- The Washington Times - Thursday, November 3, 2011

As Tuesday’s vote in Mississippi on “personhood” nears, opponents are stepping up their warnings that such a law would end legal abortion and hamper birth- control and infertility treatments.

Efforts to pass “these so-called personhood amendments” represent “the most extreme assault on a woman’s right to choose in a generation,” Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, Florida Democrat and head of the Democratic National Committee (DNC), said in a press call Thursday.

These amendments “would cripple a woman’s right to choose, limit access to birth control and put the lives of women with difficult pregnancies at risk,” she said, noting that proponents of personhood have campaigns under way in her home state of Florida as well as in Ohio, Texas and Kansas.

On Tuesday, voters in Mississippi will be able to weigh in on Amendment 26, which would change the definition of “person” or “persons” in the state constitution to “include every human being from the moment of fertilization, cloning or the functional equivalent thereof.”

Backers of Amendment 26 say it will outlaw abortion, and stop human cloning, embryo stem-cell research and “other forms of medical cannibalism.” Passage of Amendment 26 will also set up a legal challenge to Supreme Court’s Roe v. Wade ruling, since abortion was legalized based on the premise that unborn children are not “persons.”

“But what does [the Mississippi personhood amendment] really mean?” asked Ms. Wasserman Schultz. In her and others’ view, it will “outlaw many forms of birth control, including most birth-control pills, IUDs, as well as the morning-after pill”; prohibit doctors from saving a woman’s life by ending an ectopic pregnancy; and “seriously curtail, or possibly even halt, infertility treatments like [in-vitro fertilization]” And, “it would ban all abortions, even in cases of rape, incest or when doctors deem it medically necessary for the health of the mother,” she added.

Personhood supporters say that fetal rights to life should be protected, regardless of the way they were conceived, and that other charges, such as ending all birth control, is “propaganda put out by Planned Parenthood,” said Keith Mason of Personhood USA. His website notes that President Reagan “issued his Personhood Proclamation” on Jan. 14, 1988, saying that “protection of the innocents must be guaranteed and that the personhood of the unborn be declared and defended throughout our land.”

In her Thursday phone call with reporters, Ms. Wasserman Schultz also chastised Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney for appearing to support personhood bills - he told former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee in October that he would “absolutely” support an amendment that says that life begins at conception.

“These amendments are a serious threat to the rights of women and parents, and Mitt Romney’s support should give them serious pause,” the DNC chairwoman said.

“It’s too bad this White House isn’t as focused on attacking unemployment as they are in attacking our campaign,” said Ryan Williams, a spokesman for Mr. Romney, on Thursday.

Meanwhile, leaders of the personhood movement do not count Mr. Romney as a supporter of their cause because, despite his many pro-life positions, the candidate said in September he would not support a federal personhood amendment.