Lolita Hanks, Colorado Right to Life board member and a spokesperson for the 2010 Colorado Personhood ballot initiative, told 710 KNUS talk-radio host John Andrews today that stories detailing the legal threats personhood laws might pose to pregnant women were just fabrications designed to scare voters.
“But what about all the hypotheticals where attorneys would be retained on behalf of an unborn child, perhaps to litigate against the mother of that child?” asked Andrews.
“Well I just think that’s just scare tactics,” Hanks said
Hanks elaborated by referencing the era before Roe v Wade made abortion legal. Hanks said she didn’t recall any pregnant women being sued by their fetuses back then. But personhood laws do not simply outlaw abortion; they also grant fertilized eggs and fetuses full citizens’ rights for the first time in history.
Anyway, continued Hanks, “mothers are prosecuted now. We have a schizophrenic society, where you can kill the baby all the way up to the due date, but if the mother is using meth, we are going to prosecute her when her baby tests positive for meth. Those kinds of things right now don’t even make any sense. So I guess using those scare tactics is just what they are.”
Lynn M. Paltrow, executive director of executive director of National Advocates for Pregnant Women, has noted that women’s right would indeed be infringed should any personhood measure pass.
“We know, based on hundreds of cases across the country, some of them in Colorado, that if as a matter of law fetuses are described as separate persons, essentially pregnant women lose their Personhood,” Paltrow said.
Former Planned Parenthood attorney Kevin C. Paul of Heizer Paul LLP, told the Colorado Independent this fall that it comes down to a pretty simple legal formula.
“Constitutional jurisprudence is all about weighing interests. If you’re creating a new interest, one that hadn’t existed previously, then that interest is going to have to be weighed against [those of] anybody else. And if you take the position that an unborn fetus is to be legally treated just the same as a woman, then those two interests clash.”
Personhood laws already exist, for example, in South Carolina, where the tug of contested legal interests is a matter of record. A glaring example concerns Jessica Clyburn, a confused and psychologically disturbed woman eight months pregnant who jumped from a fifth-story window. Clyburn survived but suffered a stillbirth as a result of the fall. She was arrested on homicide charges and is still being held without bail.
According to the media, she had attempted unsuccessfully to commit suicide but according to the local district attorney’s office, she had committed murder.
Sponsored by pro-life activist organization Personhood USA as part of a national campaign, the personhood amendment would alter the state constitution in more than 20,000 places, granting even the cells of a fertilized egg full legal rights. Should it pass, Paltrow said the state will see a host of new criminal offenders like Clyburn and a growing docket of personhood crimes. Coloradans should brace themselves, she said, for “Carolinafication.”