Zygote personhood movement tied to violent anti-abortion groups

Posted on August 13, 2008

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According to the laws of the land, anyone who qualifies as a person is granted certain rights. One of those rights is to be left alive. The life of persons cannot be ended without due legal process, otherwise known as a trial. It’s for this reason that Colorado’s proposed Amendment 48, granting legal personhood to a newly fertilized egg (aka an zygote) is such a problem – granting personhood to an zygote leads to all sorts of consequences, ranging from the absurd to the criminal. The most serious and intentional consequence is that anything intended to end a pregnancy would be legally defined as murder without the level of public debate abortion truly deserves.

Earlier this week, new information was published at the Colorado Independent by investigative reporter Wendy Norris that raises very serious questions about the individuals and organizations backing the non-profit that got the amendment on the ballot, Colorado for Equal Rights (CER). Specifically, it appears that some of CER’s backers have long associations with militant anti-abortion groups. And by militant, I mean groups that actively espouse murdering obstetricians who perform abortions.

The first part of the series, Colorado personhood law backer linked to militant anti-abortion groups, introduces us to Dr. James Patrick Johnston, D.O., the individual leading CER’s national outreach program. Norris interviewed Johnston and he admitted something that the CER and its supporters refuse to mention for fear that it will tarnish their public image – that the entire purpose of Amendment 48 is to “protect the unborn.” If Johnston stopped there, then we could write him off as an anti-abortionist. But Norris, by using Johnston’s own quotes taken from the websites and publications of militant anti-abortion groups the Army of God (supporters of clinic and Olympic bomber Eric Rudolph, among others) and Christian Gallery (original source of the infamous Nuremberg Files list of targeted abortion providers), shows how Johnston has defended the actions of Army of God founder Paul Hill, an anti-abortion Christian who murdered Dr. John Britton and his security escort, James Barrett.

Part two of the series, Fanning the radical anti-abortion flames in Colorado, ties Johnston even tighter to extreme anti-abortion groups in Colorado via his co-protests, speeches, and interviews with people associated with groups such as Operation Rescue, Colorado Right to Life, and others. But the CER doesn’t have to rely on Johnston alone – Norris points out that many of the CER’s staffers and financial donors are similarly connected to radical anti-abortion groups.

And we can’t forget that an early spokesman for CER suggested that Amendment 48 would necessarily result in a ban on oral contraceptives as well as an abortion ban – if the pill actually does prevent zygotes from implanting in the uterus, then the pill would probably qualify as a murder weapon under Amendment 48.

Interestingly, Johnston chose to reply to Norris’ story in the comments and claim that he never wrote many of the things that Norris’ investigations turned up. Unfortunately for Johnston, his protestations of innocence with regard to writing for the Army of God are refuted with proof provided via an archived version of the Army of God website. Johnston’s complaint about the Minutemen United, however, may be valid as I have been unable to find examples of the advocacy of violence by that group, and unlike the Army of God and Christian Gallery, Norris doesn’t provide links or descriptions to any examples. And Johnston’s own words, taken from the Army of God website itself, put the lie to his claim that he has “never written tracts or articles that defend the murder of reproductive health clinic staff” or that he condemned Paul Hill. However, it’s possible that Johnston has mellowed from his more impetuous youth when he was writing tracts for the Army of God and defending Paul Hill, but if so, lying about it when the proof is shown clearly by Norris’ investigations doesn’t exactly build much credibility.

It’s hardly a surprise that the more virulent anti-abortion groups would support Colorado for Equal Rights. After all, as Norris mentions in part two, there is a split between two camps in the anti-abortion movement – those who believe that incremental restrictions is the only way to be successful over the long run and those who believe that a full ban must happen immediately if not sooner, and by any means necessary. CER and radical anti-abortion groups like the Army of God and Colorado Right to Life are of the second camp, and so it’s only natural that they’d work together on Amendment 48.

However, the intimate connections between those who would justify murder in the name of God and Colorado’s zygote personhood amendment gives everyone reason to question the motives and ultimate goals of Colorado for Equal Rights, Amendment 48, and everyone associated with it.

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