Politics & Government

Fetus 'personhood' becomes new fight in abortion debate

A ballot initiative that sponsors hope will outlaw abortion in Alaska by declaring fetuses to be "legal persons" appears headed for a court fight.

It's questionable whether the initiative could actually lead to abortion being illegal — the state attorney general issued an opinion that it wouldn't. But opponents argue the measure is so broad it could have huge consequences regardless of whether it halts any abortions, ranging from women potentially sued following miscarriages to a legal argument that fetuses should be receiving Permanent Fund dividend checks.

"It is just insane," said Jeffrey Mittman, executive director of the Alaska Civil Liberties Union.

The ACLU is supporting a lawsuit filed this week by plaintiffs that include Vic Fischer, a former Democratic legislator and delegate to the state constitutional convention. The suit argues that Lt. Gov. Craig Campbell shouldn't have certified the measure and seeks to stop the sponsors from collecting signatures to get it on the ballot.

Initiative sponsor Christopher Kurka hadn't heard of the lawsuit before being contacted by a reporter about it. But he said opponents are attempting to confuse a basic issue of civil rights.

Kurka's effort is part of a nationwide push to put "personhood" initiatives on state ballots. The movement focuses on writings by Justice Harry Blackmun in the 1973 U.S. Supreme Court Roe v. Wade decision that established abortion rights nationally. Blackmun indicated that a fetus would be protected if its personhood were established.

Kurka said that would allow an unborn child the same rights under the 14th amendment as if the mother had a baby, decided she didn't want it, and tried to kill it.

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