National Partnership for Women & Families

Personhood | In the News

Bills and ballot initiatives on personhood aim to redefine how state constitutions interpret the word "person" with some pinpointing personhood as beginning at fertilization and others conception. If successful, these initiatives would not only ban abortion, but also put into question the legality of a number of forms of birth control as well as in-vitro fertilization and other reproductive technologies.

States' Abortion Restrictions Used as Wedge in Senate Races
While this year's Senate races lack abortion-related disputes on the scale of former Rep. Todd Akin's (R-Mo.) "legitimate rape" comments, candidates from both parties are using state abortion measures to attack their opponents, Politico reports.

NYT's 'Op-Talk' Blog Highlights Debate Over 'Personhood' Laws
New York Times columnist Anna Altman in an "Op-Talk" piece highlights the conflicting sides of the debate over "so-called personhood laws," which often "recognize fetuses, embryos and fertilized eggs as persons who are separate" from the women who carry them.

Opponents of Colorado 'Personhood' Amendment Launch Campaign Against Proposed Measure
Opponents of a proposed Colorado constitutional "personhood" amendment launched a campaign Tuesday, saying the ballot measure could further restrict abortion rights and limit some fertility treatments, the AP/CBS4 reports.

S.C. 20-Week Abortion Ban Bill Fails as Session Ends; 'Personhood' on Primary Ballot
The South Carolina Legislature ended its two-year session on Thursday without voting on a bill (H 4223) that would prohibit most abortions beginning at 20 weeks of pregnancy, the Greenville News reports.

Miss. 'Personhood' Initiative Fails To Qualify for Ballot
A proposed ballot initiative that aimed to define life as beginning at fertilization in Mississippi will not appear on the state's November 2015 ballot, the AP/Jackson Clarion-Ledger reports.

Some Antiabortion-Rights Bills Miss S.C. Legislative Deadline
A series of antiabortion-rights bills proposed in South Carolina did not meet the Legislature's May 1 "crossover deadline," diminishing the chances that they will become law this year, the AP/Washington Times reports.

Latest Miss. 'Personhood' Initiative Nears Deadline for Signature Collection
Abortion-rights opponents in Mississippi are nearing a deadline to submit signatures for a proposed ballot initiative that would amend the state constitution to define life as beginning at fertilization, the AP/Biloxi-Gulfport Sun Herald reports.

S.C. Senate Panel Delays Vote on 'Personhood' Bills
A South Carolina Senate panel on Thursday delayed votes on two bills (S 83, S 457) that would grant constitutional rights beginning at fertilization, the Columbia State's "The Buzz" reports.

Featured Blog: 'AL HB31: Where Saving a Woman's Life Becomes a Question of Conscience'
An Alabama bill "would allow the entire hospital staff, including but not limited to physicians, nurses, pharmacists, counselors, and social workers, to refuse to provide medical care in situations that would 'violate their conscience,'" Feministe reports.

Featured Blogs
"A Mississippi Teen is Facing Life in Prison for Using Cocaine During Her Pregnancy" (Dusenbery, Feministing, 3/19), "One City's 6 Month Quest To Take Its Sidewalks Back from Anti-Abortion Protesters" (Marty, "ThinkProgress," Center for American Progress, 3/19) and "Louisiana House Committee Passes Admitting Privileges Bill" (Wilson, RH Reality Check, 3/20).

Featured Blogs
"Could This Be the Year the Pro-Choice Movement Goes on the Offensive?" (Dusenbery, Feministing, 2/24), "Supreme Court Turns Away Arizona Planned Parenthood Funding Ban" ((Mason Pieklo, RH Reality Check, 2/24) and "Repro Wrap: Here Come the Personhood Bids Again and Other News" (Marty, Care2, 2/21).

Featured Blogs
"AL HB31: Where Saving a Woman's Life Becomes a Question of Conscience" (Caperton, Feministe, 1/31) and "Repro Wrap: So Many TRAPs, so few Clinics and Other News" (Marty, Care2, 1/31).

On Roe Anniversary, Both Sides Grapple With Legislative, Judicial Realities
On the 41st anniversary of Roe v. Wade, abortion-rights supporters and opponents are assessing their strategies in light of this year's midterm election and judicial responses to recent abortion restrictions.

States Shift Tactics on Abortion Restrictions for 2014
Facing legal challenges to sweeping antiabortion-rights laws, conservative state lawmakers are shifting focus to incremental measures that regulate clinics, physicians and abortion methods, Politico reports.

Reproductive Health Issues in Spotlight as Va. Voters Head to Polls
The gubernatorial race in Virginia heavily hinged on women's votes, the AP/Miami Herald reports.

Va. AG Cuccinelli's 'Moderate' Stance in Governor's Race Belies Past Actions, Editorial States
Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli's (R) recent efforts to cast himself as a moderate in the state's gubernatorial election run counter to "his past positions on abortion and birth control," which include supporting a "personhood" measure when he was a state senator, a Washington Post editorial states.

Reproductive Health Issues in Spotlight as Va. Voters Head to Polls
The outcome of Tuesday's gubernatorial race in Virginia could hinge on women's votes, the AP/Miami Herald reports.

Va. AG Cuccinelli's 'Moderate' Stance in Governor's Race Belies Past Actions, Editorial States
Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli's (R) recent efforts to cast himself as a moderate in the state's gubernatorial election run counter to "his past positions on abortion and birth control," which include supporting a "personhood" measure when he was a state senator, a Washington Post editorial states.

State Lawmakers Focusing on Abortion Bans in 2013, Guttmacher Analysis Finds
State legislators in the first three months of 2013 introduced 694 reproductive health-related measures, including about 347 to restrict abortion, according to an analysis by the Guttmacher Institute, United Press International reports.

Featured Blogs
"State Policy Trends 2013: Abortion Bans Move to the Forefront" (Elizabeth Nash/Rachel Benson Gold, RH Reality Check, 4/12) and "Federal Court Blocks Mississippi Admitting Privileges Law" (Jessica Mason Pieklo, RH Reality Check, 4/15).

Featured Blogs
"Washington State May Require Insurers To Cover Abortion as Part of Maternity Care" (Tara Culp-Ressler, Center for American Progress' "ThinkProgress, 3/25); "North Dakota Votes To Ban All Abortions by Defining Life at Conception" (Culp-Ressler, Center for American Progress' "ThinkProgress," 3/22).

N.D. Approves 'Personhood' Amendment for 2014 Ballot, Advances Other Abortion Restrictions
As part of votes on four antiabortion-rights bills on Friday, the North Dakota House approved a resolution (ND 4009) authorizing a 2014 ballot measure that would enshrine in state law the notion that life begins at conception, the AP/Forum of Fargo-Moorhead reports.

New York Times, Daily Beast Op-Eds Criticize N.D. Abortion Restrictions
Recent opinion pieces in the New York Times and Daily Beast responded to the passage of antiabortion-rights measures in North Dakota and other states.

Kan. House Approves Sweeping Antiabortion Bill, Rejects Proposal To Add Exceptions Late in Pregnancy
The Kansas House on Tuesday gave preliminary approval to a broad antiabortion-rights bill (HB 2253) with several provisions aimed at restricting access to the procedure and penalizing entities associated with abortion providers, the AP/Olathe News reports.

Editorial Decries 'Outrageous Intrusions' into N.D. Women's
"Proponents of the pending [North Dakota "personhood"] legislation claim the measures are pro-life, and thus meant to end abortions in the state, but their practical effect would be nothing of the sort," according to a Forum of Fargo-Moorhead editorial.

N.D. Lawmakers Eye 'Personhood' Bills To Ban All Abortions
Shortly after advancing two of the most restrictive abortion measures (HB 1456, HB 1305) in the nation, North Dakota lawmakers are considering banning all abortions through a pair of "personhood" bills that would grant legal rights to fertilized eggs, the AP/Grand Forks Herald reports.

Featured Blogs
"North Dakota Heartbeat Ban: Will the Governor Sign? And Does it Matter?" (Robin Marty, RH Reality Check, 3/18).

Kan. House Committee Approves Sweeping Abortion Bill
The Kansas House Federal and State Affairs Committee on Thursday approved a broad antiabortion-rights bill (HB 2253) with several provisions aimed at restricting access to the procedure, the Lawrence Journal-World/Kansas City Kansan reports.

Miss. Abortion-Rights Opponents File New 'Personhood' Ballot Initiative
Abortion-rights opponents in Mississippi on Tuesday filed paperwork for a "personhood" ballot initiative with different wording than a similar measure that was defeated in 2011, the AP/Jackson Clarion-Ledger reports.

Featured Blogs
"North Dakota's War on Women: The State's Top 5 Attacks on Women's Health So Far This Year" (Culp-Ressler, Center for American Progress' "ThinkProgress," 2/8) and "Five Facts To Remember as Anti-Choice Activists Launch Attacks Against 'Webcam Abortions'" (Culp-Ressler, Center for American Progress' "ThinkProgress," 2/11).

N.D. Senate Approves Two Antiabortion Bills
The North Dakota Senate on Thursday approved two antiabortion measures while rejecting opponents' attempts to set aside money for lawsuits that might ensue if the bills become law, the AP/Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports.

Catholic Hospital Says It Was 'Morally Wrong' To Argue That a Fetus Is Not a Person
A Catholic hospital in Colorado in a statement acknowledged that "it was morally wrong" for its attorneys to argue in court documents that the facility is not liable for the deaths of two seven-month-old fetuses because fetuses are not people, the AP/Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports.

Featured Blogs
"Oregon is the Only State Left That Hasn't Imposed Any Restrictions on Abortion" (Tara Culp-Ressler, Center for American Progress' "ThinkProgress," 1/31) and "The Worst State for Women?" (Amanda Marcotte, American Prospect, 1/30).

Okla. Lawmaker Files 'Personhood' Bill Replicating Failed Measure From Last Year
Oklahoma Rep. Mike Reynolds (R) has filed a bill (HB 1029) for the upcoming legislative session that would redefine when life begins, potentially reigniting last year's debate over a nearly identical measure, the Tulsa World reports.

Only Abortion Clinic in Miss. Misses Admitting Privileges Deadline; Gov. Voices Support for 'Heartbeat' Bill
The only abortion clinic in Mississippi missed a Friday deadline to comply with a 2012 law (HB 1390) that requires abortion providers to have admitting privileges at a local hospital and be board certified in obstetrics and gynecology, the AP/USA Today reports.

Future of Va. 'Personhood' Bill in Doubt
Virginia Senate Education and Health Committee Chair Sen. Steve Martin (R) this week is not expected to schedule a vote on a "personhood" bill (HB 1) that would grant rights to embryos, the Washington Examiner reports.

Ohio 'Heartbeat' Bill, Planned Parenthood Funding on Agenda for Lame-Duck Session
In a lame-duck session that began this week, Ohio Republicans plan to reconsider bills that would ban abortion once a fetal heartbeat is detectable and divert family planning funding away from Planned Parenthood, the Columbus Dispatch's "Daily Briefing" reports.

Featured Blogs
"State Legislators Double Down on Most Restrictive Abortion Law in Nation" (Mike Brickner, American Civil Liberties Union's "Blog of Rights," 11/10).

Featured Blogs
"Getting Reproductive Rights out of Politics" (Nancy Northup, Huffington Post blogs, 11/5).

Supreme Court Declines To Hear Okla. 'Personhood' Case
The Supreme Court on Monday refused without comment to hear an appeal by an antiabortion group to place a "personhood" measure on the Oklahoma ballot, Reuters reports.

Defeated 'Personhood' Initiative Remains Relevant in Colorado Politics
A Colorado "personhood" initiative that voters rejected in 2008 and 2010 has become an issue in two congressional races in the state, even though a similar measure failed to make this year's ballot, AP/NECN reports.

Featured Blogs
"No 'Personhood' Amendments Will Appear on Any Ballot This Election Day" (Erin Gloria Ryan, Jezebel, 10/16) and "The Woman who Dared To Show us a Transvaginal Probe" (Steve Williams, Care2, 10/16).

Republican Supermajority in Ga. Could Open Door to 'Personhood' Amendment
Georgia Republicans are closing in on a supermajority in the state Legislature, which would allow them to pass amendments to the state constitution without Democratic support, the AP/Marietta Daily Journal reports.

Mont. 'Personhood' Measure Fails To Qualify for Nov. Ballot
A measure (CI 108) that would have amended the state constitution to define a fertilized egg as a "person" did not receive enough signatures to appear on the November ballot, the Columbia Falls Hungry Horse News reports.

Colorado Personhood Coalition Files Lawsuit in Attempt To Qualify Amendment for Ballot
The Colorado Personhood Coalition has filed suit in Denver District Court challenging the state's finding that the group collected too few signatures to qualify a "personhood" amendment for the November ballot, the Denver Post reports.

Colo. 'Personhood' Amendment Cannot Appear on 2012 Ballot, Despite Legal Challenge
The Colorado secretary of state's office on Tuesday said that a proposed "personhood" amendment will not appear on the 2012 ballot, regardless of legal action that its supporters have pledged to take, the Denver Post reports.

Colo. 'Personhood' Amendment Fails To Qualify for Ballot
The Colorado affiliate of Personhood USA gathered too few signatures to place an initiative on the November ballot asking whether the state should grant rights to fertilized eggs, Colorado Secretary of State Scott Gessler announced on Wednesday, the AP/Washington Post reports.

Group Submits Signatures for Colo. 'Personhood' Amendment
The Colorado Personhood Coalition on Monday said they have gathered enough signatures to put a so-called "personhood" amendment on the state's November ballot, the Denver Post reports.

'Personhood' Group Asks Supreme Court To Consider Okla. Ballot Initiative
Personhood USA on Monday filed an appeal with the Supreme Court over an Oklahoma court's ruling that invalidated a state ballot initiative (Initiative Petition No. 395) that sought to define fertilized eggs as people, The Hill's "Healthwatch" reports.

Montana 'Personhood' Proposal Fails To Qualify for Nov. Ballot
Supporters of a Montana "personhood" measure (CI-108) did not collect enough signatures to qualify their proposal for the November ballot, the Missoulian reports.

Ga. Republicans To Vote on 'Right to Life' Amendment in Primary
The July 31 Republican primary ballot in Georgia includes a question on whether voters support a so-called "right to life" amendment to the state Constitution, the AP/Athens Banner-Herald reports.

'Personhood' Initiative Falls Short in Oregon
Supporters of a so-called "personhood" measure fell short in their attempt to qualify their proposal for the ballot, Willamette Week reports.

Ohio 'Personhood' Supporters Short on Signatures for Proposed Amendment
Personhood Ohio likely will fall short in its bid to place an amendment before voters this fall that would define life as beginning at fertilization, Slate's "The Slatest" reports.

'Personhood' Supporters Fall Short in Attempt To Qualify for Nev. Ballot
Supporters of a Nevada "personhood" initiative on Friday said they do not have the required number of signatures to qualify for the November ballot, the AP/Las Vegas Sun reports.

Ala. Senate Holds Public Meeting on 'Personhood' Bill
The Alabama Senate Health Committee on Wednesday held a public hearing on a bill introduced by Sen. Phil Williams (R) that would define personhood as beginning at "the moment of fertilization and implantation in the womb," Alabama Live reports.

Okla. Court Rules Proposed 'Personhood' Measure is Unconstitutional
The Oklahoma Supreme Court on Monday unanimously ruled that a proposed "personhood" ballot measure (Initiative Petition No. 395) that would have defined a fertilized egg as a person is unconstitutional, The Oklahoman reports.

Okla. 'Personhood' Measure Fails To Advance
The Oklahoma House adjourned on Thursday without taking action on a "personhood" bill (SB 1433), meaning that the measure will not advance this year, The Oklahoman reports.

States Continue Push for Abortion Restrictions, Using Bills and Ballot Measures
Although state abortion restrictions this year have not reached the record-setting levels of 2011, dozens of measures are pending in state legislatures or working their way to the ballot, USA Today reports.

Okla. House Rejects 'Personhood' Bill
Oklahoma House Republicans on Thursday decided to abandon efforts to pass a "personhood" bill (SB 1433) this year, the Oklahoman reports.

Colo. Lawmakers Table 'Fetal Homicide' Measure
Colorado's Senate Judiciary Committee on Monday tabled legislation (HB 1130) that would make it a crime to harm or kill a fetus, the AP/Daily Camera reports.

Proposed Okla. 'Personhood' Ballot Measure Challenged in Court
The American Civil Liberties Union and the Center for Reproductive Rights on Thursday filed a lawsuit in Oklahoma Supreme Court seeking to block a proposed "personhood" measure from the state's November ballot, the AP/Columbus Republic reports.

Okla. House Panel Advances 'Personhood' Bill
The Oklahoma House Public Health Committee on Tuesday voted 7-4 to approve an amended version of a "personhood" bill (SB 1433) that would grant "the unborn child at every stage of development all the rights, privileges and immunities available to other" state residents, the Tulsa World reports.

Nev. Group Withdraws 'Personhood' Initiative To Join Forces Behind Similar Measure
A group behind a Nevada "personhood" initiative has withdrawn its proposal in order to unite with backers of a similar measure, the AP/Las Vegas Sun reports.

Four Antiabortion Bills Move Forward in Miss.
Mississippi lawmakers advanced four antiabortion bills on Tuesday, the last day for House and Senate committees to act on general bills and constitutional amendments, AP/Biloxi Sun-Herald reports.

Hundreds Protest Okla. 'Personhood' Bill
Outside of Oklahoma's Capitol on Tuesday, hundreds of abortion-rights advocates protested "personhood" legislation (SB 1433), the Tulsa World reports.

Miss. Lawmakers Plan 'Personhood' Measure, Other Antiabortion Bills
Mississippi lawmakers plan to introduce multiple bills to restrict abortion rights this year, including an attempt to pass legislation similar to a "personhood" measure that voters rejected last year, the AP/Columbus Republic reports.

Va. Senate Defeats 'Personhood' Bill; Senate Comm. Approves Modified Ultrasound Bill
e Virginia Senate on Thursday sent a bill (HB 1) that would define fertilized eggs as people back to committee, ending the measure's chances for this session, Politico reports.

Okla. Senate Approves 'Personhood' Bill
The Oklahoma Senate on Wednesday voted 34-8 to approve a bill (SB 1433) that would grant fertilized eggs "all the rights, privileges and immunities" of citizens, AP/MSNBC reports.

Va. House Approves Ultrasound Bill, Gives Final Approval to 'Personhood' Bill
The Virginia House of Delegates on Tuesday voted 63-36 to approve a bill (HB 462) that would require a woman seeking abortion care to first receive an ultrasound and have the opportunity to view and receive a copy of the image, AP/U-T San Diego reports.

Va. House Advances 'Personhood' Bill, Rejects Amendment to Ultrasound Measure
The Virginia House of Delegates on Monday gave preliminary approval to a bill (HB 1) that would define fertilized eggs as people, the Washington Post's "Virginia Politics" reports.

Abortion-Rights Opponents in Kan. at Odds Over Legislative Priorities
Kansas House Judiciary Committee Chair Lance Kinzer (R) does not plan to hold a hearing on a "personhood" bill (HCR 5029), a decision that is fueling a rift between abortion-rights opponents over the best strategy for restricting the procedure, the AP/Kansas City Star reports.

Utah Senator Drops 'Personhood' Amendment
Utah Sen. Aaron Osmond (R) said last week that he would no longer pursue creation of a state constitutional amendment that would define life as beginning at conception, the AP/Columbus Republic reports.

Lawsuit Challenges Proposed Nev. 'Personhood' Initiative
A lawsuit filed on Tuesday in Carson City, Nev., challenges a "personhood" ballot initiative that seeks to ban abortions in the state, the AP/Columbus Republic reports.

Kan. House Lawmakers Endorse 'Personhood' Amendment
On Friday, 25 Kansas House members endorsed a proposal for a "personhood" amendment to the state constitution that would define fertilized eggs as people, the AP/Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports.

Va. Democrats Criticize 'Personhood' Bill
Democrats in the Virginia General Assembly are speaking out against a new bill (HB 1) that would define "personhood" as starting at the moment of conception, the Richmond Times-Dispatch reports.

Both Sides' Tactics Evolve After Flood of State Antiabortion-Rights Measures
Escalating state efforts to restrict abortion rights have revealed a split between the slow-and-steady approach of some abortion-rights opponents and the bolder steps favored by others in the movement, NPR's "Talk of the Nation" reports.

Judge Rejects 'Personhood' Petition in Nev.
Nevada District Judge James Wilson on Wednesday issued an injunction barring Personhood Nevada from collecting signatures toward a proposed "personhood" ballot initiative to outlaw abortion, the AP/Columbus Republic reports.

Nev. Judge Rewrites Misleading Language in Proposed 'Personhood' Initiative
Nevada District Judge James Wilson on Monday rewrote a proposed "personhood" ballot initiative to make it clear that the measure would restrict access to reproductive health services other than abortion, the Huffington Post reports.

Miss. Voters Feared 'Personhood' Measure Would Allow Government Intrusion into Medical Decisions
Concerns that Mississippi's "personhood" measure would threaten medical decisions other than abortion were a key factor in its defeat, and the same issues could imperil similar initiatives in other states, the New York Times reports.

Fla. 'Personhood' Proponents Undeterred by Miss. Loss
After the defeat of the so-called "personhood" ballot measure in Mississippi, the movement's supporters in Florida revised their proposal for a state constitutional amendment defining life as beginning at fertilization, the AP/Miami Herald reports.

Concerns About Contraception Propelled Defeat of Miss. 'Personhood' Measure
Opposition from female voters and concerns about restricting access to contraception were key factors in the defeat of a Mississippi ballot initiative that would have defined the word "person" as beginning at fertilization, the AP/Washington Post reports.

Miss. Voters Reject 'Personhood' Amendment
More than 55% of Mississippi voters on Tuesday opposed a ballot initiative that would have amended the state constitution to define the word "person" as beginning at the moment of fertilization, the AP/Washington Post reports.

Miss. Voters Split on 'Personhood' Amendment, Latest Polling Shows
As Mississippi voters head to the polls on Tuesday, a new survey shows that 45% of respondents support the proposed "personhood" amendment, 44% opposed it and 11% are undecided, Politico reports.

After Expressing Concerns, Miss. Gov. Barbour Votes for 'Personhood' Amendment
After voicing reservations about Mississippi's "personhood" ballot initiative, Gov. Haley Barbour (R) on Thursday announced that he cast an absentee ballot in favor of the measure, the AP/Washington Post reports.

Abortion-Rights Opponents Push 'Personhood' Amendment in Miss.
On Nov. 8, Mississippi voters will consider a ballot initiative that would declare that human life begins at fertilization and grant state constitutional rights beginning at conception, the AP/San Francisco Chronicle reports.

Miss. Ballot Measure Would Ban Abortion in All Cases
In November, Mississippi voters will consider an amendment to change the meaning of the word "person" in the state constitution so that life legally begins at fertilization, Tim Murphy writes in Mother Jones.

Personhood | In the Courts

This section provides a brief overview of significant cases impacting reproductive rights and health related to Personhood.

Beltran v. Loenish
Application for a Writ of Habeas Corpus filed on behalf of a pregnant woman who was detained in state custody under a law giving the state jurisdiction over fertilized eggs, embryos, fetuses, and pregnant women at all stages of pregnancy in cases in which the pregnant woman habitually used alcohol or controlled substances.