Group Suing New York to Grant Personhood for Chimpanzees Is Neutral on Abortion Debate

A Florida-based animal rights organization that is suing New York state to give legal personhood for chimpanzees holds a neutral stance on abortion.

The Nonhuman Rights Project of Coral Springs has refused to take a position on the debate over whether en utero human life also deserves legal personhood recognition.

Michael Mountain, spokesman for the project, told The Christian Post that regarding the abortion debate "we don't have any position on that."

"We stick entirely to the nonhumans," said Mountain, who before joining the project helped found the group Best Friends Animal Society.

"There are obviously lots of other organizations who are concerned with protecting the life of the unborn, but that is not our focus and not our mission and not what we were set up to do."

According to its website, the project hopes to "change the common law status of at least some nonhuman animals" from being classified as "things" to "persons," who have rights including "bodily integrity and bodily liberty."

The project's main focus is on animals that Mountain described to CP as "highly cognitively complex," namely "chimpanzees, elephants, dolphins and whales."

A similar neutral stance on the abortion debate can also be found with the more controversial animal rights group People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA).

Ashley Byrnes, spokesperson for PETA, explained back in July 2009 to Penny Starr of CNS News that they have both pro-life and pro-choice supporters.

"Obviously, the pro-life movement feels very strongly about life in all its forms. … In the pro-choice movement we have a lot of people who are very bothered by the fact that animals are forcibly impregnated on factory farms," said Byrnes.

"We don't take a stance on [abortion] any more than [the pro-life activist group] Operation Rescue would take a stance on going vegetarian."

Mountain's remarks to CP come as the project files multiple lawsuits in New York arguing a legal basis for personhood rights for chimpanzees.

On Monday, the project filed a lawsuit in Fulton County Court on behalf of Tommy, a chimpanzee that the group describes as being "held captive in a cage in a shed at a used trailer lot in Gloversville."

There are two other lawsuits being filed as well, with a total of four chimps being represented by the project. Mountain told CP that he expects the litigation to take a long time.

"Since this is obviously quite a novel case, all of these suits will then be sent up to the appellate court, either by us or by the opposition folks," said Mountain.

"This is going to go on for we would think a considerable amount of time before there's actually any final decisions on each of the three."