From the diaries by Erick
It was Pope John Paul II’s great wish that the Church would learn to “breathe with both lungs.”
I couldn’t help but notice the sturm-und-drang over the national personhood movement, most especially by Steve Ertelt in the following post. Arguments against are legion: it bleeds cash and resources, it’s not politically viable, and worst of all, it deprives Republicans the chance to elect a pro-life president with a nominally pro-life Congress.
Of course, were this even remotely true, abortion would have ended with the election of George W. Bush, and the Republican Congress would have passed a series of bills defunding Planned Parenthood, mandating parental notification and consent laws, passing a series of fetal pain bills, forcing abortion clinics to meet the basic standards of medical care, and perhaps even joined hands with the personhood movement and passed a bill recognizing the basic right to exist — ultimately thrusting the decision into the hands of a 5-4 U.S. Supreme Court and ending abortion once and for all.
One small problem. This never happened.
In fact, not only did it not happen, but the partisan majority was never a pro-life majority. Even the softballs failed to manage much more than tacit recognition from U.S. House leadership, as items such as the Pence Amendment which would have defunded Planned Parenthood — the nation’s largest abortion chain — only managed to garner 183 votes.
Since 1973, the pro-life movement has fractured time and time again based on hairline differences of opinion. One difference marks the movement more than anything else. Either one believes that any legislation that ends abortion is a net positive (the “greater good” argument), or one believes that every human being must be saved, and that any laws creating a maze that — should they be navigated — end with the death of a child are a net negative (the “common good” argument).
I’ll set aside the very deep theological arguments pro- and con- between the two positions. Needless to say, rather than working as counterparts, or at the very least agreeing to “do no harm” to the other wing, the pro-life movement’s internecine warfare has raged almost as fiercely as the struggle to end abortion itself.
What has unfortunately happened over the course of almost four decades is that many Americans who are nominally pro-life have become discouraged from participating in the movement, as Ertelt accurately depicts. It’s a long slog, the resources are thin, and precious resources are often spent in rearguard actions rather than ending the tragedy of abortion.
In 2008, I was first introduced to the personhood movement. I had political involvement in Colorado in 2006 (successfully running then-Rep. Marilyn Musgrave’s re-election campaign) and knew many of the players in the state. Instantly, I threw in my support behind the movement, without hesitation or reserve.
Why? Because the argument for personhood was so undeniably true. In short, every human being has the basic human right to exist. And further, all human beings deserve the protection of our laws.
That’s personhood — and it’s that language that has carried into over 30 states across the country in the form of either legislation or constitutional amendments. What’s more, all hopes are hung on the actual language of the now-entrenched Roe v. Wade, in which Justice Blackmun famously emphasized:
The appellee and certain amici [pro-lifers] argue that the fetus is a ‘person’ within the language and meaning of the Fourteenth Amendment. In support of this, they outline at length and in detail the well-known facts of fetal development. If this suggestion of personhood is established, the appellant’s case, of course, collapses, for the fetus’ right to life would then be guaranteed specifically by the Amendment.
What has happened in only a few short years is precisely as Ertelt and others have described it. Energized by the new approach, thousands of pro-lifers have rallied to the battle standards. Hundreds of thousands of dollars have been poured into the effort. Old stalwarts who fell away either from infighting or disillusionment have come back to a movement they loved so dearly in the ’70s and ’80s.
This is the miracle of personhood.
Detractors within the pro-life movement are certainly not “anti-personhood” by any definition. I believe many of them to see a worthwhile goal in personhood, but heavily invested both in the acrimony of previous infighting as well as the time and energy invested in pursuing incrementalist legislation. This is all well and good — and one can tell the difference between a sincere disagreement and a D.C. lobbyist or lawyer whose livelihood depends on the wrong strategy.
Let me give you five good reasons why personhood is the right strategy for the upcoming decade:
1. Personhood is bringing new people into the pro-life movement. Period. It’s no secret that many evangelicals and Catholics view abortion through the eyes of faith. Such a view encourages us to look at abortion as an attack on the human family — the Body of Christ. For this, Christians seek the common good of all those members, and will not sacrifice a single one to gain a greater goal. That sort of ethic — common to any member of America’s military or emergency personnel — is easily identifiable, and strikes deep in the heart of the souls of those disillusioned with what are perceived to be half measures.
2. Personhood is bringing new money into the pro-life movement. When you hear the phrase “scarce resources” bantered about, it’s from the perspective that pro-lifers are old, dying, with pensions and savings accounts being dwindled away every day. That sort of defeatism (and it is defeatism) is precisely what has driven away any donor from any organization, regardless of the cause. With personhood, there is a battle plan and a light at the end of the tunnel…
3. Who believes personhood is the right strategy? Planned Parenthood. In 2008, and in Colorado alone, Planned Parenthood committed over $10 million towards defeating the Colorado Personhood Amendment. In 2010, they spent over $3 million doing the same. $3 million multiplied by 30 efforts across the country puts Planned Parenthood and the abortion industry out of business in months — not years.
4. Personhood works in tandem with every pro-life strategy embarked upon over the last four decades. This is where we get to the “breathing with both lungs” argument — there is no threat to other efforts by engaging communities in personhood, other than the traditional resistance to new ideas.
5. One in three Americans is already on the side of Personhood. Marketers would argue that the idea is “pre-sold” to the American public. What’s more, certain states stand a better chance than Colorado (arguably a battleground state if there ever was one) in passing personhood legislation and state amendments. All it takes is for one state to pass personhood… and the likelihood of a 5-4 decision in the U.S. Supreme Court upholding personhood, though a coin flip, is altogether better than never taking the chance at all.
I happen to consider Ken Buck a friend, though by acquaintance and a few dozen hours campaigning in and around Weld and Larimer Counties. Not being on the inside of his campaign for U.S. Senate but cheering as loudly as I could from Virginia, I haven’t the foggiest idea why Buck turned away from his endorsement of personhood.
But the argument that personhood tanked Buck’s campaign? Specious at best. In fact, the converse may very well be true. Modern polling shows that pro-lifers care passionately about their issue, and to the exclusion of many others. Did personhood proponents vote for Amendment 62 and leave the checkbox next to Ken Buck blank? Possibly. Was the abortion lobby going to attack Ken Buck on his impeccable pro-life credentials? Absolutely. Why did the campaign advisors argued that Buck should come down from his principled position — a position embraced by 30% of the Colorado electorate — and muddy the waters?
That’s above my pay grade. And probably above all outside commentators’ pay grades as well. Still, the simplest answer being the easiest is that, should Buck have held fast in the best environment for conservatives since the 1994 Republican Revolution — Buck may very well have been selecting drapes for his new offices in Washington right now.
Pro-lifers should determine for themselves the worthiness of the personhood movement, not based on what our friends within the movement would tell you — but on the reaction of those whose livelihoods and careers are based around killing children in the womb. It’s no secret that Planned Parenthood and the abortion industry attempted to grab literally millions of dollars from the public purse during the 2010 lame duck session. There’s a reason for that. Planned Parenthood and the abortion industry could not survive without it. They know, as we do, that resources are limited everywhere. The further they are stretched on as many fronts as possible, the easier it is to dismantle the machinery of abortion on demand.
Pro-lifers such as Steve Ertelt have devoted countless hours to the cause, and all in their own ways. I suggest, if you want to learn more, visit those who have supported the movement for years such as Judie Brown at American Life League (FULL DISCLOSURE: I work for ALL… but there truly is no better resource). If you feel encouraged enough to find out what all the excitement is about, find a state initiative through Personhood USA and get moving.
Find others, talk about abortion, let people know where you stand, and ask questions about what we value as a country and as a society. Do *all* human beings have the basic right to exist? Or not?
If after all of that you’re still not convinced… well, sign up for Life News and keep a great resource going. But above all else, find a way to get involved.
Thousands of lives are counting on your ‘yes’ — and we need both lungs to keep moving.