Pro-life advocates in Arkansas submitted to the state attorney general’s office a revised state constitution amendment to give rights to the unborn in the hopes that the measure will make it to the 2012 ballot, and eventually force a U.S. Supreme Court challenge to Roe vs. Wade.
Personhood Arkansas submitted the document for approval Wednesday, exactly a week after its first proposed amendment was rejected.
State Attorney General Dustin McDaniel rejected the measure last week citing several phrases that he believed were ambiguous and undefined.
The past measure guaranteed that “No innocent person shall be denied the right to life.” The term “person” was defined to apply to “all human beings, including the unborn at every stage of development.”
McDaniel stated the phrase “every stage of development” was not specific in defining which human beings would enjoy the full protection of law. Personhood officials argued that the phrase was intended to broaden the scoop of state constitution’s protections. McDaniel also took issue with the amendment’s name, the “Paramount Right to Life.”
He stated, “Your measure would not only deny public funding for any abortion…it would prohibit such abortions altogether….yet likewise fails to mention those restrictions in the popular name.”
Personhood Arkansas changed the proposed amendment, although its officials disagreed with the attorney general’s reasoning.
The new language clarifies that medical treatments that unintentionally cause a miscarriage are banned by the amendment and adds a ballot title that clarifies that its intent is, among other objectives, to prohibit abortion and “possibly challeng[e] the U.S. Supreme Court ruling of Roe vs. Wade.”
Personhood USA, the national group behind the personhood amendment, opened the door for local chapters to change the amendment’s language last year. Legal Analyst Gualberto Garcia Jones tweaked that language after a failed attempt to pass the amendment in Mississippi.
The Mississippi Personhood Amendment 26 failed with 45 percent of voters supporting the provision and 55 percent opposing.
Though the amendment seemed to serve the interests of pro-lifers who oppose abortion as murder of the pre-born, the state amendment seemed to divide factions of the movement. The Mississippi Baptist Convention supported the proposed amendment while the Episcopal Diocese of Mississippi and the United Methodist Church General Conference opposed the measure.
A Personhood USA survey revealed that nearly a third of “no” voters (31 percent) believed the personhood amendment would ban in vitro fertilization. Another 28 percent of no voters believed that women would be denied treatment for an ectopic or tubal pregnancy because of the amendment.
“Planned Parenthood, which is the largest and wealthiest abortion provider in the United States, attacked our amendments with lies and scare tactics,” Personhood USA Co-founder Keith Mason said during the Monday press conference.
Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee said of the Mississippi defeat in a December interview with CP, “I was disappointed that some people expressed some sense of reservation. In fact, for those that maybe some pieces of this aren’t clear, let’s fix them. It can be done but pass the amendment. Deal with the issues if they in fact come up. But if we’re going to make a mistake, it seems to me it’s far better on the side of an affirmation of life than a denial of human life.”
Personhood USA fixed the amendment’s language in November and introduced the improved proposal in Colorado.
The Colorado Secretary of State’s Title Board has since approved the amendment, allowing it to proceed to public petition. Planned Parenthood is currently challenging the Colorado State Title Board’s decision in the state Supreme Court.
Personhood Arkansas is optimistic about its new language.
“Our hope is that the [attorney general]’s office will act in good faith by offering support to those of us who want the democratic initiative process to work for everyone including those who are gravely concerned about the 4,532 preborn children killed in our state in 2010,” Personhood Arkansas spokesperson Preston Dunn said in a statement.