The Oxymoron of “Personhood” Legislation

I am one mad mama right now!  Watch out!

The ongoing list of atrocities to woman-kind that is the “personhood” movement is astounding.  Personhood is the name given by its proponents to legislation intending to circumnavigate the Supreme Court’s Roe v. Wade decision by granting full rights to a two-cell, microscopic zygote only moments after sperm penetrates egg.

North Dakota, Mississippi, and Oklahoma currently have personhood legislation in the pipeline.

These thinly-veiled attempts to curb the legal right to abortion have bled over into a litany of other anti-woman interpretations.

You see, if an embryo is a full-human, then what does that mean for the woman whose body the embryo is living in?

Well in some cases that woman has her personhood taken from her with forced abdominal surgery, murder charges for stillbirths, and forced pregnancy after rape. Sadly, many of these cases are possible through the perversion of laws meant to protect women from domestic abuse while pregnant, called Fetal Homicide Laws, which have been enacted in 38 states.

It couldn’t be more clear that the role of the woman in these situations is as publicly owned uterus with legs. For the 40 weeks you are carrying a fetus your rights are subsumed to the fetus.

But that’s not all!

This next part that really hits me in the heart. Personhood also affects infertile couples who are creating embryos through IVF (in vitro fertilization).  Embryos that, if personhood passes, have full rights.

See this?

This is my daughter* at 3 days old.  She is only 8 tiny cells and she isn’t even a “perfect” embryo (she was grade 3 out of 4 due to the extracellular bubbles you can see). The idea that she is a full and valuable life deserving of rights feels right in my heart.  Especially since I know what an amazing person she is today.

See this?

This is one of my twin sons at 5 days old.  Here he is hundreds of cells and the cells are even differentiated so that the clump you see in the bottom will be him and the rest will be the placenta.  Today he, and his twin brother, are happy and cuddly 2 year olds.

He, however, does not have full personhood rights.  You see, he was frozen (cryopreserved) at 3 days post fertilization and some personhood laws outlaw embryo freezing – I guess they’d call it “people freezing.”

This makes me feel so, so angry.  That a law could be passed that would make his way of coming to be illegal just feels insulting.  Not that they are going to make it retroactive and round up all the kids born from frozen embryos (oh my, they aren’t are they?) but still my sons’ birth story would forever be an anomaly, a thing that is now illegal and therefore must be wrong in some way.

So, in the name of personhood you would make my son a pariah?

I could remind you that studies show that cryo-embryos have a higher success rate because the woman’s body isn’t as overtaxed during a frozen cycle.  Or that babies born from cryo-embryos are healthier at birth. Or that criminalizing embryo freezing will force women to make more risky choices by putting back more embryos during their IVF resulting in higher numbers of high-order births and putting mother and babies life at risk (not to mention increased cost).

I could probably write up a nice little unemotional, very research-driven brief on the economic costs of personhood bills.

Nah, I probably couldn’t.  I’m too MAD!

I’d rather march my boys and the other nearly 9,000 babies born from frozen embryos in 2011 right into a state legislature and let them tell the kids that they don’t represent personhood.


One thought on “The Oxymoron of “Personhood” Legislation

  1. When I had my second miscarriage some of these laws were at the forefront and I was enraged at the thought of how these vague laws would be enforced, who would have the role of questioning me and my family during the grief of losing our pregnancy, who would judge if that grief we authentic or real enough, how targeted it would be based on class and race. There are so many seemingly 'hidden' implications to these laws that everyone needs to consider. Thank you for sharing your story, keep up your work at being a vocal advocate for thinking through the consequences of heavy handed knee jerk reaction laws.


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