Friday, February 17, 2012

The Unintended Consequences Of Personhood Legislation

The GOP is pursuing personhood legislation in states around the country as a way to make abortions illegal. Since the pro-life movement hasn't been able to overturn Roe v. Wade, they're using this as an alternative attack on the legal right to abortion in the country. Colorado has twice tried to bring a personhood amendment, and Missouri has also failed to approve a personhood bill.

It's a move that is destined to have unintended consequences that its proponents are wary to even discuss. Virginia is the latest to attempt to legislate away the right of abortion by redefining the term person. The GOP is pushing a personhood bill there, and yet the word "person" appears in the Virginia statutes 25,000 times. Any chance that something important might be affected by changing the definition?

Unfortunately, not only would this bill lay the foundation to ban abortion and contraception, it could also wreak havoc on other areas of the law. The word “person” appears over 25,000 times in the laws of Virginia. No one knows the exact consequences of changing such an ordinary word, but the proponents of H.B. 1 refused to discuss or address these concerns in committee or on the floor of the House. Granting fertilized eggs all of the rights, privileges, and immunities the people of the Commonwealth currently hold could impact inheritance laws, election laws, tax laws, and even criminal laws. The bill has the potential to allow individuals to claim embryos in petri dishes as dependents, to challenge population numbers and election districts based on where IVF clinics are located. We fear this bill could even allow a non-family member to bring charges against a woman who has had a miscarriage.
The more legislatures attempt to push these kinds of laws, the greater the chances that the unintended consequences will be more severe.

Granting personhood to an embryo could potentially result in questioning census results, tax levies, inheritance law, and domestic relations laws, employer benefits laws, etc.

The GOP is opening a Pandora's box of trouble with this - and it's all with an eye towards eliminating the legal right to abortion. It's a roundabout attempt to make abortions illegal - and by making a claim that is unsupported by the science at that.

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