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PP Memo: Another success for women’s health advocacy: national lessons of Montana’s failed "personhood" ballot initiative

Contact: Planned Parenthood Action Fund Media Office, 212-261-4433

For Immediate Release: 07.23.12

To:        Interested Parties

From:    Dawn Laguens, executive vice president, Planned Parenthood Action Fund

Date:    July 23, 2012

Re:        Another success for women’s health advocacy:  national lessons of Montana’s failed “personhood” ballot initiative

Montana is the latest state to reject a so-called “personhood” initiative — extreme measures dangerously out of touch with Americans, but that are “absolutely” supported by Mitt Romney. 

So-called “personhood” efforts could amend state constitutions, either through the legislative process or a ballot initiative, to ban a wide range of vital women’s health services, including lifesaving treatment of ectopic pregnancies, in vitro fertilization, some forms of birth control including IUDs and emergency contraception, and all abortions.

A pro-women’s health message and a strategic grassroots approach combined for a winning political strategy to protect women’s health in Montana.  Planned Parenthood of Montana worked tirelessly, and was assisted by Planned Parenthood advocacy organizations across the country to educate voters about the dangerous precedent that would have been set by the initiative.

Volunteers with Planned Parenthood of Montana
• made over 10,000 calls to Montana voters
• mailed over 50,000 postcards to Montana voters
• trained and engaged over 100 volunteers for Primary Day voter education
• educated voters at 30 polling locations in 20 cities across Montana on Primary Day

The defeat of “personhood” in Montana comes on the heels of other recent victories against this extreme line of attack on women’s health:
• Colorado voters overwhelmingly rejected “personhood” in 2008 and 2010 – by a two-to-one margin.
• Voters in Mississippi — the most conservative state in the union — defeated “personhood” by a 16-point margin.
• “Personhood” supporters in Ohio, Florida, Nevada, and California failed to get enough signatures to get on the November 2012 ballot.
• The Supreme Court of Oklahoma roundly rejected a “personhood” effort in April.

The defeat of “personhood” efforts in states like Colorado, Mississippi, Oklahoma, and now Montana represents a decisive warning to Mitt Romney:  health decisions should be left to a woman, her family, her doctor, and her faith — not politicians.  But Mitt Romney is far out of the mainstream on “personhood.”  He has supported measures in both presidential campaigns (see “key background” below).

Planned Parenthood Action Fund’s Electoral Power

“Planned Parenthood Action Fund announced its endorsement of President Barack Obama for president and simultaneously launched a $1.4 million dollar ad campaign on May 30.  It was the first in a series of TV communications that will educate voters about the stark contrast between President Obama as a champion of women’s health and Mitt Romney as an opponent of women’s health.” [The Hill, 5/30/12]

New polling of women who saw Planned Parenthood Action Fund’s ads shows that messages about Romney’s positions — in his own words — are changing votes.  Romney’s overall image has shifted in a negative direction among women since the ad campaign began.  The percentage of women saying Romney is “out of step with my opinions” on issues affecting women went from 51 percent to 62 percent in West Palm Beach, and from 49 percent to 60 percent in Des Moines [Politico, 7/9/12]

Planned Parenthood Action Fund is committed to deploying our expertise, trusted voice, and network of supporters nationwide to alert women voters about the dangers of anti-women’s health measures and candidates, and the importance of their vote in November.  Women’s health will be a critical issue in this election — women see these as economic issues, as well as matters of basic fairness and health care.

Key Background

Romney came out in support of a “personhood” amendment, positioning himself to the right of Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour.  Romney was asked if he would support a dangerous proposal, commonly called a “personhood amendment,” that supporters say could potentially ban some common forms of contraception, as well as prevent a pregnant woman experiencing complications that threaten her life or health to obtain a safe abortion.  Said Romney, “absolutely.”  [Concord Monitor, 11/9/11]

In a 2007 interview, Romney said he supported “personhood” amendments.  In 2007, Romney was interviewed on Good Morning America and asked about a plank in the Republican platform that would include fertilized eggs in the definition of a "person" under the 14th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.  Romney was asked, “Do you support that part of the Republican platform?”, to which he responded, “You know, I do support the Republican platform, and I support that being part of the Republican platform, and I'm pro-life.”  [Huffington Post, 11/21/11]

Romney’s “political perspective” in 2007:  life begins at conception.  Romney: “I believe from a… political perspective that life begins at conception… I don't pretend to know, if you will, from a theological standpoint when life begins.”  [NBC Meet the Press, 12/16/07]

In 2011, Romney “absolutely” supported “personhood” amendments.  In 2011, Mike Huckabee asked Mitt Romney on his Fox News show, “Would you have supported the constitutional amendment that would have established the definition of life at conception?”  Replied Romney, “Absolutely.”  [ABC News, 11/3/11]

Romney “supportive of efforts” directed at “personhood.”  When asked about Romney’s affirmative response to Huckabee on personhood amendments, Romney’s Communications Director Ryan Williams said Romney was “supportive of efforts to recognize life begins at conception”.  The Mississsippi personhood amendment was formally titled the “Life Begins at the Moment of Fertilization Amendment”.  [The Lobby NH, 11/10/11; WJTV.com, accessed 12/21/11]

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Planned Parenthood Action Fund is an independent, nonpartisan, not-for-profit membership organization formed as the advocacy and political arm of Planned Parenthood Federation of America. The Action Fund engages in educational and electoral activity, including voter education, grassroots organizing, and legislative advocacy.