Senate candidates oppose ‘personhood’ amendment |

Senate candidates oppose ‘personhood’ amendment

Collin Smith

— Neither candidate for state Senate District 8 will support nor vote for Amendment 48, which effectively would eliminate abortions if passed in the Nov. 4 general election.

Known as the “personhood amendment,” Amendment 48 would rewrite the state Constitution so that all people – as defined as “any human being from the moment of fertilization” – would have the same rights and access to equality of justice and due process of law as any other person.

The two candidates – Democrat Ken Brenner and Republican state Rep. Al White – identified the ballot question as an abortion issue.

If voters approved the amendment, the one elected to office will be able to define what penalties and crimes are associated with violating a fetus’ rights. If the amendment does not pass, the newly elected lawmaker will be in a position to challenge or support such a law if proposed in the Legislature.

White, who opposes 48, said it’s something of a moot issue for now, however.

“It’s all pre-empted by the U.S. Supreme Court decision on Roe v. Wade,” he said. “To me, the abortion issue is not a state issue at this point.”

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He added that Amendment 48 likely would do nothing to challenge the federal government’s position. A ballot question up for vote in South Dakota this year would have a greater chance of provoking discussion and/or change at the federal level.

That question specifically addresses abortion, making the procedure illegal in all cases except in cases of rape, incest and when the life of the mother is threatened.

White, who said he is pro-life, added he would want those protections for women included in abortion legislation should states be given the authority to pass laws on the issue.

Brenner, his opponent, mentioned the same issues while discussing his opposition to Amendment 48.

“It’s just too extreme,” he said. “It would prohibit an abortion in cases of rape, of incest and life health issues of the mother. It also opens all kinds of legal questions about the rights of an unborn fetus.”

For example, what if a mother doesn’t know she is pregnant and drinks too much, harming her baby? Under Amendment 48, she could be subject to criminal prosecution, Brenner said.

Having such a standard in the state Constitution, which is poorly defined, could further damage a Constitution already filled with other harmful provisions, Brenner said.

“We would probably be discovering unintended consequences for a long time,” he said.

White agreed, and said, “We don’t need to put this kind of law into the Constitution.”

The two men do, however, have a basic disagreement.

Amendment 48 “violates my fundamental belief that a woman should be able to choose what happens to her own body, when it happens and how it happens,” Brenner said.

White’s general views on abortion are somewhat different, though not definitively so.

“I’m pro-life,” he said. “I can’t look at my kids and conceivably think of a world that would be better off if they had been aborted.”

White could not say what specific abortion legislation he would support if the states had the authority to make those laws, however. He said it was a hypothetical question with too many variables.