It was a cold winter day in North Dakota. Personhood USA had just testified before the state senate’s judiciary committee regarding HB 1450, otherwise known as the 2011 personhood bill.
Senator Curtis Olafson, a Republican known for being a “maverick” like John McCain or Arlen Specter, had just finished grilling our lawyer by using the talking points of Planned Parenthood and the rest of the child killing industry.
Was it surprising that a Republican was the only one attacking a pro-life bill? After all, every single pro-life group in the state, including the local state chapters of the Catholic Conference, Concerned Women for America, National Right to Life, Family Policy Council, American Life League, Personhood USA, and a great majority of North Dakota’s pro-life citizens, supported this bill.
As tragic as it was, it wasn’t surprising, since Senator Olafson had done the same thing in 2009. There was a pattern: Republican Sen. Olafson would grill the pro-life witnesses and then remain silent while the pro child killing witnesses testified.
Two Personhood USA activists went to the cafeteria at the state capitol to get some lunch and regroup with the representatives of the state groups that had also testified, when they ran into Senator Olafson. An exchange followed in which they politely asked Senator Olafson whether he would vote for the bill. He said he would not. They mentioned that every pro-life group in the state was in agreement on this bill and that the personhood movement would have to hold him accountable for his decision come primary time. He began to get red with anger, leaned in close to their faces, and whispered between his teeth, “Would you rather have a Democrat in my seat?” Their answer made him even redder, “I don’t care, this time we’re holding you accountable.”
When it comes to killing innocent children, the argument isn’t about right vs. left. It’s about right vs. wrong.
On June 12, local personhood supporters in North Dakota made good on that promise. Through a local PAC, Senator Olafson was exposed, and his primary opponent, Joe Miller, was supported. Similar results occurred in Oklahoma on June 25th, when RINO anti-life State Rep. Guy Liebmann was defeated, but all six pro-personhood conservatives that faced primaries won. Thanks to personhood, RINOs are being replaced by proven conservatives, praise God!
But not everyone is pleased.
Rachel Alexander recently wrote a piece for TownHall.com, entitled “Is the personhood movement really pro-life?” She insinuates that the personhood movement is not pro-life and might in fact be secretly funded by the Left. After all, how dare the personhood movement hold legislators like North Dakota’s Olafson accountable for their anti-life record?
Underneath a lot of poorly researched assertions, what Ms. Alexander is suggesting is that we compromise the God-given unalienable right to life in order to placate the Republican Party establishment. The personhood movement puts principle above party, especially when that principle is that God-given right to life. And we will never surrender any of those rights to any party, judge or government.
At the heart of Ms. Alexander’s displeasure with personhood is a conflict over what it means to be a conservative. We are grateful for the opportunity to distinguish ourselves from the groups that attack us.
There are two ways to understand the term “conservative.” The first denotes a belief that the status quo must be conserved. The second is a conviction in a set of traditional God-given values such as the respect for the family, for life, and for the product of one’s labors. The first type of conservative is often governed by fear of losing power or position. The second is governed by principles and the courage of conviction.
All conservative organizations talk the talk of the principled conservative, but too many conservative organizations – including all the conservative organizations named by Ms. Alexander – are more interested in conserving the status quo than victory over the darkness.
The personhood movement doesn’t just talk pro-life, it acts pro-life. It is not governed by fear and it is not partisan. Above all it is pledged to confront the culture of death, regardless of whether it has an R or a D after its name. As one of the founders of the modern personhood movement likes to say, “We are not called to be kingmakers, we are called to be standard bearers.”
First of all, personhood is not a “controversial” or “radical” position. It is what the pro-life movement has always hoped to achieve—the legal recognition of all human beings as persons with rights, and paramount among them the right to life. Personhood is explicitly called for in Chapter 2270 of the Catechism of the Catholic Church, and in the GOP platform (thank you, Ronald Reagan.)
Ms. Alexander categorically states that the “pro-life movement does not support the personhood efforts.” This is simply false. Many of the most respected national pro-family/pro-life groups such as Family Research Council, Focus on the Family, American Family Association, and American Life League have supported personhood efforts.
Respected Christian law firms such as the Thomas Moore Law Center, Liberty Council, and the American Freedom Law Center all vouch for the legal soundness of personhood.
Prominent pro-lifers also support personhood, such as:
• John Archibold, Esq., founder of National Right to Life and Americans United for Life
• Charles Rice, Notre Dame’s own Emeritus professor of law
• Robert George, Professor of Jurisprudence at Princeton University (whom the New York Times, called the most influential Christian Conservative thinker in America)
• Dr. Alveda King, civil rights advocate,
• Joe Scheidler (called the father of the pro-life movement)
• Former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee
• Former Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum
• Kentucky Senator Rand Paul
• Dr. Albert Mohler, president of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary
• The Southern Baptist Conventions of Mississippi, Oklahoma, and Texas
And there are many more.
In fact, personhood’s influence is spreading. During the just-concluded Republican primary cycle, every single Republican presidential candidate except for Mitt Romney signed the personhood pledge. Does Ms. Alexander intent to impugn the integrity of Santorum, Rick Perry, and Michele Bachmann, too? Phyllis Schlafly, whom Ms. Alexander refers to as a personhood skeptic, supported Bachmann for President of the United States. If personhood is doing a disservice to the cause of life, why would Ms. Schlafly endorse for the highest office in the land the candidate that was first to sign our pledge? You can’t have it both ways. Furthermore, Schlafly is also the founder and president of Eagle Forum, and the Oklahoma Eagle Forum supported personhood efforts there. Are they a renegade chapter of Schlafly’s own organization?
Ms. Alexander states that the only way to abolish abortion is to elect pro-life politicians who can then appoint Supreme Court judges who will abolish Roe v. Wade, or at least reduce the incidence of abortion. Historical analysis is not kind to such a thesis.
40 years and numerous Republican presidents appointing Republican majorities on the U.S. Supreme Court has not resulted in abolishing child killing, let alone chipping away at it. While we’re on the topic of chipping away at abortion, here is another flagrant piece of misinformation from Ms. Alexander: “The only tried and true way to reduce abortions is to chip away at abortion laws in incremental steps.”
In fact, Planned Parenthood’s own analysis shows the total number of child killings, child killing rates, cost of child killing, and numbers of child killing providers have all become stable during times when massive amounts of incremental laws have been passed. Stability is good for business (Planned Parenthood) and good for retaining a captive voter blocks.
Forgive us if over a million American lives lost every year is not a stability we are willing to accept.
Ms. Alexander states that their Pro-Life Super PAC “didn't bother filing its last quarterly report. One report reveals that it has spent over a million dollars going after Mitt Romney, including creating a TV ad attacking him.”
In fact, Pro-Life Super PAC did file its report, which I easily found on the FEC page in about 30 seconds, and which showed total disbursements of $12,908. Not quite the scary million-dollar figure Ms. Alexander quoted. A quick look at Romney’s Super PAC “Restore Our Future” shows that in 2012 alone it has received around $54,915,116.79. If Romney can’t stand the heat from a $12,000 Pro-life “Super” PAC, he might want to get out of the kitchen now.
Ms. Alexander also got her facts wrong regarding the campaigns for the Colorado Personhood Amendment when she said, “A personhood ballot initiative [sic] lost twice by a nearly 3-to-1 margin in Colorado.” In fact, the first Personhood Amendment, independently started by an 18-year-old homeschooler named Kristi Burton, shattered the record for the number of signatures collected purely by volunteers for a pro-life measure in the history of Colorado. The amendment also received 27% of the vote despite being massively outspent by Planned Parenthood.
In 2010, pro-lifers again put the amendment on the ballot, and received nearly 30% of the vote, despite massive differences in funding. In little over two years, a rag tag group of Coloradoans with almost no funds had gathered the signatures of 250,000 people to propose a fundamental challenge to the status quo, while winning two battles in the Colorado State Supreme Court. That is hardly a failure for a growing movement.
Ms. Alexander writes that “the personhood movement is not attacking pro-abortion candidates, it is attacking pro-life candidates.” In her article she mentions five politicians: Colorado’s Bob Schaeffer and Marilyn Musgrave, North Dakota’s Senators Olafson and Gerald Uglem, and Mitt Romney.
Of these five, three of them (Uglem, Musgrave, and Schaeffer) were not “attacked” at all. No mailers were sent, no press releases, nada, zippo, they just lost their reelection campaigns. Sen. Olafson and Gov. Romney were targeted by the North Dakota Personhood PAC and the Pro-life Super PAC. Both were exposed during contested primaries, and both based solely on horrific pro-life records. For example, Sen. Olafson was described by local pro-life organizations as exhibiting a “vast discrepancy between his conduct and his rhetoric,” and as showing “appalling duplicity from a senator who claims to be pro-life.”
In his attempts to derail the North Dakota personhood bill, Sen. Olafson introduced a rabidly pro-abortion amendment. You be the judge, should anyone else consider a legislator who introduced the following language as “pro-life”?
This Act does not apply to “abortion OR other legitimate medical treatment performed to terminate a pregnancy ... (followed by a list of situations where Sen. Olafson believes child murder to be permissible) ”
This amendment would have made abortion (i.e. intentional child killing) the equivalent to legitimate medical treatment! This is hardly pro-life.
So yes, personhood helped to defeat a well-known RINO Republican in a primary, while replacing him with a rock solid pro-lifer. Guilty as charged.
Georgia Right to Life, one of the largest and most successful affiliates of National Right to Life has adopted a personhood platform. Daniel C. Becker, the President of Georgia Right to Life and a national board member of National Right to Life, in his book, Personhood: A Pragmatic Guide to Prolife Victory in the 21st Century and the Return to First Principles in Politics, makes a well documented case that personhood is not only principled, but also politically pragmatic.
Ms. Alexander states “there is a proven history of defeating pro-life candidates with this approach.” Yet, Mr. Becker shows how, in Georgia, requiring a personhood standard has resulted in exactly the opposite result. Every pro-life statewide elected official in Georgia (a majority of all elected officials) have adopted a consistent no child killing position and support a personhood amendment.
Georgia has shown us that the reason the pro-life movement has been betrayed so often by politicians and achieved so little is that we, the pro-life movement, have not done our political due diligence. We have not had the political courage to demand better from politicians, holding them to a high standard, and then following up with support or real opposition as the case required.
The personhood movement believes that it is absolutely critical that pro-lifers be willing to refuse to support, and yes even oppose, those tried and tested opponents of our values, no matter what party they belong to. These are not “ruthless tactics” as Ms. Alexander asserts. Rather, this is holding ruthless politicians who won’t defend innocent life accountable for their record.
The assertions that Ms. Alexander makes that the Left somehow funds the personhood movement are laughable at best. Here is a movement that has been sued by the ACLU and Planned Parenthood in Alaska, Colorado, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nevada, Oklahoma and Ohio (personhood won in a majority of the cases.) Are we expected to believe that the Left is simultaneously funding us and suing us?
There is a quote that exemplifies the personhood movement’s political philosophy better than any other:
“Power concedes nothing without a demand. It never did and it never will. Find out just what any people will quietly submit to and you have found out the exact measure of injustice and wrong which will be imposed upon them, and these will continue till they are resisted with either words or blows, or both. The limits of tyrants are prescribed by the endurance of those whom they oppress.” Frederick Douglas
Personhood is the voice for the voiceless. The personhood movement is young, vibrant, and bold in defense of unalienable, God-given rights.
We hope Ms. Alexander and others like her, who are threatened by personhood because it exposes how the pro-life movement has become stagnant and politicized, will stop defaming us and instead join us.
When they do we will welcome them with open arms.
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