Personhood amendment proposed to Wisconsin state constitution, divides pro-lifers

Rick Santorum, Joe Scheidler, Alan Keyes, and Walter Hoye support; but Wisconsin Right to Life and James Bopp Jr. say it is a waste of time.
Wed Jul 17, 2013 - 7:41 pm EST

MADISON, WI, July 17, 2013 ( – A proposed amendment to the Wisconsin state constitution that would say life begins at conception has divided the state's pro-life community.

State Representative André Jacque introduced the 2013 Wisconsin Personhood Amendment, which would amend the constitution's definition of person, last Thursday.

The state constitution currently states, “All people are born equally free and independent, and have certain inherent rights: among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.” The bill would add the clarification, “As applied to the right to life, the terms 'people' and 'person' shall apply to every human being at every stage of development.”


“From a pro-life perspective, the Wisconsin Constitution contains a glaring error at its outset,” said Pro-Life Wisconsin, who supports the measure. “In specifying the beneficiaries of its human rights, it leaves out the preborn. It applies rights to only those people who are 'born.'”

“The Wisconsin Personhood Amendment is not intended, or worded, as a challenge to Roe,” the group explains. However, if the 1973 Supreme Court decision were overturned, the unborn would be protected by the constitution's new wording.

“The personhood amendment seeks to end abortion in Wisconsin, not to regulate or restrict it,” said Matt Sande, Pro-Life Wisconsin's director of legislation.

However, the measure has fractured pro-life activists in the Badger State.

The personhood measure is supported by the American Life League, Wisconsin Family Action, former Republican presidential candidate Rick Santorum, former Regan administration Ambassador to the UN's Economic and Social Council Alan Keyes, Joe Scheidler of the Pro-Life Action League, Walter Hoye of the Issues4Life Foundation, Notre Dame Law Professor Charles E. Rice, Personhood USA, and others.

But others say the move is unnecessary and futile.

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Susan Armacost, legislative director of Wisconsin Right to Life, said the state has passed a law ending abortion if Roe is reversed, and personhood measures are doomed to failure.

"This is just a waste of everybody's time,” Armacost said. “It's gone down in flames in virtually every state they have tried this in, and it will go down in flames in Wisconsin.”

James Bopp Jr., general counsel for the National Right to Life Committee and the author of the Republican Party platform's pro-life plank, also opposes the measure.

Rep. Jacque, he measure's sponsor, retorted, “Quite frankly, it's kind of odd to see them on the same side as Planned Parenthood and NARAL, the National Abortion Rights Action League, on a piece of legislation.”

He believes he will have no fewer than eight co-sponsors this legislative session. 

  andre jacque, personhood, walter hoye, wisconsin