Everything You Need to Know, and Why this Violates Women’s Rights
by Sydney Levine
There have been several, unsuccessful pushes for a Personhood Bill in the last few years, particularly in the 2012 election. Often backed by politically powerful men (who notably do not identify as female, nor have uteruses), this bill threatens to disrupt or even eliminate the privacy between a woman and her doctor mandated by the Roe v. Wade case in 1973, which legalized abortion in the United States. There seems to be some confusion as to the full extent of the Personhood Bill, because some women have spoken out in support of it, even though it would adversely affect every single female and female-identifying person in the US.
So what is it exactly?
The first Personhood Bill was introduced in 2011, and specified that a “one-celled human embryo,” even before it implants on the uterus, should be granted full rights and privileges of personhood. The Personhood Bill, or the Sanctity of Human Life Act, seeks to grant full rights to zygotes, embryos, and fetuses. It defines human life as beginning with fertilization. This means that certain methods of birth control such as the IUD, and methods that prevent implantation of fertilized eggs will become illegal, as will abortion at any stage. Miscarriage, a complete accident in nearly all cases, will also be criminalized, causing the mother to be potentially charged with manslaughter or murder, depending on her activities during the pregnancy.
Why should you care?
Both bills are badly veiled attempts to circumvent Roe v. Wade, because if a zygote is a full person with full rights, the case was found on false grounds and no longer applies. Personhood Bills infringe on women’s civil rights because they violate the privacy between the woman and her doctor, and promote the fetal life as equally important (or even more important) than the health, safety, and wishes of the woman carrying the child. Despite his distinct lack of female identification and/or female anatomy, Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wisc.) has shown significant support of this bill in recent campaigns. All but a few of the abortion clinics in Texas have been shut down, effectively preventing easy access to medical care. Anti-abortion groups such as Personhood USA want to ban abortion, contraception, and protect the being “from the moment of conception,” regardless of the circumstances surrounding the pregnancy (incest, rape, etc.) Such severe definitions and restrictions prevent women from having full control over their reproductive faculties and rights, which are then instead left to men in governments to decide.
This bill is frightening because it is a blatant power play to subordinate women by the patriarchy. The ramifications are exponential: Every fertilized egg in a lab—thousands of zygotes—must have a chance at life and cannot be disposed of. This creates ethical problems for both the labs and the couples trying to conceive via in vitro, who must bear every fertilized egg inserted into the womb, despite the “just in case” plan of implanting 2-4 fertilized eggs in case only one survives.
If passed, the Sanctity of Human Life Act affects absolutely every American: biological females, yes, but also transgender people. If a person is biologically female but identifies as male (a trans man), and becomes pregnant, how does abortion apply to them? Right now, legally, abortion is only available to women (a biological female who identifies as female). Men needing abortions is a problem with no precedent and no simplistic solution. The basic fact of a male-identifying person in need of an abortion undermines that person’s very identity, creating a whole other issue of who has legal access to certain medical care and who does not.
It is not up to the federal government to decide what a woman can and cannot do with her reproductive organs. It must be decided on a state level, so that a woman may seek better access to medical care in another state, rather than have to move to another country or have her civil rights taken away. It is no one’s business but the couple’s and their doctor’s how they want to handle a pregnancy, and it is certainly not up to a group of wealthy, male-dominated politicians to decide the fate of every female in the United States.