Yesterday, ThinkProgress reported that Rep. Todd “Legitimate Rape” Akin (R-MO) and GOP vice presidential candidate Paul Ryan both cosponsored the bill that introduced America to the despicable term “forcible rape.” As it turns out, this may only be the second most sweeping attack on reproductive freedom that both men partnered on. Ryan and Akin also cosponsored a federal personhood bill, the Sanctity of Human Life Act of 2009, which declares that a fertilized egg is entitled to the exact same legal rights as a human being:
(1) the Congress declares that —
(A) the right to life guaranteed by the Constitution is vested in each human being, and is the paramount and most fundamental right of a person; and
(B) the life of each human being begins with fertilization, cloning, or its functional equivalent, irrespective of sex, health, function or disability, defect, stage of biological development, or condition of dependency, at which time every human being shall have all the legal and constitutional attributes and privileges of personhood; and
(2) the Congress affirms that the Congress, each State, the District of Columbia, and all United States territories have the authority to protect the lives of all human beings residing in its respective jurisdictions.
Lest there be any doubt, this bill is unconstitutional. Congress does not have the power to overrule Roe v. Wade by an ordinary statue, only a constitutional amendment could serve that purpose. Moreover, even if Roe were overruled by the Supreme Court, Ryan and Akin’s bill still attempts to redefine who “the right to life guaranteed by the Constitution” applies to. Again, changing the meaning of the Constitution can only be done through an amendment, not through an ordinary Act of Congress.
Should Ryan and Akin’s personhood agenda take effect, however, it would drastically reduce women’s reproductive choice. The bill declares that a human egg obtains “all the legal and constitutional attributes and privileges of personhood” the moment it merges with a human sperm. Thus, a Blastocyst-American would not only enjoy the same constitutional status as a fully grown adult, it would also enjoy any “legal” attributes enjoyed by adults. Because every states’ law makes it a crime to kill a human adult, the likely effect of Ryan and Akin’s personhood bill would be to treat killing a fertilized egg as the same thing as homicide.
Such an interpretation would not simply ban abortion, it could turn many forms of birth control into the legal equivalent of a murder weapon. Many forms of contraception, including many birth control pills, function in part by inhibiting a fertilized egg from implanting in a woman’s uterus. Thus, Ryan and Akin’s personhood bill could render the act of using many forms of oral contraception the equivalent of a homicide crime.