Common sense prevails over ‘personhood’

Published 11:09 pm Wednesday, April 27, 2016

In a welcome turn of events, Democrats in the Alabama House were able Thursday to use a filibuster to derail a bill to put a so-called ‘personhood’ constitutional amendment before voters on ballots in 2016.

As the Advertiser’s Brian Lyman reported, the bill’s sponsor, Rep. Ed Henry, R-Hartselle, acknowledged the bill had essentially no chance of passing this session, which is drawing to a close.

That’s a common-sense victory. Alabama can’t afford life-saving medications and treatments for poor Medicaid recipients, yet lawmakers still find it acceptable to fritter away time and taxpayer money on clearly unconstitutional anti-abortion proposals.

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The ballot referendum would have defined a person as “any human being from the moment of fertilization or the functional equivalent thereof.”

If passed by voters, the measure would have made all abortions illegal, restricted some kinds of birth control and in-vitro fertilization, and potentially turned doctors who perform abortions and women who receive them into incarcerated felons.

The amendment contained no exceptions for rape, incest, medical emergency or the safety of the mother.

Had it been approved, expensive litigation would have followed. The U.S. Supreme Court’s Roe v. Wade decision and subsequent rulings allow women to have abortions in some circumstances.

But that’s mostly the point of personhood bills here and in other states – to challenge Roe v. Wade and perhaps have it overturned.

It’s hard to guess how many Alabama tax dollars would have been wasted on such a legal fight – for prosecutors, state attorneys and courts staff.

We don’t usually call attention to the wise doings of our friends in Mississippi, as that state is often the only one with worse ratings for things like education than Alabama.

But Mississippi voters didn’t fall for the personhood ploy in 2011, defeating the proposal because of its potential effects on birth control and health care for pregnant women.

Neither did voters in North Dakota and California in 2014.

We doubt Alabama voters would either. While people hold many views about a woman’s right to terminate a pregnancy, polls show that most do not support total bans on abortions.

About 56 percent of Americans think abortion should be available in all or most cases, according to the Pew Research Center for the People and the Press.

Many others who hold deep religious convictions still think the procedure should be allowed in some instances, such as rape or if the life of the mother is endangered.

The personhood amendment may not be on Alabama ballots in 2016, but its advocates are likely to raise the proposal in future sessions. It should again be blocked.

The best way to reduce unplanned, unwanted pregnancies is through comprehensive sex education for young people and affordable access to contraception – not by returning to the era of botched, back-alley abortions.

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