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Life Begins At Conception. That’s Not the Point.

12:57 pm in Uncategorized by RH Reality Check

Written by Editor-in-Chief Jodi Jacobson for RH Reality Check. This diary is cross-posted; commenters wishing to engage directly with the author should do so at the original post.

Life begins at conception.

A human embryo.

This is perhaps the favorite phrase of anti-choicers seeking to eliminate women’s basic right to control over their own bodies. It is, for example, the premise of policies pushed by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) and fundamentalist evangelicals. It is the cornerstone of the so-called personhood laws defeated by large margins in ballot initiatives undertaken in both Colorado and Mississippi. And it is the basis for the “Sanctity of Life” bill co-sponsored by Congressmen Paul Ryan (R-WI) and Todd Akin (R-MO) in the House of Representatives. The end game in all of these efforts is a radical shift in women’s lives, including a total ban on abortion without exception, and bans on many forms of contraception, in vitro fertilization, and health care for women who are or who may be pregnant.

“Life begins at conception,” is repeated incessantly by politicians such as Richard Mourdock, as though this were a revelation, something not previously known, that should inform our thinking on whether women are people with the same fundamental rights as men, or if they are essentially incubators whose ability to participate in society and the economy, and, quite literally, whose ability to live is dependent on whether they are, might be, or might become pregnant.

But the phrase is highly — and purposefully — misleading because it confuses simple biological cell division both with actual pregnancy and with actual, legal personhood, which are all very different things.

During the October 11, 2012 vice presidential debate, for example, moderator Martha Raddatz asked Vice President Joe Biden and Congressman Paul Ryan (R-WI) to discuss “the role religion has played” in their personal views on abortion.

Ryan responded by saying:

Now, you want to ask basically why I’m pro-life? It’s not simply because of my Catholic faith. That’s a factor, of course. But it’s also because of reason and science.

You know, I think about 10 1/2 years ago, my wife Janna and I went to Mercy Hospital in Janesville where I was born, for our seven week ultrasound for our firstborn child, and we saw that heartbeat. A little baby was in the shape of a bean. And to this day, we have nicknamed our firstborn child Liza, “Bean.”

Now I believe that life begins at conception.

Here is a startling revelation: I am a mother of two and a woman who earlier in her life had an abortion. I am unapologetically pro-choice. And I know life *begins* at conception (which itself is the product of a complex process), because I kinda already knew that having a child required, as a first step, the successful integration of a sperm and an egg, or fertilization.

In other words, “life” begins at conception, if by “life,” we mean the essential starting place of a potential human being. Neither my 16-year-old daughter nor my 13-year-old son would be here if they were not first conceived, if the fertilized eggs had not gone through the process of cell division, successfully implanted in my uterus and developed into healthy embryos, and subsequently gone successfully through the many other phases of development leading to their births.

The fact that life begins at conception is why women and men use birth control to prevent it from happening and why they have been trying to prevent it from happening since time immemorial. While they may not have had high-resolution microscopes and photography to reveal biological-level activity, women do not and did not need modern “reason and science” (to which anti-choicers now love to refer) to tell them they get pregnant from sex; as Homo Sapiens they have been conceiving, carrying, and bearing babies for at least some 160,000 years, and they’ve been trying to prevent pregnancy and induce abortions for just as long.

Evidence of condom use has been found in cave drawings in France dated between 12,000 and 15,000 years old and in 3,000 year-old illustrations in Egypt. Throughout history, people have variously practiced “outer course” (encouraged even by Christian clergy at some points in history!), and used pessaries, herbs, and other objects to create barriers to fertilization when having sex, not to mention trying many other more dangerous and less effective means, such as drinking lead and mercury or wearing blood-soaked amulets in the hopes of preventing fertilization, a subsequent pregnancy, and later, the birth of a child. I understand that seeing the sonogram of a wanted child is a powerful thing and a connection to the potential person whose birth is much awaited. But if it took Paul Ryan to see a sonogram of his daughter in utero to get him to believe his wife was pregnant and that his daughter’s “life” began with conception, the state of GOP knowledge on sex and biology is even worse than I thought.

The question is not when life begins. That just obfuscates the real issues.

The fundamental issues are:

Read the rest of this entry →

Three Lessons on Religious Freedom from North Dakota

11:40 am in Uncategorized by RH Reality Check

Written by Lon Newman for RH Reality Check. This diary is cross-posted; commenters wishing to engage directly with the author should do so at the original post.

The sun sets over a Catholic chapel.

St. Mary's Catholic Church in North Dakota (Photo: Michael Arrighi / Flickr)

June 12th, in North Dakota, voters rejected a constitutional amendment (Measure 3) that, in the name of religious freedom, would in reality have empowered institutional discrimination. The voters affirmed constitutional protections for the free exercise of religious belief and against the establishment of state-protected discrimination by religious institutions and religious affiliates.

The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) supported Measure Three and there are three strong reasons voters rejected it. The same reasoning applies to the current USCCB campaign against a federal requirement of insurance to cover contraceptives:

  • Institutions which accept tax-exemptions and/or public funds must abide by the fundamental individual protections of our constitution including those against racial discrimination. Sex-discrimination should have equal prohibitions.
  • Accepting public funds and/or tax exemption requires compliance with public standards imposed upon all of us. In the case of Catholic clinics and hospitals, for example, a majority of Catholics agree with conscience protections for individuals, for example in direct provision of abortion services, but public institutions may not refuse to provide needed medical services.
  • Although a citizen may be exempted from acting in a way contrary to religious beliefs (for example fight in a war, participate in the pledge of allegiance, eat particular foods, or take birth control), that is very different from not paying taxes that are required of everyone.

With the rejection of the “Personhood Amendment” in Mississippi and the rejection of Measure 3 in North Dakota, we see proof that Americans have a profound respect for religious freedom as the founders intended it.

Measure 3 as it appeared on the ballot:

This initiated constitutional measure would add a new section to Article I of the North Dakota Constitution stating, “Government may not burden a person’s or religious organization’s religious liberty. The right to act or refuse to act in a manner motivated by a sincerely held religious belief may not be burdened unless the government proves it has a compelling governmental interest in infringing the specific act or refusal to act and has used the least restrictive means to further that interest. A burden includes indirect burdens such as withholding benefits, assessing penalties, or an exclusion from programs or access to facilities.”

YES – meant voter approved the measure as stated.

NO – meant voter rejected the measure as stated.

“I Can’t Believe I Still Have to Protest This:” Abortion Rights in Canada

12:40 pm in Uncategorized by RH Reality Check

Written by Tanya Castle for RH Reality Check. This diary is cross-posted; commenters wishing to engage directly with the author should do so at the original post.

On April 26th Canada’s Parliament debated M-312, a motion that calls for the formation of a special committee of Parliament to review whether the definition of a “human being” as described in the Canadian criminal code can be extended to unborn fetuses.

Parliament Hill in Ottawa. Photo by Vlad Litvinov.

Stephan Woodworth, a Member of Parliament with Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s Conservative Party, proposed the motion, after an extensive media campaign that began in December 2011. The campaign propagated his view that the definition of a “human being” in Section 223(1) of the Criminal Code of Canada is 400 years old (Canada became a country in 1867) and should be revisited in order “to reflect twenty-first century medical evidence.”

Basically, Woodworth’s motion seeks to give legal personhood to fetuses. If passed, it would allow the prosecution of women for murder if they have an abortion.  It would even allow the prosecution of women for accidentally harming their fetus. Above all, it would allow the prioritization of fetuses “rights” over the enshrined constitutional rights of a pregnant woman!

Although Woodworth stated that his motion was merely to allow for “intellectual inquiry,” it is undoubtedly aimed at reopening the abortion debate in Canada. This became blatantly apparent when Woodworth stated on radio that the motion “certainly allows us to have an honest discussion about the abortion question.”

Woodworth seemingly fails to remember that the abortion question was answered more than 25 years ago. In 1988, the Supreme Court of Canada ruled that Canada’s abortion law was unconstitutional. When ruling on the Regina v. Morgentaler case, a Justice said: “The objective of protecting the fetus would not justify the severity of the breach of pregnant women’s right to security of the person.” Another added, the state cannot let others decide “whether her [a woman’s] body is to be used to nurture a new life.” In short, as Niki Ashton, a Member of Parliament and Critic on the Status of Women with the New Democratic Party, Canada’s main opposition party, said best, the Justices found that the abortion law, “violated Canada’s Charter of Rights and Freedoms, because it infringed on a woman’s right to life, liberty and security of person.”

Read the rest of this entry →

How James Bopp Is Using Citizens United and Campaign Finance Law to Promote the Anti-Choice Agenda

12:59 pm in Uncategorized by RH Reality Check

(image: ee382, photobucket)

James Bopp, Jr. (photo: ee382/photobucket)

Written by Jessica Pieklo for RH Reality Check. This diary is cross-posted; commenters wishing to engage directly with the author should do so at the original post.

By now it should come as no surprise that anti-choice activists are engaged in a targeted and specific legal strategy to roll-back abortion rights. After all, it has proven to be more successful to slowly and steadily chip away at access to abortion care via judicial opinion than through any attempts at outright bans in state legislatures.

But what might come as more of a surprise is the fact that a key part of that legal strategy involves attacking campaign finance law. In fact the pro-corporate personhood movement and the anti-woman, anti-choice movement share the same attorney: conservative campaign-finance crusader and abortion-rights foe James Bopp Jr.

Bopp is most famous as the legal architect behind the Citizens United decision but his ties to the anti-choice world run deep. Bopp’s clients include the National Organization for Marriage, National Right to Life Committee, Susan B. Anthony List, and Focus on the Family, just to name a few. And it’s worth remembering that the Citizens United crusade started as an anti-Hilary Clinton smear campaign dressed up as a free speech movement. Bopp is, by all accounts, the principle litigator for conservative causes.

Since his victory in Citizens United Bopp has traveled the country looking to challenge statewide campaign finance disclosure laws. He does this through actions filed on behalf of anti-choice and anti-marriage equality activist groups. The goal is two-fold: take any victories in decisions that turn back corporate spending disclosure requirements and create conflicting precedents in competing jurisdictions to facilitate Supreme Court review to tie down any lose ends left by the Citizens United decision.

That’s exactly what Bopp has done in Washington where he led the challenge to that state’s disclosure law. In Human Life of Washington v. Brumsickle, Bopp argued that the state’s requirement that advocacy groups like Human Life of Washington register with the state and report its financial activities had a chilling effect on groups’ First Amendment speech rights and was therefore unconstitutional. The Ninth Circuit disagreed and last month the Supreme Court denied review of the decision which means the Ninth Circuit decision stands. And since the Supreme Court refused to review this decision, Bopp needs a conflicting decision from a conflicting jurisdiction to force the issue before the Court. Read the rest of this entry →

Covering Romney? Some Tips for Journalists Tracking Mitt’s Changing Position on “Personhood”

10:51 am in Uncategorized by RH Reality Check

(photo: scriptingnews, flickr)

(photo: scriptingnews, flickr)

Written by Jason Salzman for RH Reality Check. This diary is cross-posted; commenters wishing to engage directly with the author should do so at the original post.

Reporters are having a real hard time sorting out Mitt Romney’s position on personhood. Here’s a quick and easy way for journos to think about the issue, and Romney’s evolving stance on it.

Personhood has two tracks: federal and state. At the federal level, proponents are trying to pass a law giving fertilized eggs (or zygotes) the legal rights of a “person,” under the 14th Amendment to the U.S. constitution. At the state level, the personhood campaign wants to pass amendments to state constitutions defining life as beginning at conception.

Romney on federal personhood. Romney has made it clear that he’s currently against federal personhood. This is a flip from his position in 2007, when he stated on national TV that he favored a GOP platform position supporting a “human life amendment” to the U.S. Constitution, which would ban abortion at the federal level. When Romney said this, he believed, like he does now, that life begins at conception, so Romney’s federal ban on abortion, based on his definition of “life,” would have met the requirements of Personhood USA for a national personhood law. But last year at a GOP prez forum, Romney abandoned this position because now thinks adding personhood to the U.S. Constitution could set up a “constituional crisis.”

Romney on state personhood. In October, Romney told Fox News’ Mike Huckabee that he “absolutely” would have signed an amendment to the Massachusetts constitution establishing that life begins a conception. Later, Romney’s spokespeople backed up this position by telling Politico’s Ben Smith and other reporters that Romney supports “efforts to ensure recognition that life begins at conception” and that “these matters should be left up to states to decide.”

Summary: Romney isn’t completely clear on this issue (I’m rolling my eyes as I write that), but  it’s fair to say that Romney has flip flopped on personhood during his career. It’s also a fact that he’s currently against a federal personhood law but for state-based personhood amendments (consistent with his “life-begins-at-conception” belief and his statement to Huckabee). Read the rest of this entry →

Kansas in 2012? A Prediction of More Legal Battles, Higher Tax Bills, and Declining Access to Services

1:43 pm in Uncategorized by RH Reality Check


Written by Kari Ann Rinker for RH Reality Check. This diary is cross-posted; commenters wishing to engage directly with the author should do so at the original post.

I work for Kansas NOW.  Our mission encompasses a broad expanse of issues linked to equality and justice.  In Kansas, equality of opportunity and social supports are currently being eliminated through a multitude of administrative and legislative maneuverings and measures via the leadership of Governor Brownback.  The vast array and sheer volume of the changes that are being attempted and implemented in this state could make it difficult to prioritize where time, energy and resources of a small nonprofit should be spent.

However, as my organization looks ahead to 2012, we don’t need a crystal ball to tell us where a great deal of our time, energy and resources will be spent.  My organization stands in support of women’s reproductive rights, which means much of our prioritizing will be done for us.  The 2012 Kansas Legislature will be introducing another slew of abortion restrictions.

These may include expansion of the already existing religious “conscience clause”.  Like the failed Personhood Ballot measure in Mississippi (which was voted down) an expansion to the Kansas Right of Conscience could reach far beyond the medical procedure of abortion.  Such legislation could affect access to many common medications and medical procedures.  The medications range from oral contraception and IUD’s to Viagra and procedures such as vasectomies, surrogate motherhood and in vitro fertilization.  It could also be interpreted to deny lifesaving abortions, which is currently part of Federal Medicaid requirements.  This opens up possibilities for further litigation at taxpayer expense.

We also expect the pursuit of “tax code legislation” aimed at nonprofit organizations that advocate for or even present abortion as an option.  We believe it will be similar to what has recently been blocked in an Arizona court.

As I mentioned, a piece of our organizational mission is advancing reproductive freedom.  These days, it’s not so much advancing, as it is defending.  Right now, we are defending something that barely exists within our state.  There are no abortion clinics in Wichita and just three in the Kansas City area.  Kansas is a state of 82,282 square miles.  Why is the Kansas legislature focused upon three small medical clinics within these 82,282 miles?  Why will legislative time, energy and resources be spent on this during difficult economic times?

Last session, six different reproductive health restrictions were introduced, including the de-funding of Planned Parenthood of Kansas and Mid-Missouri’s family planning services.  Five of the measures passed and three of the five are currently in the midst of litigation.  It is estimated that current court proceedings have cost Kansas taxpayers $476,000.  This should be considered just the tip of the monetary iceberg.   In these cases, witnesses have not yet been deposed, motions are being filed, the system is in motion and court cases take time.

In 2012, abortion legislation will continue to be sponsored by legislators. Committees will hear these bills and votes will be cast.  The large anti-choice majority will act as a rubber stamp for this entire process.  These unconstitutional bills will be presented to Governor Brownback and he will sign them.  In doing so, he will also be signing his name on the check to the lawyers that will be needed to defend these laws in court.

Our history with former Kansas Attorney General Phill Kline shows us the longevity in these abortion wars.  He is still costing Kansas taxpayers money a decade later.  As of April, taxpayers had spent $400,000 for his defense surrounding his alleged misconduct in his pursuit of abortion doctors in Kansas.  Not to mention the $350,000 settlement paid to settle a sex discrimination suit, but that’s another matter.

How much the citizens of Kansas are willing to shell out remains to be seen.  The extent of their support for ideological candidates has had its limits in the past.  While I remain ever-hopeful that sanity will eventually prevail within the state, I’m just not quite sure how much damage will be done before Kansans demand a change of course.  Until then, our elected oppressors will no doubt continue to spend state time, energy and resources toward the never-ending pursuit of being the first state in the union to eliminate abortion through the eradication of access.  Meanwhile, during the course of this process, they are ensuring that the taxpayers of Kansas will be saddled with a substantial ideological debt.

Race, Class, and Rights in Mississippi: How A Reproductive Justice Campaign Can Save the Pill and Save the Vote

9:40 am in Uncategorized by RH Reality Check


Written by Loretta Ross for RH Reality Check. This diary is cross-posted; commenters wishing to engage directly with the author should do so at the original post.

The 2011 Mississippi ballot Initiative 26 on Personhood and Initiative 27 on Voter ID exclusions may be one of the most important opportunities on the ground for the Pro-Choice and Reproductive Justice Movements to work together. In Mississippi, we are witnessing the intersection of race and gender politics in a campaign in which African American voters are probably the most critical constituents when they go to the polls on November 8. It’s a case study on Roe v. Wade intersecting with the Voting Rights Act and the 19th Amendment granting women the right to vote.

For the Reproductive Justice movement, this is an example of theory meeting practice in which we have an opportunity to link our human rights struggles in a statewide campaign. The best spokespeople are readily talking about both ballot initiatives consistently by bringing together women, families, race, and poverty. By co-joining race (Voter ID-27) with gender (Personhood-26), we have an excellent opportunity to experience an example of intersectionality in practice in an electoral campaign in which black women may be the very voters we need to move the needle against our opponents’ long-term manipulation of the African American electorate.

We have to strengthen the common ground between the Reproductive Justice and Pro-Choice movements based on linking human rights issues together. Reproductive Justice is our best opportunity to join middle-class women with poor women so that we can win for all women. Read the rest of this entry →

Grassroots Opposition Grows to Mississippi’s Prop 26, the Egg-as-Person Initiative

1:27 pm in Uncategorized by RH Reality Check

Written by Allison Korn for RH Reality Check. This diary is cross-posted; commenters wishing to engage directly with the author should do so at the original post.

On November 8th, 2011, Mississippians will vote on Proposition 26, a ballot measure that, if passed, would alter the state constitution, redefining the word “person” to include every human being from the moment of fertilization, cloning, or the functional equivalent thereof. While a similar measure was defeated in Colorado by wide margins, in 2008 and again in 2010, many people fear that such a measure could easily pass in Mississippi. What few—in Mississippi or beyond—anticipated was the strong grassroots opposition that has emerged against the measure.

I’m Southern by birth and by education. I am a native Memphian, born and bred in Memphis, TN. I’m also a proud alumnus of the University of Mississippi School of Law. Now, working as a legal advocate in the South, I am both a witness to and a participant in a rising grassroots movement throughout Mississippi.

I can report that unlikely allies from both sides of the traditional “abortion” debate have come together in opposition of Prop 26: mothers of several children born from IVF and women who underwent treatment for ectopic pregnancies; neonatal nurses and bioethics professors; evangelical Christians and clergy; multi-generation Mississippians well into their seventies and student transplants from all over. Representatives from all of these groups have joined together in opposition to Proposition 26.

For example, Atlee Breland, a lifelong Mississippian and Christian mother started the blog, “Parents Against MS 26.” Although she has never considered herself a “pro-choice activist,” she feels strongly about the potential impact of the measure beyond the abortion issue. Ms. Breland herself sought infertility treatment to have her three children, and she is worried about Prop 26’s impact on IVF and similar infertility treatments. Ms. Breland also distinguishes between recognizing and valuing unborn life and granting that life full legal personhood. Her blog helped inspire and create the poignant, now-viral video that moves the debate about Proposition 26 far beyond the issue of abortion.

Another blog entitled “Deep-Fried Freethinkers” has devoted itself to answering tough questions about Prop 26, fact-checking claims made about Prop 26, and investigating the past actions and statements of some of Prop 26’s leading supporters and editorialists.

There are also new Facebook groups whose memberships are growing by the day. One organization out of Jackson, MS, called “Mississippians for Healthy Families,” uses its FB page to generate volunteers for phone banks they are holding at sites across the state, making cold calls to provide information about Proposition 26. These FB groups also provide links to news related to Proposition 26, post information about statewide events, and encourage their members to write comments about editorials, draft letters to the editors of local newspapers, and talk to their communities about the amendment.

Activism in Mississippi, however, is not only taking place on-line, but also in the streets. Rallies opposing Proposition 26 are popping up throughout the state, from Oxford and Starkville to Hattiesburg and Jackson, with more planned as election day approaches. For example, after a successful October 13th rally in Starkville, Mississippi State students will hold a day-long “Dance-In” on November 1, to continue raising awareness about the dangerous implications of Proposition 26.

In Oxford, MS, home to the University of Mississippi, the North Mississippi Women for Progress hosted a “Save the Pill” rally on October 19th on the town square, focusing on how Prop 26 could be used to make a popular form of birth control illegal. A group called “Hell No! on Mississippi 26 and 27” will host a rally at the Mississippi State Capitol Building on Saturday, November 5. This is part of their broader progressive grassroots effort to help defeat Proposition 26 as well as Prop. 27 that would require voters to show government-issued photo identification at the polling place.

Because opposition to Prop 26 is home-grown, organizers know where Mississippians gather and celebrate, and are using these events to pass out pamphlets and stickers urging a “No” vote on the measure. So, activists attended the Mississippi State Fair in Jackson armed with information, and they are planning to do the same at the Peter Anderson Festival in Ocean Springs. And on the weekends, tailgate parties and homecoming games have featured volunteers distributing fact sheets exposing what Proposition 26 is really all about.

In the media, a diverse group of Mississippians are speaking out against Proposition 26. Individuals and organizations from university professors and local feminists, to the Mississippi Medical Association and the Mississippi Nurse’s Association, to the Bishop of Mississippi’s Episcopal Diocese have written commentaries and released statements opposing Proposition 26. Billboards opposing Proposition 26 have gone up along Mississippi’s highways and, even more recently, a concerned Mississippi man, Charles Meyer, took out a quarter-page ad in the Clarion-Ledger newspaper asking the Attorney General to “help save us from ourselves. Anti-abortion legislation should not cost the lives of thousands of innocent Mississippi women.”

In response to growing questions and concerns about Prop 26 University departments, student organizations, and women’s groups have organized a series of Town Hall Discussions to take place across Mississippi, from Oxford to Cleveland to Jackson to Biloxi.

I myself have now had many opportunities to speak with Mississippians all over the state about Proposition 26. I have spoken to students at the University of Mississippi School of Law, met with members of North Mississippi Women for Progress, presented at the International Center for Traditional Childbearing’s Southeast Black Midwives and Healers Summit held in D’lberville, MS, and helped facilitate a panel conversation about Proposition 26 at Delta State University in Cleveland, MS, located in an area of Mississippi famously known as “The Mississippi Delta.” Everywhere I go, I meet people who are hungry to learn more about Proposition 26 and who, regardless of their views on abortion, welcome truthful information and reflective discussion about how this measure could hurt all pregnant women – including those going to term. My commentary summarizing much of these talks was published by the Hattiesburg American last weekend and I expect that a new video about how Prop 26 could hurt all pregnant women will get significant play across the state.

Too often, those unfamiliar with the South assume, based on stigma and prejudice, that there are few, if any, thoughtful, progressive activists in states like Mississippi. In fact, some national comments from people outside of Mississippi and in response to initiatives like Proposition 26 express sentiments similar to those expressed after Hurricane Katrina. They suggested that the solution was for people to leave the state. Similar comments written in response to stories about Proposition 26 say such things as “Women should move out of Mississippi” and “Move to a state that supports individual rights.” But Mississippians are staying and fighting back.

As both a Southerner and a sometime-Mississippian I am actually not at all surprised by the activism that has emerged in response to Proposition 26. I saw a similar emergence after Hurricane Katrina, when individuals and communities across the Gulf Coast stood in solidarity with one another in a commitment to rebuild and renew.

No matter what happens on November 8, it is important to recognize the growing grassroots movement in opposition to Proposition 26. These Southern, home-grown leaders and activists will still be in Mississippi beyond election day, and we must not only recognize them but also encourage and support them if we ever hope to win the long-term struggle for reproductive justice.

Citizens United: An Unprecedented Threat to Reproductive and Sexual Justice

7:30 am in Uncategorized by RH Reality Check

Written by Jodi Jacobson for – News, commentary and community for reproductive health and justice.

What’s the connection between the personhood of a fertilized egg and the personhood of corporations?

Both can and will undermine the fundamental rights of women.

On January 21st of this year, perhaps in some cosmically ironic sense a day before the 37th anniversary of Roe v. Wade, the Supreme Court handed down a decision on the Citizens United case.

In the 5 to 4 opinion, the Court held that:

Political spending is a form of protected speech under the First Amendment, and the government may not keep corporations or unions from spending money to support or denounce individual candidates in elections. While corporations or unions may not give money directly to campaigns, they may seek to persuade the voting public through other means, including ads, especially where these ads were not broadcast.

Corporations can take money, funnel money, and use money to their political advantage in campaigns for U.S. elected offices and…they do not have to disclose a dime.  . . . Read the rest of this entry →

Personhood Amendment Would Ban In-Vitro Fertilization. Physicians, Families Speak Out

8:30 am in Uncategorized by RH Reality Check

Written by Amie Newman for – News, commentary and community for reproductive health and justice.

One in eight couples uses in-vitro fertilization and other forms of assisted reproductive technology to have children, notes Dr. Ruben Alvero in a Denver Daily News article today.

Yet Colorado voters are being asked to pass the so-called "Personhood Amendment", Amendment 62, which could essentially block couples seeking to have children from utilizing in-vitro fertilization.

Yesterday, physicians and families – especially those who have been helped immensely by the use of in-vitro fertilization, spoke up about the dangers of Amendment 62.

Jim Burness, the father of a 27-month-old daughter who was conceived through in-vitro fertilization, also shared his story.

“Right after our wedding, my father-in-law and my mother both passed away,” Burness said. “As a result, my wife and I had a strong desire to have a child that would have a biological link to those we lost. In this day and age, I am astounded how any group can think they have a right to dictate whether my daughter can have a biological sibling.”

Backers of the initiative have filed a lawsuit to change the language in the state voter’s guide (the "Blue Book") as they believe the current wording shares misinformation about the impact of the measure. As Wendy Norris and others have covered extensively on RH Reality Check, the Personhood Amendment seeks to imbue fertilized eggs with the full legal rights of citizens. Theresa Erickson, writing on The American Fertility Association’s web site, notes

"…the groups backing the amendment are attempting to stop all abortions while effectively banning abortions for victims of rape and incest, banning abortions to save the life of the woman, banning certain forms of birth control (such as IUDs, which inhibit the implantation of an embryo), and banning in-vitro fertilization and other forms of medical research.  Furthermore, in its current form this amendment would effectively restrict a woman and her doctor the ability to obtain and provide proper medical care – instead, it could potentially criminalize the actions of the doctor and his or her patient."

So, it’s odd, isn’t it, that anti-choice blogger and speaker, Jill Stanek, decries the wonders of in-vitro fertlization on her blog today? Stanek blogs about the story of Grace and Luke "frozen when they were 8 cell embryos" and adopted by a Christian couple who "had gestated and given birth to their other embryos" (huh?).

But how were the "8 cell embryos" created in the first place?  Through in-vitro fertilization.

Though Stanek claims that the couple who "adopted" the embryos were using discarded embryos and so, presumably, were doing their good deed by saving them, it’s worthwhile to note that the couple in California who were receiving fertility help, initially, would never have been able to conceive without the help of this assisted reproductive technology.

Amendment 62 would take that option away from couples in Colorado.

“Amendment 62 would deny those couples a medical solution to their infertility and a vital option by which to build their families,” Alvero said.

Stanek also notes that pro-lifers are opposed to destruction of embryos for scientific purposes on the basis that they are "unique, innocent human beings" yet physicians at yesterday’s rally warned that signficant stem cell research on Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s, Diabetes and other conditions would certainly be halted if Amendment 62 passes. Many in the anti-choice community also are opposed to Personhood amendments as they are simply too extreme. Robin Marty notes just how blatantly bizarre and offensive Amendment 62′s arguments have become.

Ob/Gyn, Dr. Andrew Ross, told a heart-wrenching story at the rally yesterday of his wife’s miscarriage and the potential for her "uterus to become a crime scene" under Amendment 62; not far-fetched, as we’ve seen this happen in Mexico and El Salvador.

A hearing on the Personhood Amendment’s Blue Book language is scheduled for this Thursday morning in Denver.