State ‘personhood’ amendment introduced in Wisconsin Print E-mail
Around the Diocese
Written by Mary C. Uhler, Catholic Herald Staff   
Thursday, Dec. 01, 2011 -- 12:00 AM

MADISON -- State Representative Andrew Jacque (R-Bellevue) has introduced a “personhood” amendment in Wisconsin.


The proposed constitutional amendment would define the terms “people” and “persons” in the state Constitution to include “every human being at any stage of development.”

To be enacted, two successive state Legislatures would need to pass the amendment. Then it would have to be approved by a majority of voters.

Preborn deserve protection

Pro-Life Wisconsin is supporting the personhood amendment. It says that “Wisconsinites, born and preborn, deserve total and permanent legal protection of their right to life — an inalienable right grounded in natural law.”

From a pro-life perspective, Pro-Life Wisconsin says the Wisconsin Constitution “contains a glaring error at its outset — it leaves out the preborn. It applies rights to only those people who are ‘born.’”

Pro-Life Wisconsin adds that “an activist Wisconsin Supreme Court could someday use this provision to deny the right to life of the preborn by interpreting an independent right to abortion in our state Constitution. In so doing, the court could nullify any present or future pro-life laws in our state.”

‘Wrong for Wisconsin’

However, Wisconsin’s other major pro-life organization, Wisconsin Right to Life, says a personhood amendment is “wrong for Wisconsin.”

Wisconsin Right to Life points out that “Wisconsin is fortunate to be one of only a handful of states which already has a law that prohibits abortion (s. 940.04 of the Wisconsin statutes). Right now, this law cannot be used because of the Roe vs. Wade abortion decision which legalized abortion.

“Once Roe vs. Wade is overturned, this law would immediately go into effect and protect unborn children by shutting down abortion clinics. A constitutional amendment would be harmful because it would make this law that prohibits abortion invalid.”

Wisconsin Right to Life also notes that it could cost the state $4 million or more to win a ballot measure. Should the amendment succeed, expert national and state legal authorities advising Wisconsin Right to Life believe it would be challenged in court and struck down. Organizations such as Planned Parenthood who challenge the amendment could be awarded thousands of taxpayer dollars in legal fees.

“Sometimes an idea is too good to be true. Wisconsin Right to Life believes this is one of those times. Supporting a costly effort which is risky and unnecessary has the very real potential of causing more harm than good,” said a legislative analysis issued by Wisconsin Right to Life.

The Wisconsin Catholic Conference has not taken a position on the personhood amendment at this time.

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