Personhood Legislation Would Not Criminalize Miscarriages, In Vitro Fertilization, or Hormonal Contraception

Press Release from the Association of Pro-Life Physicians

by Dr. James P. Johnston, D.O., Director, Assn. of Pro-Life Physicians
Having long defended the right to life, I am accustomed the smoke and mirrors arguments of abortion advocates. The case for the right to life of the preborn focuses like a laser on the biological facts of when life begins, for there the cause is won or lost. But rather than deal with the facts of the case, the abortion advocates regularly puff spoke and mirrors into the debate to detract from the moral and scientific clarity on this subject, to excite bias, and confuse the naive.
However, I have never witnessed abortion advocates resort to such absurdity as they have in North Dakota, Montana, Iowa, Oklahoma, and in other states, accusing the proposed Personhood legislation or amendment in those states of having the potential to criminalize miscarriages, to ban or curtail in vitro fertilization, and to ban hormonal contraceptives. These are propositions are patently false, and are either negligent or insincere.
Before we evaluate what Personhood is not, let’s briefly establish what it is. Personhood legislation simply declares that for the purpose of state law, life begins at conception, or fertilization.
It is interesting to note that the “father of in vitro fertilization”, Dr. Landrum Shettles, concurs with this fact:
Conception confers life and makes that life one of a kind.”
Even the “father of modern genetics”, Dr. Jerome Lejeune, added his voice to the resounding chorus of the undeniable truth that life begins at conception:
“To accept the fact that after fertilization has taken place a new human has come into being is no longer a matter of taste or opinion … it is plain experimental evidence.” (April 23-24, 1981, Senate Judiciary Subcommittee hearing)
Personhood legislation brings state law into compliance with the facts of biological development[1], and consistent with the divine commandment “Do no murder”, will force state legislatures to criminalize the intentional killing of all preborn people statewide.
Now let us shine the light on the smoke and mirrors arguments of the abortion advocates. Personhood legislation does not in any way criminalize miscarriages. Before Roe v. Wade, when abortion was criminalized in most states, was a woman who had a miscarriage ever prosecuted for it? Of course not. It is absurd to think that Personhood legislation would criminalize the unintentional loss of human life. When a child is born stillborn, or when an infant dies during surgery, or when a baby dies of SIDS (sudden infant death syndrome), are parents or physicians tried in court for murder? Of course not. Murder, by definition, implies intent to kill. A miscarriage is an unfortunate, unintentional death of another human being. Even if a couple conceived repeatedly and miscarried every baby, they would not be prosecuted because there was no intent to kill their baby.
Secondly, Personhood legislation does not criminalize in vitro fertilization procedures (IVF). In IVF procedures, the intent is to bring human life into existence, not to destroy human life. Ethical IVF professionals would have nothing to fear from Personhood legislation. However, if an abortionist intentionally killed a baby conceived through an IVF procedure, as has been recommended in multiple gestations, or if human embryos were intentionally destroyed, prosecution would be appropriate.
Couples trying to get pregnant through IVF procedures would have nothing to fear from Personhood legislation unless they consented to the intentional destruction of their embryonic children. Even if all of their IVF implantations failed, their intent to was save and nurture human life, not destroy it. An unintentional, unfortunate loss of human life is not murder.
Lastly, Personhood does not criminalize hormonal contraception. Contraception, by definition, prevents conception. (“Contra” is a prefix meaning “against”; thus, contraception means “against conception”). Preventing conception would never abort a child conceived through conception. If it did, it would not be a contraceptive, would it?
Some have argued that hormonal contraceptives act by causing abortions at least some of the time. It is true that some products such as “the morning-after pill” or so-called “emergency contraception” are known to act in part by preventing the implantation of an already-conceived human embryo into the mother’s uterus. Thus, this product is not authentic contraception, for it allows fertilization and then causes an abortion about six days after the baby’s life began. Abortion-causing products such as these would be banned under Personhood law. However, it is not proven that hormonal contraception prevents implantation of the already-conceived human embryo into the uterus, and it probably does not. Some pro-life advocates have argued that they do, but their arguments are based upon ignorance of the physiology of reproduction, and thus are flawed. Some medical professionals have stated in the medical literature that the prevention of implantation is one of the mechanism of oral contraceptives, but this is purely speculative and has never been proven, and there is much evidence against it.[2]
In conclusion, a law or amendment that declared that for the purposes of state law, the onset of human life occurs at conception or fertilization, is appropriate and long overdue, all of the smoke and mirrors arguments of pro-abortion advocates notwithstanding.
Dr. James P. Johnston, D.O., is the founder and director of the Assn. of Pro-Life Physicians ( and he directs Personhood Ohio. He has testified before several state legislatures on behalf of pro-life and pro-family legislation, and speaks at conferences and schools regularly on the subject. He practices family medicine in Dresden, Ohio. He and his wife Elizabeth have seven children.

[1] You can peruse more of the evidence that life begins at conception through an article on the website of the Assn. of Pro-Life Physicians,
[2] For a careful evaluation of the evidence for and against the proposition that oral contraceptives cause abortions, see “Do Oral Contraceptives Cause Abortions” at

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2 Responses

  1. Whoo says:

    Weston, if believe in Jesus than you shuold be a liberal because Jesus was a liberal of his time. With statements like “whosoever shall smite thee on thy right cheek, turn to him the other also.” “Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despite-fully use you” “So in everything, do to others as you would have them do to you.” “But when you give a feast, invite the poor, the maimed, the lame, the blind, and you will be blessed, because they cannot repay you.” And he also taught that there shuold be a separation of church and state, “Render therefore unto Caesar the things which are Caesar’s; and unto God the things that are God’s” And he also taught socialism, “”Go, sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me. So, before you get your panties in bunch you shuold go back and read your Bible a little more clearly.

  2. ViviWannabe says:

    “Ethical IVF professionals would have nothing to fear from Personhood legislation. However… if human embryos were intentionally destroyed, prosecution would be appropriate.”

    Are you aware that during the IVF process, they make several embryos, and select only the best ones for implantation? The other ones are either frozen for future use, donated to an infertile couple, donated to medical science, or destroyed as medical waste. Never is the entirety of a batch implanted, frozen or donated to infertile couples, either. IVF professionals separate the “good” embryos from the “bad” ones, and the “bad” ones are ALWAYS donated to medical science or destroyed as medical waste. So, regardless of how ethical an IVF professional is, human embryos WILL be intentionally destroyed, in one way or another. This is an excellent example of how personhood legislation has nothing to do with preserving life, and everything to do with controlling female sexuality.

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