Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Hsieh PJM OpEd on Gingrich and Personhood

PJMedia has published my latest OpEd, "Would a President Gingrich Ban The Birth Control Pill?"

My theme is that if Newt Gingrich wins the 2012 GOP nomination, it would introduce the controversial "fetal personhood" issue into the presidential race and potentially tip the election to Obama.

Here is the opening:
If history is any guide, Newt Gingrich's views on birth control, abortion, and the controversial "personhood" movement will be likely targets for Democrats if he wins the 2012 GOP nomination for President.

Gingrich recently signed the "Personhood Republican Presidential Candidate Pledge" which affirms that "unborn children" should be regarded as persons with full legal rights "from the moment of conception… without exception and without compromise." Gingrich signed the pledge after taking heat for an earlier statement stating that human life began after embryo implantation in the womb (which occurs a few days after fertilization). His campaign has since clarified: "Newt believes that human life begins at conception, that is, at the moment of fertilization." If enacted into law, this seemingly small distinction could have serious implications for the legality of many forms of birth control.

The "personhood" movement represents the most ideologically consistent endpoint of the anti-abortion movement. In their view, once a human sperm fertilizes an egg, the zygote deserves full protection as a legal "person" comparable to a born child. Under this standard, abortion would become illegal even in cases of rape and incest -- one of the goals of "personhood" advocates. However, recognizing fertilized eggs as legal persons would also have serious implications for issues other than abortion. As Ari Armstrong and Diana Hsieh describe in their 2010 paper, this includes potentially limiting women's ability to receive in vitro fertilization and physicians' ability to treat women with life-threatening ectopic pregnancies. But one of the biggest political issues would be the legality of many forms of birth control...
I'd like to thank both Diana and Ari Armstrong for their earlier writings on this topic, as well as giving me feedback on earlier drafts of this OpEd.