Richson: Personhood amendments dangerous


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I like to think that no one has control of my physical body except me, but the state of women’s rights has me thinking otherwise. Maybe I’m wrong, but it seems logical that people vote according to the issues that they find most pertinent to them. I don’t strongly identify with any major political party, although I do think that like many people my age, I tend to be more socially liberal while simultaneously more conservative in terms of economic issues.

But when push comes to shove, I’m most likely to get riled up about issues that affect me in the most tangible, direct manner. Which is why personhood amendments that continually come to a vote at the state level concern me.

Various personhood amendments have been proposed in numerous states, including Colorado, North Dakota, Tennessee, and Mississippi. Most recently, amendments were rejected in Colorado and North Dakota, but Tennessee has now expanded its abortion restrictions. But personhood, a word that is a mainstay in the vocabulary of bioethical discussions, is bigger than just abortion.

Opponents to personhood amendments view it as a malicious threat to the science of birth control in addition to abortion rights, while personhood amendment supporters see their views as supporting the rights of the unborn, who cannot speak for themselves. The word “personhood” implies that the unborn should be seen as people who deserve the same rights as all functioning members of modern society.

In Colorado, a state that often brings to mind a population of free spirits because of its lax attitude toward marijuana, its version of a personhood amendment (Amendment 67) has now been shot down for the third time. Yet it seems to have a penchant for popping back up. Colorado’s proposed amendment stemmed from the good intentions of a mother whose unborn child was killed when her car was hit by a drunk driver, with vague language to ensure that perpetrators in cases such as these could be held responsible for their actions against the unborn.

However, the vague language that personhood preaches brings into question the depths of accountability … should this form of personhood ever come into law, would mothers who miscarry be held under suspicion? Would some of the most effective forms of birth control that make the uterus hostile to an egg in the first place become illegal? Public information that is available regarding personhood is confusing to sift through, and that’s what makes it so potentially damaging.

I am pro-choice, and I wholeheartedly believe that no one knows how she will feel about a pregnancy until she finds herself in that position. But the nature of the various personhood amendments that have been put in the hands of voters in numerous states seek to threaten more than abortion … they could potentially turn back the clock on women’s reproductive science and rights as whole.

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