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Wisconsin constitutional amendment to effectively ban abortion to be proposed

Rep. Andre Jacque (R-Green Bay) is proposing the 'personhood' amendment.
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"Personhood" supporters in Wisconsin are making their move.

A Green Bay legislator is circulating a proposed amendment (PDF) that would establish a "right to life" in the state constitution and define a fetus as a person.

Rep. Andre Jacque (R-Green Bay), the author of the proposal, did not return a call to his office.

But Keith Mason, president of Personhood USA, which supports efforts to pass such measures around the country, says the primary goal of the constitutional amendment is to establish that "all humans are persons and therefore no humans should be treated as property."

"Abortion is only liberalized in America because we treat the pre-born human as property, legally speaking," adds Mason, speaking from his home in Colorado.

Two ballot attempts to pass personhood measures in Colorado have failed in recent years and efforts in a handful of other states did not garner enough signatures to trigger a vote.

Mississippi voters are getting ready to go the polls November 8 to vote on a personhood amendment to their constitution. Mason says 130,000 signatures were collected there before the measure was put on the ballot.

Nicole Safar, legal and policy analyst at Planned Parenthood of Wisconsin, says the intent of the proposed Wisconsin amendment is to give legal status to a fertilized egg. Therefore, she argues, "Anything that threatens the viability of a fertilized egg becomes homicide. That includes abortion, in vitro fertilization, birth control."

Pro-Life Wisconsin has long pushed for a personhood constitutional amendment and recently kicked off a publicity campaign in support of it.

The group has put up a billboard on Highway 41, south of Green Bay, featuring people at different stages of development. The tag line reads: "You, Me, Everybody. We're all just grown-up embryos."

A new website, PersonhoodWisconsin.com, has also been launched to promote the amendment in Wisconsin.

Matt Sande, legislative director for Pro-Life Wisconsin, sent an October 19 memo (PDF) to state lawmakers urging them to sign on as co-sponsors to Jacque's bill. "The amendment seeks to extend the inalienable right to life found in the Wisconsin Constitution to all preborn children from the beginning of their lives."

There is not unanimity in the anti-abortion movement over this measure, however. Wisconsin Right to Life opposes the amendment, arguing that it would threaten the state law still on the books that criminalizes abortion. That law would go into effect should Roe v. Wade, the 1973 Supreme Court decision that legalized abortion, be overturned. Pro-Life Wisconsin counters (PDF) that Wisconsin Right to Life's argument is not backed by case law.

In Wisconsin, adoption of a constitutional amendment requires adoption by two successive legislatures before it can be placed on a statewide ballot for ratification.

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