Alabama ‘personhood’ bill filed

State Sen. Phil Williams (R-Madison) has pre-filed “personhood” legislation for the Feb. 2012 legislative session in a move that could bring the issue of abortion to the front and center of Alabama politics just ahead of the 2012 state legislative session.

Senate Bill 5 looks to legally define humans as persons from the moment of fertilization and implantation. It is similar to Mississippi’s personhood bill, which was defeated 58 percent to 42 percent on Nov. 8.

Williams’ attempt to pass comparable legislation earlier in the year was killed by a voice vote on the Senate floor.

In an interview with Mobile news station WKRG on Nov. 9, Williams said he believes personhood legislation is important to Alabamians.

“Number one, I think that this is a matter of state’s rights, that we can do this,” Williams said. “I think that this is something that Alabamians would want.”

Leola Reis, vice president of external affairs for Planned Parenthood Southeast, said state legislators should take note that similar initiatives have failed in other states because of their extreme stance.

“In Mississippi last month and in other states, these initiatives have failed to pass as voters have indicated they are too extreme,” Reis said. “These policies do nothing to prevent unintended pregnancies or abortion. Prevention initiatives that include birth control and sex education are proven to be good for women and families and should be the focus of policy makers.”

Personhood Alabama, a state tier of the Colorado-based national Personhood group, said it is happy with efforts to ban abortion but holds a clear stance that personhood defined at implantation in SB5 is not good enough.

“Implantation in the womb, a phase that can happen five to six days after fertilization, is a small change but significant to us because it would not protect embryonic life when the egg travels down the fallopian tubes,” said Ben DuPré, an attorney with Personhood Alabama.

DuPré said fertilization is important to the pro-life group in part because of in-vitro fertilization. If IVF embryos are formed and not implanted, they will be discarded inhumanely, he said.

“We’re trying to protect all human life; we’re not trying to draw an artificial line at implantation or the heartbeat,” he said. “Unless we can prove that fertilization is not a human life, we’re going to continue to fight for that child.”

Reis said Planned Parenthood disagrees with personhood legislation’s stance against IVF and types of birth control.

“Planned Parenthood opposes ‘personhood’ initiatives as they could ban certain forms of contraception and prevent women from utilizing assisted reproductive technology,” Reis said.

DuPré said his group doesn’t find fault with physical birth control like condoms, but believes that the public misconstrues chemical birth controls.

“The morning-after pill is called emergency contraception, but that is a misconception because it flushes out a fertilized embryo,” he said.

For Reis and Planned Parenthood, the legislation is concerning because it could ban abortion without exception, even in the case of rape or medical emergency.

In medical emergencies like ectopic pregnancy, an abnormal pregnancy that occurs outside the womb where the fetus can rarely survive and can result in hemorrhage in the mother, abortions are considered to save the life of the mother.

Personhood believes the doctors should be required to attempt to save both the mother and the fetus.

“If, in trying to save both, one of them unfortunately dies, at least they tried to save both,” DuPré said. “What they shouldn’t do is say that oh, one might take the other’s life so we should affirmatively take a life. There’s actually a risk of harm in abortion as well, but why is our society so quick to recommend that course?”

For DuPré and the Alabama Personhood movement, 2012’s legislative session and Williams’ bill presents an opportunity they will continue to fight for.

“Compromise equals lives lost here,” he said.

For Reis, the legislative attempts appear misguided in troubling economic times.

“At a time of high unemployment and poor health outcomes for citizens across the southeast, we would like to see Alabama legislators do what is right and focus on the issue important to its citizens: jobs, the economy and improved health care access,” she said.


  • Connor Edward Blackwell

    So if a woman is going into emergency surregy and the only way she is to survive is to terminate her pregnancy, she will be left to die? Or what if an embryo is screened for a fatal disease, the baby will know nothing but pain and suffering, this law says it must be born? Or if a woman gets raped, she should be forced to raise her rapist’s child? Or if a woman experiences a miscarriage will there be a police investigation and if she fell down the stairs do they arrest her for manslaughter? I will say I do love living in the state of AL (I’m from Georgia), but I am sick of the pro-life agenda these legislatures have. What happened to the separation of church and state?  I hate how Conservatives say they want “less govt”, unless you want an abortion, then by all means inflict the U.S. Govt on scared women. Unbelieveable. 

  • Anonymous

    sheesus. because it’s all about the health of the unknown thing in the belly and not the presently living woman carrying it.

  • Anonymous

    An excellent, strong stand by Ben Dupre.  Those wishing to find answers to the “difficult” questions surrounding Personhood legislation should read through some of the articles at this site:

    • Neil Arther

      A horrible idea, doomed to failure, proposed and, ahem, supported by very stupid selfish people with a little short-lived power who suffer from control issues. 

    • Teresa Bennett Tolbert

      I completely understand why all of the Young Republican Groups on
      Facebook banned Mr. Fortenberry and accused him of using their pages to
      promote his own “personal jihad.” When Alabama Republicans view
      someone as too extremist that is very telling. Mr. Fortenberry for the
      sake of all of the women that I love and care about I hope your asinine
      ideas never have the chance to see the light of day. Your article on
      “Ectopic Personhood” is full of false statements and misrepresentations
      of what medical papers actually say. You should be ashamed of yourself
      for trying to mislead people to justify your own ends.

      Teresa Tolbert

  • Saynsumthn Blog

    Black people used to be called “things” Property” etc also….Slave owners used the same arguments as many below who claimed the government should not interfere with their rights ! An unborn child is just that – A CHILD – Period ! A child should be protected ! Why not kill the rapist not the baby?  But, alas, no one even suggests that- we instead suck a little helpless infant apart with a knife and call it “compassion”- what a joke !

    • Connor Edward Blackwell

      It is not a child because last time I checked Roe v Wade hasn’t been overturned yet. And I’m not sure what you mean by kill the rapist not the baby. 

      • Rajkamal

        haha wow. so today we say the baby is not a child. but if roe v wade is overturned tomorrow then we say, “oops, guess it was a baby.” Facts don’t change b/c laws do. a baby’s heart beats only weeks after conception and it’s central nervous system is also functioning…but i guess it’s not a human. whatever. and yes, women’s body’s change and so forth but it is not ALWAYS a health risk; only when there are issues with pregnancies (eclampsia, older age, bicornate uteri…). baby’s can’t vote yet so let’s kill them; they don’t have a right for their heart to continue beating…i mean their moms can vote, so let’s let them kill their babies…i mean, it’s their right as a woman and mother right?

    • Anonymous

      Have you actually studied 19th century pro-slavery rhetoric and compared it to the rhetoric of reproductive choice advocates?  Pro-choice folks NEVER call a fetus property, but they do point out that it usually isn’t viable without its mother, that a pregnancy will permanently change a woman’s body, that a pregnancy can be a major health risk, and that women deserve a full range of choices regarding their own health and bodies.

  • Anonymous

    I do not support abortion personally, but I also believe that people should be allowed to make their own choices. I would never force a raped woman to carry her rapist’s child. I would never inhibit an otherwise barren couple from utilizing technology to create a family. Birth control pills are prescribed for many other reasons than simply preventing pregnancy. The problem with making a law preventing these practices is that desperate people do desperate things. They will resort to even less humane tactics, or simply drive to GA or LA to have them done.

  • Chance Cunningham

    Did you know you can die before you’re born?

  • Elise Gold

    I’d like to ask Sen. Williams what he would do if his wife or daughter became pregnant due to a rape. Would he feel comfortable with them raising their rapist’s child? 

  • JD Law

    Just wondering — if the state declares that life begins at fertilization, does this mean a person who is 17 and 3 months can vote?  Or a person 20 and 3 months can buy alcohol?  Why not?  What argument would the state use when sued by the 17 and 3month person?  This is just an illustration to make sure we’ve thought through the unintended consequences here. I’m sure there are more serious unintended problems too.

    • David A. Smith

      I’ve always wanted to ask the same question – do you celebrate your birthday or conception/fertilization day?

      • Brad Erthal

        My understanding is that it would depend how the other relevant statutes are worded. The upshot is that it could affect some statutes, and there would be some cost to court cases sorting out which ones were worded in a way to be affected by this. 

    • Anonymous

      Such as that whole “not caring about the health and well being of the mother” thing.

  • Doc Upshaw

    so much for the “at least there’s mississippi” argument. Once again, Alabama puts itself at the front of the pack when it comes to humiliating, draconian religiously-motivated legislation. So glad i’m a permanent resident of Georgia, not that it’s so much better…

    • Chase Fraley

      Being ashamed of one’s place of residence does no more to vindicate him and/or change his surroundings than abandonment and inactivity.

  • Chase Fraley

    This bill is nothing more than subterfuge to dismantle abortion rights, obviously.

    Though it does beg good questions: When does life begin? Is, for example, an 8-month old unborn child more/less alive than an 8-day old unborn child? Is an unborn child even alive?

    • Chance Cunningham

      Is an acorn an oak tree?

  • Mandi Cummings

    Also under this new amendment, a doctor will have the right to deny a patient treatment for a serious illness if it has the potential to harm a fertilized egg. But do they realize if the woman will not survive without treatment, the baby (or unfertilized egg) won’t either.

    Also, the last thing we need is under-the-table abortions and contraceptive being given to women. Atleast with it being legal, it is regulated and has requirements and standards to abide by.

  • Anonymous

    so something without a heartbeat is alive?

  • Alana Nelson

    I actually have faith that the good ctitizens of this state are smart enough to vote against this nonsense. If Mississippians could figure it out then so can we. Even uber-conservatives don’t want to take away birth control. If they do I hope they are prepared for all the unwanted children who will be forced to soak up tax dollars through various government services!

  • Anonymous

    Another joke piece of legislation brought forth by the nation’s most incompetent state legislative body under the most unqualified gubernatorial administration. This state has the political efficacy of Saudi Arabia