After securing ballot initiatives in Colorado and Mississippi, the nationwide effort to establish state constitutional rights for unborn babies is focused on Montana, where Planned Parenthood and the ACLU are pushing back.
The lead organization in the grass-roots effort, PersonhoodUSA, has until June 18 to secure a spot on Montana’s fall election ballot for a state constitutional amendment defining an unborn baby as a person.
The movement that takes aim at the foundation of the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision has enjoyed stunning victories, including qualification for an amendment vote in Colorado this fall and in Mississippi in November 2011.
The personhood approach is based on Justice Harry Blackmun’s statement in his majority Roe v. Wade opinion. Blackmun said the landmark case would collapse if “the fetus is a person,” because the unborn’s “right to life would then be guaranteed” by the Constitution.
PersonhoodUSA volunteers are working frantically to collect 48,000 more signatures to meet Montana’s June 18 deadline but not without heavy opposition from pro-choice organizations.
Personhood USA co-founder Keith Mason told WND Planned Parenthood has launched a campaign in Montana to call every voter, “telling them this is going to hurt voters and not give women access to healthcare.”
It’s not the first time PersonhoodUSA has faced opposition in Montana. In 2008, Planned Parenthood staffers came to the state to pass out cards to voters at polling places.
Mason said his group plans to mobilize volunteers for the state’s June 8 primary election.
Planned Parenthood and the American Civil Liberties Union “have teamed up,” Mason said, to try to keep the personhood amendment off the ballot. “They don’t want us to win.”
Mason said the abortion-rights organizations have used dubious lawsuits to slow down the Personhood movement in Missouri, Nevada and Alaska.
“For us, if we’re in a lawsuit, it’s harder for us to mobilize,” Mason said.
The personhood activists say their aims are to change laws state-by-state to re-establish the personhood of all Americans, to raise concern over the “dehumanization and murder” of a class of citizens and to encourage state governors and officials to resist federal advocacy for abortion.
WND previously reported Mississippi’s Personhood movement overcame Mississippi Attorney General Jim Hood’s decision to move up the deadline for collecting signatures. Some 130,000 names were submitted to secure a place on the November 2011 ballot.
The Mississippi Personhood Amendment states, “The term ‘person’ or ‘persons’ shall include every human being from the moment of fertilization, cloning or the functional equivalent thereof.”
Recognition of PersonhoodUSA is skyrocketing across the nation as volunteers seek to gather signatures. As many as 32 states are expected to address some sort of “personhood” vote this year through a constitutional amendment or law.
Alaska, Arkansas, Hawaii, Indiana, Louisiana and Texas are among the states where prolife legislators have signaled their intent to introduce personhood statutes.
In March, Personhood Colorado signature collectors were forced into “overtime,” Mason said, after state officials invalidated 20 percent of the names, partly because of an unannounced rule change. But in just 15 days, the activists collected 47,000 additional signatures on top of the 79,000 previously submitted.
The effort in California fell 77,000 signatures short of the 677,000 signatures needed to get on the ballot.
“We are gearing up for 2012,” Mason told WND.
“As we look forward to beyond, we are looking forward to a big fight in Mississippi,” he said.
An effort also is planned in North Dakota in 2011.
Mason said he is undaunted by the opposition to his movement, noting the power that comes from a grassroots movement the size of Personhood’s.
“We are getting volunteers on the street, stirring up the pot, and changing the culture,” he said.
Rebekah Falkenstein is a WND intern