A Personhood Amendment is a constitutional amendment that defines when human personhood begins and/or ends. In practice, this usually involves establishing that human personhood begins at the moment of conception, fertilization, or the equivalent.
What a Personhood Amendment Would Do, in Theory:
Federal and state constitutions attribute civil rights, and other human rights, to persons. If blastocysts, embryos, and fetuses are understood to be full human persons, then this could in theory permit bans on human cloning, embryonic stem cell research, abortion, some forms of birth control, and any miscarriages in which the pregnant woman is deemed reckless.
What a Personhood Amendment Would Do, in Practice:
No Personhood Amendment has ever been enacted into law, so this is speculative:
A federal Personhood Amendment would effectively overturn Roe v. Wade (1973)
, as the Supreme Court is bound by the U.S. Constitution. The odds of a federal Personhood Amendment passing are, however, prohibitively low.
A state-level Personhood Amendment would be subject to U.S. Supreme Court rulings on reproductive rights, and therefore in all likelihood unenforceable.
The 2008 Colorado Personhood Amendment:
The first state to bring a Personhood Amendment up for a ballot referendum was Colorado in 2008, where the initiative was defeated.
Current Personhood Amendment Initiatives:
Colorado voters will weigh in on a new Personhood Amendment referendum in November 2010, and Mississippi will follow suit in November 2011.