One of the most controversial wings of the pro-life movement is the “personhood” effort. Championed by Personhood USA out of Colorado, its goal is to have personhood defined in law to include the unborn. Theoretically, it sounds good. Practically, it will never work and meanwhile is severely hurting the pro-life movement.
The pro-life movement does not support the personhood effort. Phyllis Schlafly's Eagle Forum issued this statement about it, “Nearly every reputable pro-life leader has criticized the approach of the personhood amendment, which will simply give more power to pro-abortion judges.” Another statement from Eagle Forum said that the “poorly designed initiative would not prevent a single abortion even it if became law” and it hurts pro-life candidates.
National Right to Life, the leading pro-life organization in the country, does not support personhood. NRL General Counsel James Bopp issued a memo in 2007 explaining why the pro-life movement should avoid it. Since the personhood amendment is so radical, it drives out more people to vote against it, who then vote against conservative pro-life candidates also on the ballot. Eagle Forum noted that a personhood ballot intiative lost twice by a nearly 3-to-1 margin in Colorado, taking down pro-life candidates Bob Schaffer and Marilyn Musgrave as collateral damage. Exacerbating the negativity associated with personhood amendments is the media's hyping that the amendments will ban everything from in-vitro fertilization to birth control to contraception. Some of this hype is exaggerated, since not all versions of personhood legislation would affect these.
58% of voters in Mississippi, considered the most pro-life state in the country, rejected a personhood amendment last year. Personhood legislation in Oklahoma was struck down as unconstitutional by the Oklahoma Supreme Court last month, thwarting the efforts of Personhood USA which spent significant amounts of money in Oklahoma trying to get a personhood law passed, paying for media spots and 200,000 robocalls. Personhood efforts have also failed in Louisiana, South Carolina, and Virginia.