On the heels of the passage of a new law requiring women to get ultrasounds before having abortions, Wisconsin's pro-life movement is making a renewed push for the passage of a "personhood" amendment to the state Constitution.
State Rep. André Jacque (R-De Pere) is seeking legislative sponsors for a proposed amendment that would give fetuses the same constitutional rights as individuals. At the same time, the group Pro-Life Wisconsin has created a new website and launched a petition drive aimed at pressuring state lawmakers to support the amendment. The measure also has the support of Wisconsin Family Action and national anti-abortion groups.
And Pro-Life Wisconsin is making no secret what it's intention is for pushing for the amendment.
“The personhood amendment seeks to end abortion in Wisconsin, not to regulate or restrict it,” Matt Sande, Pro-Life Wisconsin's director of legislation, said in a statement. “It seeks to end all violence toward preborn children in Wisconsin – surgical, chemical, experimental, etc. – at all stages of development. If we are to be truly just as a people, our civil law must recognize and protect all human beings as ‘persons.’"
Jacque's proposal would add language to the Constitution that says: "As applied to the right to life, the terms 'people' and 'person' shall apply to every human being at any stage of development."It also would remove the word "born" from the phrase "all people are born free and independent" in the Constitution.
Part of a National Movement
The effort comes four months before citizens of North Dakota are set to vote on a personhood amendment in that state's Constitution. The North Dakota Legislature in March became the first in the nation to pass such a measure, according to the Huffington Post. In Iowa, an effort for a personhood amendment also is under way.
And the national group Personhood USA claims to have nearly 2 million people who have signed an online petition banning abortions in every case.
But organizers face an uphill battle in trying to change Wisconsin's Constitution. The measure would first have to be passed by both the House and Assembly in two consecutive legislative sessions before it would go to the voters. Jacque proposed the same amendment last session and failed to get much support.
State's Largest Pro-Life Group Opposes Measure
The prospects of passage also are slim because the state's largest anti-abortion group — Wisconsin Right to Life — strongly opposes the measure. The group says the personhood amendment is "wrong for Wisconsin" and would actually hurt pro-life efforts in the state.
Wisconsin is one of the few states to have a law on the books that bans abortions. Although that law has been rendered unenforceable by court rulings, Jacque and other abortion opponents hope to see it automatically revived if the U.S. Supreme Court reverses Roe v. Wade, the Journal Sentinel reported.
However, Wisconsin Right to Life says a personhood amendment would make the law that prohibits abortion invalid.
The group also says enacting the law could cost up to $4 million and it would be likely challenged in court.
"Supporting a costly effort like a personhood amendment, which is risky and unnecessary, has the very real potential of causing more harm than good," the group says on its website.
However, Pro-Life Wisconsin and Jacque say the amendment would not invalidate the existing law, and cite an analysis by the Wisconsin Legislative Council, a nonpartisan state agency, which says the the current law "appears to complement rather than conflict with the proposed constitutional amendment."
The push for the personhood amendment comes just after Gov. Scott Walker signed into a law a measure that would require women to have an ultrasound before having an abortion. That law was challenged in court and a federal judge has put it on hold until Thursday.