 2012-FEB-21
Author: B.A. Robinson

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