Lessons from Personhood’s Defeat: Abortion Restrictions and Side Effects on Women’s Health
48 Pages Posted: 3 Jan 2013 Last revised: 17 Jun 2013
Date Written: January 1, 2013
State personhood laws pose a puzzle. These laws would establish fertilized eggs as persons and, by doing so, would ban all abortions. Many states have consistently supported laws restricting abortion care. Yet, thus far no personhood laws have passed. Why? This Article offers a possible explanation and draws lessons from that explanation for understanding and resisting abortion restrictions more broadly. I suggest that voters’ recognition of the implications of personhood legislation for health issues other than abortion may have led to personhood’s defeat. In other words, opponents of personhood proposals appear to have successfully reconnected abortion to pregnancy care, contraception, fertility, and women’s health in general. Public concern over the “side effects” of personhood laws seems to have persuaded even those opposed to abortion to reject personhood legislation. If this is so, personhood opponents may have struck on a strategy that could apply more broadly. As this Article explains, various anti-abortion regulations — not just personhood laws — have deleterious “side effects” on women’s health. Focusing the public’s attention on these side effects could not only create stronger support for access to abortion care but could also better promote the full spectrum of women’s healthcare needs.
Keywords: personhood, abortion, reproductive health, pregnancy, health law, health policy
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