A battle ahead on ‘personhood’

04/16/2014 5:24 PM

04/16/2014 5:25 PM

Some of the most hard-fought Senate races this fall are likely to feature big fights over “personhood.”

A number of GOP Senate candidates, many of whom are still in primary races, are on record supporting measures that declare, in some form, that full human rights begin at the moment of fertilization.

Once the general election races get underway, Democrats are likely to attack Republicans over this — broadening the battle for female voters beyond issues such as pay equity to include an emotionally fraught cultural argument that Democrats have previously used to their advantage.

This has already appeared in Colorado. Republican Rep. Cory Gardner renounced his previous support for personhood after entering the Senate contest, admitting that it “restricts contraception.”

Democrats seized on the reversal to argue that Gardner supports protecting women’s health only when politically necessary.

Gardner co-sponsored the Life at Conception Act, which provides for constitutional protection of each “preborn human person,” defined as existing from the “moment of fertilization.”

Co-sponsors of the act include Rep. Tom Cotton of Arkansas and Rep. Steve Daines of Montana, both of whom are expected to become their state’s GOP Senate nominee.

Meanwhile, McClatchy reports that three leading GOP Senate candidates in North Carolina — Thom Tillis, Greg Brannon and Mark Harris — favor a “personhood” constitutional amendment that would “grant legal protections to a fertilized human egg and possibly ban some forms of birth control.”

In Georgia, three top Senate candidates — Reps. Paul Broun, Phil Gingrey and Jack Kingston — co-sponsored the Sanctity of Human Life Act, which gives “full human rights to human zygotes from the moment of fertilization,” according to the Huffington Post.

In Iowa, Republican state Sen. Joni Ernst — who is running against Democrat Bruce Braley — supported a “personhood” amendment to the state constitution.

In Michigan, Terri Lynn Land didn’t mention rape or incest as exceptions to her antiabortion stance in an interview with Politico.

Democrats are more likely to make an issue of this in North Carolina, Montana, Iowa and Michigan than in more conservative Georgia, Arkansas and Louisiana.

Virginia’s 2012 Senate race may be a model: Democrats savaged Republican George Allen with ads highlighting his support for personhood legislation, suggesting he would infringe on women’s rights and jeopardize their health in service of a hidebound, reactionary agenda.

Democrats have been counting on Obamacare receding as an issue and have pushed to broaden the conversation to women’s economic issues.

It’s possible that the healthcare law will continue to fade from the headlines and that the focus on women’s health and reproductive issues will intensify.

Greg Sargent is a blogger for The Washington Post.

Join the Discussion

Fort Worth Star-Telegram is pleased to provide this opportunity to share information, experiences and observations about what's in the news. Some of the comments may be reprinted elsewhere on the site or in the newspaper. We encourage lively, open debate on the issues of the day, and ask that you refrain from profanity, hate speech, personal comments and remarks that are off point. Thank you for taking the time to offer your thoughts.

Commenting FAQ | Terms of Service