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Can “Personhood” Save Babies in the “Abortion Capital of America”?

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Karee Santos - published on 10/28/14

Group launches campaign to convince people that even a zygote is a person.

It’s to be expected that a movement to define personhood from the moment of conception of a human being would draw opposition from people supporting the legality of abortion. But the personhood movement in the United States also has been met with opposition from established pro-life groups.

Efforts to amend several state constitutions to include the concept of personhood have so far failed, in part because of of such pro-life opposition, personhood advocates say. A 2011 effort in Mississippi failed after facing “friendly fire” from other pro-life factions who feared jeopardizing protections already on the books.

Now, the movement is setting up camp in New York State, where they are bound to be met with push-back from at least the pro-abortion side.

After all, New York City has sometimes been called the abortion capital of America.

On Saturday, nearly 100 persons gathered on Long Island to hear arguments on why they should support the movement. Speakers at Personhood Education New York’s debut conference included Dan Becker, founder of the National Personhood Alliance, who explained that personhood is a “broad guiding principle” guaranteeing equal rights for the preborn, disabled, elderly, and infirm. 

On its website, Personhood New York says it "seeks to protect all human beings from its first biological beginnings to natural death with no exceptions." It says it is a State Affiliate of Personhood USA and National Personhood Alliance.

Despite facing what seems to be an uphill battle, Becker and other pro-life advocates like him still see the idea of personhood as essential to the eventual success of the anti-abortion movement.  

“If we’re ever going to have any meaningful restrictions on abortion, we have to go after the central holding of Roe v. Wade,” stated conference speaker Robert Muise, senior counsel and co-founder of American Freedom Law Center.  “One of the best ways to do that is to have a state pass a constitutional amendment” that defines persons as including the unborn, and then fight the inevitable legal challenges all the way to the Supreme Court, he continued.

“We have at least four votes” on the Supreme Court in favor of changing or overturning Roe v. Wade, with Justice Kennedy being the swing vote, Muise noted. The pro-life movement shouldn’t “settle for just honorable mention” but should implement a full-bore strategy to seek the end of abortion, and that strategy includes personhood, he said.

Personhood amendments would not lead directly to prosecution under any existing law, Becker claimed. “A constitutional amendment requires enabling legislation,” he explained. Moreover, the courts must grapple with how to apply the concept of personhood on a case-by-case basis depending on the particular statute invoked, he continued.

Ayesha Kreutz, president of the Frederick Douglass Foundation, presented the issue of personhood as it applies to the minority community. She likened the fight over abortion to the fight over slavery. “When they’re not a person, you can whip them, beat them, do whatever you want to them, and that’s exactly what’s happening to the child in the womb,” stated Kreutz.

Blacks are the number one consumers of abortion services throughout the country, she said, citing statistics that blacks constitute 14% of the population but 37% of aborted children. It amounts to “depopulation,” she said. “In places like New York City, there’s more abortions than there are live births to blacks,” she explained. The arguments against granting personhood to the unborn will sound very similar to arguments denying similar rights to slaves, she said, and the black community will relate to that.

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