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Planned personhood

The pro-life movement’s newest attack on reproductive rights raises its profile in Florida

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To hear Mason tell it, the 2008 Colorado initiative, and a subsequent 2010 initiative in Colorado called Amendment 62, have been stories of small successes, despite the fact that neither effort was successful. The first constitutional amendment lost by 73 percent, the second lost by a slightly smaller margin, with 70 percent opposing it. According to the Denver Post, last year’s initiative saw $578,000 in donor opposition via a campaign spearheaded by Planned Parenthood (Planned Parenthood reportedly spent $3 million in total battling the measure), nearly 10 times what Personhood Colorado was able to assemble. To Mason, it’s a sign of incremental change.

“When the grassroots are not relying on a president or the legislature to do the job, they get off their tails and do it for themselves,” he says. “[President] Obama’s been almost a great asset to us in that he’s helped us motivate the base.”

That base is largely Christian, and increasingly Internet savvy. Personhood USA boasts 50,000 Twitter followers, Mason says, and Personhood Florida, with 75,000 followers, is “the number one pro-life organization on Twitter right now. We’re in a little bit 
of a race.”

Even conservatives aren’t safe. Mason thinks those typically relied on to champion the pro-life movement haven’t done enough to move aggressive anti-abortion measures through Congress. Regulatory reform is too slow and complicated. There are lives at stake. It’s not enough to be conservative if you aren’t going to act on your stated social agenda.

“If they say that they’re pro-life, well what does that mean? That’s when politicians, their rubber has to meet the road,” he says.

As of this month, Personhood USA – the umbrella group under which each of the state groups operates – has a presence in all 50 states, Mason says. There’s a “next few years” strategy underway; Mississippi is the next battlefield on the horizon, with South Dakota and Florida also coming into view. Personhood USA is not just a small grassroots organization, either: It’s recognized by the IRS as a 501(c)4 (a social-welfare nonprofit) with a 2011 annual budget projected to be $1 million.

“We’re growing,” Mason says. “But, again, we’re two years old, so it’s hard to have a 
budget of a billion a year like Planned Parenthood does.”

Foes of the personhood movement – including Planned Parenthood – argue that the various state amendments being put forth by the group are chilling: They will not only outlaw abortion procedures, but also crucially limit access to birth control, treatment for miscarriages and infertility procedures like 
in vitro fertilization.

“It’s utterly false and a lie,” Mason says. “This will not ban contraception at any level. It will ban abortifacient drugs, likely, and the only reason it would ban those is because abortifacient drugs kill a unique living being.”

But what about contraception pills? Don’t they interfere with the natural process?

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