The "Personhood Initiative" — which would have declared a fertilized egg to have all the rights of a human being (see story, p. 15) — may have been rejected by Mississippi voters on Nov. 8, but bestowing full human rights on ova is hardly a dead issue. The organization Personhood USA, the main force behind the ballot initiative, has outposts in all 50 states, including Louisiana.
The group is circulating petitions addressed to "Louisiana lawmakers," stressing "federal and judicial tyranny is at its apex," and asserting, "By stripping personhood from the unborn, their right to life was revoked. ... African slaves were denied their personhood and were therefore treated as property, bought, sold and bred as animals. Jews were not considered full persons, so their property could be confiscated and their people eliminated."
Louisiana personhood advocates lost one of their champions when state Rep. John LaBruzzo was defeated in last month's primary. Last spring, LaBruzzo introduced the Louisiana Personhood Bill, which would have banned abortion outright in the state and almost certainly would have triggered a Supreme Court fight. In an appearance before the state House Health & Welfare Committee, LaBruzzo said, "It doesn't matter if you've voted for every pro-life bill that's come to this committee. This is the pro-life bill. ... I think you'd be in a difficult situation if you voted against this bill and tried to convince everybody that you are ardently pro-life. And I would not want to be in that situation."
The committee approved LaBruzzo's bill by a 10-2 vote, but the full House voted 65-30 to send it to the Appropriations Committee, effectively killing it for the session.
Bills to confer the full rights of personhood on zygotes have been introduced on and off for nearly 20 years in the U.S. House of Representatives. The Sanctity of Life Act of 2005 was introduced by current presidential candidate and Texas GOP Congressman Ron Paul, but it didn't make it out of committee. Paul also filed similar bills in 2007 and 2009.
This year, the Congressional standard-bearer for the personhood movement has been Congressman Paul Broun, R-Ga., a physician whose 2011 "Sanctity of Human Life Act" states: "Each human life begins with fertilization, cloning or its functional equivalent, at which time every human has all legal and constitutional attributes and privileges of personhood." Broun's 2011 bill has 63 House co-sponsors, including three Louisiana representatives: Rodney Alexander, John Fleming and Steve Scalise. Broun did not respond to Gambit's request for a statement on the failure of the Mississippi initiative, but he has said he will continue to introduce the "Sanctity of Human Life Act" as his first bill each Congressional session. — Kevin Allman