This year, Wisconsin has already enacted harsh abortion restrictions that have been temporarily blocked by a federal judge who says they go too far to restrict reproductive access. But that doesn’t mean abortion opponents are ready to give up the fight. Now, one Wisconsin lawmaker is pushing for an even more extreme abortion-related measure: a so-called “personhood” amendment to define life as beginning at conception.
Wisconsin Rep. Andre Jacque (R) is proposing an amendment to the state constitution that would extend all the rights of U.S. citizenship to fertilized eggs. The amendment stipulates that “the terms ‘people’ and ‘person’ shall apply to every human being at any stage of development.”
This type of “trigger” amendment wouldn’t change state law while Roe v. Wade still stands. But, if that Supreme Court decision ever gets overturned, the clause would ensure that all types of abortion, some kinds of birth control, and even in vitro fertilization would be immediately criminalized in Wisconsin. Jacque introduced a similar measure last year that failed to advance.
Jacque is backed by Pro-Life Wisconsin, an anti-choice group that unveiled a new website and petition drive to drum up support for the proposed personhood measure. Pro-Life Wisconsin is upfront about its goal: the group wants to prevent every woman in every part of the state from being able to access abortion services.
“The personhood amendment seeks to end abortion in Wisconsin, not to regulate or restrict it,” Matt Sande, Pro-Life Wisconsin’s director of legislation, said in a statement. “It seeks to end all violence toward preborn children in Wisconsin — surgical, chemical, experimental, etc. — at all stages of development. If we are to be truly just as a people, our civil law must recognize and protect all human beings as ‘persons.’ “
Personhood activists in Iowa and Ohio are also currently trying to get enough support for their own constitutional amendments. In North Dakota — the state that’s already enacted the harshest abortion ban in the nation — lawmakers have already approved a personhood amendment, and it will be up for voters’ consideration in 2014.
But in most states, far-right personhood legislation has had difficulty advancing because it’s often too radical for other conservative groups to get behind. Wisconsin’s largest anti-choice group, Wisconsin Right to Life, does not support Jacque’s amendment. They point out that an unconstitutional personhood amendment would invite expensive legal battles. “Supporting a costly effort like a personhood amendment, which is risky and unnecessary, has the very real potential of causing more harm than good,” Wisconsin Right to Life says on its website.