Fighting 'personhood' initiatives in the United States

Reprod Biomed Online. 2012 Jun;24(7):689-91. doi: 10.1016/j.rbmo.2012.04.002. Epub 2012 Apr 11.


'Personhood' initiatives filed in many states within the United States threaten to impose potentially significant restrictions on infertility treatment, embryo disposition, pre-natal care, abortion, contraception, and stem-cell research, all through attempts to redefine a 'person' or 'human being' as existing from the moment of fertilization or conception, and endowed with the full legal and Constitutional rights of personhood. Virginia's recent, unsuccessful attempt to pass such legislation provides both a dramatic example of these efforts and valuable lessons in the fight against them by infertility advocates and others. Arguments over loss of infertility treatment seemed more persuasive to legislatures than did restrictions on abortion or stem cell research. Indeed, persuading legislators or voters that they could be 'pro-life' and still anti-personhood initiatives was a key strategy, and consumer efforts and media attention were instrumental. The most central lessons, however, may be the degree of intensity and coordinated strategy to shift public perception that lie behind these numerous state efforts, regardless of whether the actual initiatives are won or lost.

MeSH terms

  • Dissent and Disputes* / legislation & jurisprudence
  • Embryo Disposition / ethics
  • Embryo Disposition / legislation & jurisprudence
  • Female
  • Fertilization / physiology
  • Fertilization in Vitro / ethics
  • Fertilization in Vitro / legislation & jurisprudence
  • Humans
  • Infertility / therapy
  • Jurisprudence
  • Patient Advocacy / legislation & jurisprudence
  • Patient Rights / legislation & jurisprudence
  • Personhood*
  • Pregnancy
  • Stem Cell Research / ethics
  • Stem Cell Research / legislation & jurisprudence
  • United States
  • Women's Rights / legislation & jurisprudence