In September of 2009, I began as a volunteer in Personhood Florida — a grassroots effort to get a Constitutional Amendment passed that would declare a human being to be legal “person” from the “beginning of biological development.” I knew even then we were going to encounter lies, distortions and fallacies concerning the initiative. Recently, I have read several horrible articles by liberal pro-abortion media outlets and websites.
Two of the fallacies now being floated:
1. Personhood Florida has already died a quiet death because they cannot meet the signature deadline.
2. No other pro-life groups are supporting Personhood.
Here I will address these fallacies.
The following is not an official position of Personhood Florida, Inc., but my personal observations as a liaison working among the volunteers in Orlando area.
Fallacy #1: Personhood Florida cannot possibly collect over 600,000 valid signatures before the deadline.
Here is the state law:
“Initiative petitions can be circulated indefinitely. However, signatures are no longer valid four years after they are signed, which means that initiative supporters must obtain the required number of signatures within a four-year period.”
The first Personhood petition was collected in late September 2009. Therefore, the deadline is September 2013 to submit petitions. This could even effectively be pushed back later considering the low number of petitions collected in the early months. The Personhood Amendment may be on the ballot in 2012 or 2014 – or even later.
The initial goal with ballot initiatives in the state of Florida to first to get to the 10 percent threshold of about 70,000 signed petitions. After reaching that point, the amendment advocates are required to submit the collected petitions. This results in a Florida Supreme Court ruling that determines if the ballot initiative language violates the “single-subject rule.” If the ballot language is deemed to be valid, then the remaining signatures must be gathered to get an amendment proposition on the November ballot.
Getting over 600,000 valid signatures is a huge task. Since Personhood Florida is a grassroots, volunteer effort, this is a long term goal.
To accomplish this goal in a two-year period, it would require the collection of 30,000 petitions per month, or 1200 petitions per month in each of the 25 US Congressional districts. That is a realistic goal even though a great deal of organization at the district level needs to be in place first.
It this possible to achieve with an all-volunteer grassroots organization?
The Marriage Protection Amendment (Proposition 2) was supported and passed in the state of Florida in 2008 by a grassroots organization. As the campaign progressed, there were paid staff, but it was largely volunteers who made it successful. The Personhood advocates do not need to reinvent the wheel because they are able to tap into the groundwork that was laid for Proposition 2.
In addition, there are already thousands of pro-life activists throughout the state who volunteer as sidewalk counselors, peaceful demonstrators, workers at crisis pregnancy centers and other outreach ministries. This has already proved to be an effective strategy in Colorado and Mississippi where hundreds of thousands signatures have been gathered by an all-volunteer movement in a relatively short period of time.
The number of people involved in the Personhood effort in Florida was at first small, but it is steadily increasing each week to the point now where thousands of petitions can be gathered each month. For example, I estimate that over 1000 petitions were gathered by volunteers in Orlando in just the past month or so.
How do I know?
Even as I wrote this, I am staring at a stack of several hundred we collected in the last two weeks. This is not hubris. It is just a sober assessment of a huge job that will take some time to accomplish.
To collect over 600,000 valid signatures, in 15 of Florida’s 25 districts, we need at least 30 volunteer workers who could work about five hours a month to get 100 petitions each. The usual strategy is to have groups of two or more people at churches, sporting events, and public places where hundreds or even thousands of people circulate. At larger events, several people work together to collect hundreds at a time. Over a two year period, over one million signatures could be gathered this way.
Fallacy #2: No other pro-life groups are supporting this.
On the contrary, many pro-life organizations, state and national political leaders, churches and pastors throughout the country are supporting Personhood. The list in Florida includes a former US Senator, several state and national congressional candidates, as well as many pro-lfie groups, ministry leaders, pastors and churches. See a partial list at <www.personhood.net/personhood-advocates/all>.
A few organizations have objected saying that although they support Personhood, it is the wrong timing for this ballot initiative because it would result in a Supreme Court challenge that could not possibly overturn Roe v. Wade given the Court’s current make-up. Some have gone as far as to say that a state constitutional amendment can never challenge Roe. The founder of the Liberty Counsel, Matthew Staver, who has argued before the US Supreme Court, disagrees and has written a letter describing his thinking on the subject. Staver, by the way, is one of the Personhood Florida endorsers.
Fallacy #2 is therefore refuted by the answer to fallacy #1.
In the next 11 months, the conservative resurgence will begin to defuse the argument that this is bad timing. As a result of this, the make-up of the US Supreme Court, the state courts and appellate courts may change after 2012, 2014 and 2016. If current trends continue, there could be strong political support for a US Constitutional Amendment to define Personhood in the next four to six years. This is not a short term strategy, but an idea that will work synergistically with a conservative political resurgence over the long term.
In the meantime, there are Personhood initiatives that have begun in many other states. Some will fail to get on the ballot, but some will succeed. Only one need pass and this will galvanize and energize the Personhood movement. While it is possible and even likely that with the current make-up of the Supreme Court, a Personhood Amendment might be struck down, one court decision is not the end of the story. The Dred Scott decision of 1857 was a setback for the cause of liberty in our nation. This Supreme Court decision that declared that African slaves were not legal “persons” was never overturned. However, the perseverance of those who stood against slavery eventually won out.
With the conservative resurgence and protest against socialism, we are on the downward crest of a huge wave that will be rolling in for several years. We are resolved not to give up until we can end abortion on demand in all 50 states.
All that is needed now is for you to join with us in this effort!
Please contact http://www.personhoodfl.com/ or http://www.personhoodusa.com/ for more information on how you can get involved.
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