October 26, 2011

Religious Right Group Leading Effort to Push Radical Anti-Abortion Law

Center for Reproductive Rigths, embryo, Mississippi, Personhood USA, Walter Dellinger

by Jeremy Leaming

Making life impossible for others is sometimes just not enough. There’s a desire among some zealots to also make it miserable.

For example, the right to an abortion is a privacy right protected by the Constitution. But a number of states this year have bowed to the pressure of special interest groups, many of them Religious Right outfits, to enact laws restricting the ability of women to obtain abortions. But, as reported by The New York Times, a group called Personhood USA is trumpeting measures that would give legal rights to embryos that would effectively brand “abortion and some forms of birth control as murder.”

In Mississippi, as the newspaper notes, it is already nearly impossible for a woman to obtain an abortion. And because of the push by Personhood USA, Mississippians will vote in November on a proposed constitutional amendment providing an embryo the same rights as a human.  

Personhood USA’s website reveals that its ballot initiative drive is invasive – it’s apparently being pushed in “all 50 states.” The group’s website also reveals this is yet another Christian Right effort to limit other people’s rights. (Many of the efforts to defeat marriage quality are driven by Religious Right activists.) Personhood USA states on its About Us, page, that it is “working to respect the God-given right to life by recognizing all human beings as persons who are ‘created in the image of God’ from the beginning of their biological development, without exceptions.”

Personhood USA, moreover, “desires to glorify Jesus Christ in a way that creates a culture of life so that all innocent human lives are protected by love and by law.”

Civil liberties groups are not knocking the free speech or religious liberty rights of Personhood USA, but many are attacking its effort to circumvent Supreme Court opinions that have upheld the right to abortion.

Nancy Northrup, head of the Center for Reproductive Rights, told the newspaper, “This is the most extreme in a field of extreme anti-abortion measures that have been before the states this year.”

In an interview with ACSblog, earlier this year, the ACLU’s Louise Melling noted the troubling string of state efforts to further restrict abortion, citing as one of the most egregious a North Carolina law that required physicians to encourage pregnant women seeking an abortion to view ultrasound images of their fetuses. (Yesterday, U.S. District Judge Catherine Eagle issued a preliminary injunction of that portion of the law. The law was enacted over the opposition of the state Gov. Beverly Perdue, who called it an extreme measure that interfered with the doctor-patient relationship, The Associated Press reported.)   

Former U.S. Solicitor General Walter Dellinger (pictured), during this year’s ACS National Convention, also took a shot at state laws requiring doctors to try and influence a woman’s decision to have an abortion.

Dellinger said, “We hear the talks about government intrusions into health care – that this represents an extraordinary step about liberty. And I just cannot, any longer, refrain from making the observation that it is really ironic and disturbing to hear that liberty lecture come from people talking about [a] government takeover of medical care, many of whom would legislate the imposition upon women of unnecessary waiting periods, government scripted lectures, compulsory sonogram viewings, and government mandated unsafe medical procedures.”