Human beings are characterized as having a large brain relative to body size, with a particularly well developed neocortex, prefrontal cortex, and temporal lobes that gives them the capability of abstract reasoning, language, introspection, problem solving and culture through social learning. This mental capability, combined with an adaptation to bipedal locomotion, frees the hands for manipulating objects that allows humans to make far greater use of tools than any other living species on Earth. A person is an autonomous being that breathes air, displays human characteristics, and is self-aware with the ability to reconcile themself as an individual separate from the environment and other individuals. However, there is a Republican contingent in the House of Representatives that denies the universally accepted definition of a human being, and are attempting to grant full rights and privileges of personhood to a “human spermatozoa that penetrates the cell membrane of a human oocyte that creates a single-celled organism (zygote)” in their latest attempt to control women and ban birth control. It is also an express imposition of Christianity on the government and every “person” in America.
For the second time in two years, a deeply unpopular federal personhood bill that gives full 14th Amendment legal rights to a single-celled organism is being co-sponsored in the House of Representatives by failed vice-presidential candidate Paul Ryan (R-WS). Ryan tempered his extremist anti-birth control position to align himself with Willard Romney during the presidential campaign, but he quickly reverted to his deeply-held views that the Christian PersonhoodUSA group has the right to force their “desire to glorify Jesus Christ in a way that creates a culture of life” through legislation despite the separation clause in the U.S. Constitution. The Sanctity of Human Life Act and similar Christian personhood bills have been rejected by voters in multiple states, including predominately Christian Mississippi last year, because as legal experts pointed out, the measures will criminalize all forms of birth control as well as abortion at all stages.
The idea that a one-celled organism should be granted 14th Amendment protection from the state depriving it of “civil and political rights, life, liberty, or property, without due process of law” is patently absurd, but there is no accounting for extremist religious adherents or their insistence that their version of Christianity is the impetus for the law of the land. The personhood bill specifically disregards the rights of the host (woman) and protects the zygote “irrespective of sex, health, function or disability, defect, stage of biological development, or condition of dependency (mother’s health)” not to mention controlling women’s reproductive rights and their decision when to give birth.
The federal personhood bill was first introduced by Representative Paul Broun (R-GA) in 2011 and quietly re-introduced last week, and he is adamant that “a one-celled” organism is a person even before it implants in the uterus to create a pregnancy. Broun is certain beyond a shadow of a doubt that a zygote is a person and “should be defended vigorously and at all costs,” even if the cost is the life of the mother, and is more evidence that Broun, Ryan, and 16 co-sponsors hold women, and their 14th Amendment rights, in less regard than a “one-celled organism.” The idea that Republicans are willing to vigorously defend a single-celled organism until it develops into a fetus and leaves the womb, wherein GOP policy is to abandon it as “too expensive” is a long-held position of Republicans in the past few years. In fact, Paul Ryan decries giving any assistance to so-called “takers” because it deprives “makers” of their rightful entitlements, but is not a fetus the ultimate expression of a taker draining resources from a maker (mother)?
Apparently, voter rejection of extremist views against women in the recent election is lost on Republicans because they are persisting in attacking women’s reproductive rights as the primary focus of their war on women. In several states, anti-choice advocates have tried, and failed, to put radical personhood legislation and constitutional amendments restricting women’s rights on ballots, and yet the extremist Christian group behind the measures, PersonhoodUSA, insists the movement is growing and they show no signs of letting up despite, as the Oklahoma Supreme Court said, these measures are “clearly unconstitutional.” Besides blocking a woman’s legal right to have an abortion, these personhood absurdities block women’s 14th Amendment rights under authority of religion, and it is a facet of the atrocity that is hardly addressed.
Every one of the personhood measures is promoted vigorously by PersonhoodUSA that is purely an extremist Christian movement expanding to partner with the Vatican’s Pontifical Council that has recently begun a European personhood movement and petition. The Pontifical Council for the Laity’s announcement explains their goal in promoting personhood in Latin America and 21 European nations is to foster “an atmosphere of unity and collaboration among all Christian associations and movements” as a concerted effort to “mirror Catholic ideology and conform to the teachings on life in the Catechism of the Catholic Church.”
Republicans are wont to claim Paul Ryan is a smart man, and yet co-sponsoring another round of the most religiously extreme anti-abortion legislation in the country belies even a semblance of intelligence. The idea of a federal personhood law is absurd on myriad levels, but the potential for damage to women’s reproductive rights cannot be overstated. The Sanctity of Life Act will never achieve fruition in the 113th Congress any more than it did in the last session, but it serves as a warning to women that extremist Christians and their Republican legislative arm will go to extreme measures to deprive them of their reproductive rights even if it means giving a microscopic single-celled organism personhood with the ultimate goal of banning contraception and imposing their religion on every person in America.