Written by Pamela Merritt for RHRealityCheck.org – News, commentary and community for reproductive health and justice.
Recently, The Denver Daily News ran a story with the headline Are Fetuses Like Slaves? The article covered Personhood Colorado’s announcement of their ballot initiative campaign strategy, which includes comparing fetuses to slaves. Colorado’s “personhood” ballot measure proposes an amendment to the state constitution that would apply the term ‘person’ as used in those provisions of the Colorado Constitution relating to inalienable rights, equality of justice and due process of law, to every human being from the beginning of the biological development of that human being. Personhood Colorado held a news conference to reveal their campaign strategy where they played their radio ad featuring the voice of an actor playing a slave speaking in support of the proposed “personhood” amendment.
In the radio spot, the fictional slave George Stevens says,
“I’m George Stevens and I’m a person. I was held as property as a child. Even before my birth I was called a slave in an America you wouldn’t recognize. But folks like you helped me escape North to freedom and in 1864, I joined the infantry to fight for my country. I fought so all slaves would be recognized as persons, not property. And we won.
But today in Colorado, there are still people called property – children – just like I was. And that America you thought you wouldn’t recognize is all around you and these children are being killed. This November, vote "yes" on Amendment 62. Amendment 62 declares unborn children persons, not property. And that’s the America I fought for. So visit PersonhoodColorado.com and in November, vote "yes" on 62. It’s the right thing to do.”
This move by Personhood Colorado continues the anti-choice tactic du jour of co-opting Black American history in an attempt to make a case against women’s reproductive rights. From a “documentary” that declares that the most dangerous place for a Black baby is in a Black woman’s womb to the recent anti-choice “Freedom Rides” that traced the route of the famed Civil Rights Freedom Rides of the early 1960’s, those opposed to reproductive justice are attempting to re-writing Black history to serve their cause.
It would be easy to dismiss this call for fetal emancipation. The radio ad itself is laughable and it fails to explain Amendment 62 to an electorate that already rejected fetal “personhood” in 2008. However, this tactic of co-opting Black American history to attack reproductive rights cannot go unanswered even when the execution is flawed.
When organizations opposed to reproductive rights promote a “documentary” that makes the charge that the most dangerous place for a Black baby is in a Black woman’s womb, they are attacking Black women’s capacity to parent and make health care decisions. Under the guise of protecting life, these groups are making a full frontal attack that promotes the dangerous lie that Black women are unfit, uncaring and selfish.
When anti-choice groups mount “Freedom Rides” to promote their anti-choice message, they are attempting to rewrite one of the most important moments in Civil Rights history. In the early 1960’s, activists risked their lives to test whether interstate buses were desegregated as required by law. Those activists traveled on Freedom Rides because rights without access are rights in name only, a point that these anti-choice groups conveniently ignore as they travel the same route trying to gather support for the denial of access to reproductive health care.
Now there is an attempt to define a fetus as a slave, which begs the question – who is the master? Who would Amendment 62 emancipate fetal slaves from? That’s right – women. In the world of fetal “personhood” women are slave masters and our reproductive rights hold the fetus in bondage. That is the latest false claim currently floating out in the atmosphere, sent forth through the voice of a fictional slave in a radio ad. The reality is that Amendment 62 will not bring about fetal emancipation – this so-called “personhood” initiative would grant the government complete control over women’s bodies.
Amendment 62 isn’t the second coming of The Emancipation Proclamation. Rather, this amendment would make government the master and women slaves. That’s what my ancestors and so many other Americans fought against.