By Elizabeth DiNovella on September 18, 2009

Opponents of abortion are backing legislation across the country that would give legal rights to embryos from the instant of conception.

These efforts might be wrapped up in the rhetoric of dignity, but make no mistake: "Personhood" laws would weaken women's rights.

This week, anti-abortion activists in Missouri launched their campaign for "personhood" for fertilized eggs. The Missouri campaign follows on the heels of efforts to create a "personhood" amendment in Colorado and Florida.

These proposals would ban abortion in all cases, including incest and rape, and criminalize some forms of contraception.

The state legislatures of Montana and North Dakota have already rejected proposed "personhood" laws this year. Petition drives are also under way in Mississippi, Montana, and Nevada.

Personhood USA says it's working to get "personhood" measures on 2010 ballots or in front of state legislatures in 29 states, according to AP.

Given the Supreme Court's new makeup, it's unlikely that Roe v. Wade will be overturned during the Obama Administration. But that doesn't mean anti-abortion activists are quitting. In 2008 alone, state legislatures nationwide considered about 400 measures to restrict abortion.

Last year in Colorado, a "personhood" amendment made the ballot, but it was overwhelmingly defeated by 73% of voters. Yet the backers of these "personhood" initiatives aren't discouraged. They are intent on raising and re-raising the issue.

Their goal is clear: it's about limiting the rights of women, especially pregnant women.

We can't let them win.


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By Wendell Berry

Manifesto: The Mad Farmer Liberation Front

Love the quick profit, the annual raise,
vacation with pay. Want more 
of everything ready made. Be afraid 
to know your neighbors and to die.
And you will have a window in your head.
Not even your future will be a mystery 
any more. Your mind will be punched in a card 
and shut away in a little drawer.
When they want you to buy something 
they will call you. When they want you
to die for profit they will let you know. 
So, friends, every day do something
that won’t compute. Love the Lord. 
Love the world. Work for nothing. 
Take all that you have and be poor.
Love someone who does not deserve it. 
Denounce the government and embrace 
the flag. Hope to live in that free 
republic for which it stands. 
Give your approval to all you cannot
understand. Praise ignorance, for what man 
has not encountered he has not destroyed.
Ask the questions that have no answers. 
Invest in the millennium. Plant sequoias.
Say that your main crop is the forest
that you did not plant,
that you will not live to harvest.

Say that the leaves are harvested 
when they have rotted into the mold.
Call that profit. Prophesy such returns.
Put your faith in the two inches of humus 
that will build under the trees
every thousand years.
Listen to carrion—put your ear
close, and hear the faint chattering
of the songs that are to come. 
Expect the end of the world. Laugh. 
Laughter is immeasurable. Be joyful
though you have considered all the facts. 
So long as women do not go cheap 
for power, please women more than men.
Ask yourself: Will this satisfy 
a woman satisfied to bear a child?
Will this disturb the sleep 
of a woman near to giving birth? 
Go with your love to the fields.
Lie easy in the shade. Rest your head 
in her lap. Swear allegiance 
to what is nighest your thoughts.
As soon as the generals and the politicos 
can predict the motions of your mind, 
lose it. Leave it as a sign 
to mark the false trail, the way 
you didn’t go. Be like the fox 
who makes more tracks than necessary, 
some in the wrong direction.
Practice resurrection.

Wendell Berry is a poet, farmer, and environmentalist in Kentucky. This poem, first published in 1973, is reprinted by permission of the author and appears in his “New Collected Poems” (Counterpoint).

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