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Bridge Briefing: Cuccinelli, Personhood & Birth Control

Cuccinelli Cosponsored Personhood Legislation That Would Criminalize Common Forms Of Birth Control As Well As Abortions Resulting From Rape Or Incest

In 2007 Cuccinelli Cosponsored A So-Called “Personhood” Bill. On January 10, 2007, Sen. Cuccinelli cosponsored legislation that would expand “the right to enjoyment of life” protected by Article 1, § 1 of the Virginia Constitution to “preborn human beings from the moment of fertilization.” The bill was rejected by a 43-53 vote in the Virginia House of Delegates on February 2, 2007. [HB 2797, 2/5/07]

Legislation That Defines A Fertilized Egg As A Human Being Would Ban All Abortions, Including Those Resulting From Rape And Incest, And Would Declare Common Forms Of Birth Control, Like The IUD, As Murder. According to New York Times, “A constitutional amendment facing voters in Mississippi on Nov. 8, and similar initiatives brewing in half a dozen other states including Florida and Ohio, would declare a fertilized human egg to be a legal person, effectively branding abortion and some forms of birth control as murder. […]The amendment in Mississippi would ban virtually all abortions, including those resulting from rape or incest. It would bar some birth control methods, including IUDs and ‘morning-after pills,’ which prevent fertilized eggs from implanting in the uterus. It would also outlaw the destruction of embryos created in laboratories.” [New York Times, 10/26/11]

American Congress Of Obstetricians And Gynecologists: So Called “Personhood” Legislation Would Abolish Regular Forms Of Birth Control Like The IUD And The Common, Everyday Birth Control Pill. According to a statement from the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, “Although the individual wording in these proposed measures varies from state to state, they all attempt to give full legal rights to a fertilized egg by defining ‘personhood’ from the moment of fertilization, before conception (ie, pregnancy/ implantation) has occurred. This would have wide-reaching harmful implications for the practice of medicine and on women’s access to contraception, fertility treatments, pregnancy termination, and other essential medical procedures. These ‘personhood’ proposals, as acknowledged by proponents, would make condoms, natural family planning, and spermicides the only legally allowed forms of birth control. Thus, some of the most effective and reliable forms of contraception, such as oral contraceptives, intrauterine devices (IUDs), and other forms of FDA-approved hormonal contraceptives could be banned in states that adopt ‘personhood’ measures. Women’s very lives would be jeopardized if physicians were prohibited from terminating life-threatening ectopic and molar pregnancies. Women who experience pregnancy loss or other negative pregnancy outcomes could be prosecuted in some cases.” [ACOG, 2/10/12]

Personhood Amendments, Which Aimed To Define A Fertilized Embryo As A Person, Would Make Forms Of Birth Control, Like The Common, Everyday Birth Control Pill, Illegal Because They Prevent Implantation Of A Fertilized Egg. According to Salon, “But [Mississippi’s] Initiative 26, which would change the definition of ‘person’ in the Mississippi state Constitution to ‘include every human being from the moment of fertilization, cloning or the equivalent thereof,’ is more than just an absolute ban on abortion and a barely veiled shot at Roe v. Wade — although it is both. By its own logic, the initiative would almost certainly ban common forms of birth control like the IUD and the morning-after pill, call into question the legality of the common birth-control pill, and even open the door to investigating women who have suffered miscarriages. … [T]he Personhood movement hopes to do nothing less than reclassify everyday, routine birth control as abortion. The medical definition of pregnancy is when a fertilized egg successfully implants in the uterine wall. If this initiative passes, and fertilized eggs on their own have full legal rights, anything that could potentially block that implantation – something a woman’s body does naturally all the time – could be considered murder. Scientists say hormonal birth-control pills and the morning-after pill work primarily by preventing fertilization in the first place, but the outside possibility, never documented, that an egg could be fertilized anyway and blocked is enough for some pro-lifers.” [Salon, 10/26/11]

“Life Begins At Fertilization” Legislation Would Abolish The Common, Everyday Birth Control Pill And IUD

FDA-Approved Contraceptive Drugs Prevent Pregnancy By Suppressing Ovulation, Preventing Fertilization, Or Preventing Implantation. According to The Guttmacher Report On Public Policy on contraceptive insurance coverage, “FDA-approved contraceptive drugs and devices act to prevent pregnancy in three major ways: they can suppress ovulation; prevent fertilization by blocking the sperm and egg from uniting; or prevent implantation of a fertilized egg in the uterine lining.” [The Guttmacher Report On Public Policy, 10/1998]

FDA-Approved Contraceptive Drugs Can Differ In Method Of Pregnancy Prevention From Woman To Woman And Even In An Individual Woman. According to The Guttmacher Report On Public Policy on contraceptive insurance coverage, “Systemic methods can act in any of these three ways. While some methods are considered to have a primary mode of action, how a specific method works may vary from woman to woman and, depending on the timing of intercourse in relation to ovulation, even in an individual woman from month to month.” [The Guttmacher Report On Public Policy, 10/1998]

In 1982 The Senate Rejected Legislation Finding Human Life Beginning At Fertilization, In Part, Because It Would Redefine Contraceptive Drugs As Abortifacients. According to The Guttmacher Report On Public Policy, “Smith’s attempt to redefine certain contraceptive methods as abortifacients is not the first time abortion rights opponents have tried unsuccessfully to enshrine in federal law, directly or indirectly, the notion that ‘human life’ and legal ‘personhood’ are synonymous—and that both begin at fertilization. Inevitably, the impact of doing so on the legality of contraception or contraceptive research has entered the discussion. In 1982, the Senate considered but rejected highly controversial legislation ‘finding’ that human life begins with the fertilization of a woman’s egg and that the fetus is a ‘person’ entitled to full legal protection—an attempt to overturn, by simple statute, the Supreme Court’s 1973 Roe v. Wade decision legalizing abortion nationwide… Among the key issues raised frequently during the measure’s slow progress through Senate committees was the deleterious impact of Congress taking such action on the use and availability of most contraceptive drugs and devices, which effectively would be redefined as abortifacients.” [The Guttmacher Report On Public Policy, 10/1998]

Life Begins At Fertilization Logic Would Implicate All Non-Barrier Contraceptives As Abortifacients.  According to The Guttmacher Report On Public Policy, “While hardly revolutionary, then, the Smith amendment—and its rejection by the House—is highly significant in that this is the first time antiabortion congressional activists have mounted a direct assault on garden-variety contraception. While Smith and his antiabortion allies would prefer to limit their public opposition to IUDs and ECPs, it is clear that, by their own logic, all nonbarrier contraceptive methods could be implicated as well. Accordingly, as the contraceptive coverage discussion continues, provisions such as the Smith amendment must be weighed exceedingly carefully for the impact they could have on the millions of American women currently trying to prevent unintended pregnancy and those who may wish to do so in the future.” [The Guttmacher Report On Public Policy, 10/1998]

Anti-Choice Activists’ Opposition to Birth Control Is A Driving Force Behind “Life Begins At Fertilization” Bills

Chris Smith Chaired House Pro Life Caucus. According to Chris Smith’s Congressional Biography, “Smith has long chaired a number of bipartisan congressional caucuses (working groups) including the Pro-life (30 years), Autism (14 years), Alzheimer’s (12 years), Lyme Disease (eight years), Spina Bifida (eight years), Human Trafficking (eight years), Refugees (eight years), and Combating Anti-Semitism caucuses, and serves on caucuses on Bosnia, Uganda and Vietnam.” [Website Of Congressman Chris Smith, Accessed 5/13/2013]

Chris Smith, Chairman Of The House Pro-Life Caucus, Argued That Common Forms Of Birth Control That Prevent Implantation Result In “Many Abortions.” According to the Congressional Record, Smith stated, “Mr. Chairman, due to the lateness of the hour, I do not intend on taking the full 5 minutes. Let me make it very clear that part of the problem with the Lowey amendment was that it did not define contraception. Many of us have been concerned that the pro-abortion lobby and the pro-abortion organizations over the years have tried to fudge the line of demarcation between fertilization post- and pre-fertilization. Many of the chemicals, many of the devices that are now employed that are permitted under the Federal Employees Health Benefits Program do indeed result in many abortions, newly created human lives that are not permitted to implant in their mother’s womb. In a nutshell, my amendment is designed to clarify that if we are indeed going to force all of the Federal providers of medical care, the HMOs and all the providers as a condition of receiving reimbursement for all of their prescriptions, whether it be for penicillin or any other drug, that they have, to provide “a provision for contraceptive coverage”, let us at least make it clear that the gentlelady’s language excludes abortion-inducing chemicals. That is what my amendment very simply seeks to do.” [144 Cong Rec H 5951, 7/20/98]

Chris Smith Argued That The IUD And Birth Control “Chemicals” Should Be Further Studied Because They Prevent “Implantation.” According to the Congressional Record, Smith stated, “Let me make it very clear there has to be a determination made, and maybe it is about time, with all of the resources at our disposal, we really came to a firm conclusion as to how some of these chemicals and how the IUD actually works, because, again, even Planned Parenthood and others will say on their web page that one of the consequences of the IUD may indeed be preventative of implantation.” [144 Cong Rec H 5951, 7/20/98]