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“Creative Extremist” Takes Montana Senate from Alabama to Ireland

Testifies personhood amendment could make state “crown jewel”

(Johann Dasteel is senior congressional liaison for American Life League. As an expert on personhood, she has testified in various states as she did before the Montana Senate Judiciary on Monday, 3/28. The full text of her moving, common sense testimony follows.)

Hello, my name is Johanna Dasteel. D-A-S-T-E-E-L. I offer this testimony on behalf of American Life League, the nation’s oldest and largest Catholic grassroots pro-life organization with our president sitting as a member of the Pontifical Academy for Life.


Thank you, Mr. Chairman, and esteemed members of this committee, for allowing me a few moments of your time to speak in support of HB 490, the Montana Personhood Amendment.


HB 490 is simple enough. It reconciles an observable reality—namely the human being—with the language of our laws, which are written to protect persons.


Based upon the hype surrounding the amendment in the media and what I observed when delivering testimony in the House, I know that the opposition will come in here today and say that my support of HB 490 makes me an extremist.


But though I was initially disappointed at being categorized as an extremist, as I continued to think about the matter I gradually gained a measure of satisfaction from the label. Perhaps the nation and the world are in dire need of creative extremists.


Let me repeat that: Perhaps the nation and the world are in dire need of creative extremists.


Now I can tell by the looks on your faces that you may not agree with me on this.


Would it matter if I told you that those words are not original to me?


You see those words are not mine, but are the words of the great Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. as he wrote in his Letter from a Birmingham Jail.


You see, he too was called an extremist and he responded again, I quote: “But though I was initially disappointed at being categorized as an extremist, as I continued to think about the matter I gradually gained a measure of satisfaction from the label,” he said. “Perhaps the nation and the world are in dire need of creative extremists.”


King wasn’t coming up with a new idea, rather he was going back to our country’s origins, to the idea enumerated in our Declaration of Independence that all people are created equal and have the right to life, liberty and pursuit of happiness. What is liberty and the pursuit of happiness without the right to life?


Again, HB 490 goes no further than applying the term “person” to all members of our human species. Going back to common sense. Creative extremism.


Also being hyped by the media are some hypothetical doomsday scenarios that the opposition will describe to you, in which pregnant mothers are penalized and thrown in jail for mundane or everyday behavior such as eating junk food or playing sports.


They might even go so far as to argue, as they have in other states, that the government would start harassing mourning mothers after they have suffered the loss of a child through miscarriage. Now the hypocrisy in that alone should confound you. What is there to mourn and why would it be so distasteful to question the mother if we cannot admit that she is a mother in the first place?


But I digress – In Colorado, where I’m from, before the decriminalization of abortion, the state had a long history of being a pro-life state and NOT ONCE was any mother prosecuted or investigated after a miscarriage.


HB 490 will not criminalize dietary and lifestyle choices. And, more importantly, it certainly will not victimize mourning mothers.


Still, you will hear that it will threaten women’s use of birth control, practices of in vitro fertilization labs, and scientific discovery through human embryonic stem cell research.


But looking at the amendment, you will see that it solely states that no member of our species shall be deprived of life, liberty, or property without due process of law.


How are birth control, IVF and human embryonic stem cell research threatened by protecting a human being’s right to life, liberty or property? Unless they are life-threatening instead of life-saving practices, there would be no reason to say that constitutionally recognizing human beings as persons threatens them.


In the unlikely event that the opposition should argue that all human beings should not be recognized as persons and defer to the tired and disproven claims of decades ago about the amendment forcing abortionists and mothers to the back-alleys where women will die there along with their children, please consider this:


Julie Kay, an International Planned Parenthood Federation attorney, unwittingly described the country of Ireland as “the jewel in the crown of the pro-life movement.”


She said this because Ireland is a pro-life nation that protects the rights of the preborn child as equal to that of his or her mother. Ireland treats abortion as a criminal action.


If we are to believe what the opposition will claim today: that this amendment will criminalize women’s behaviors when they are pregnant, that there will be more back-alley abortions, that women will be defending themselves in frivolous lawsuits and some even will die, we would also have to believe that it is — right now — doomsday in Ireland. 


You would think that.


But you would be wrong.


Ireland has no — I repeat NO — back-alley abortions. Ireland is abortion-free.


UNICEF, the United Nations Children’s Fund reports Ireland to have the LOWEST maternal mortality rate IN “THE” WORLD. Let me put that another way: women NOT dying from abortion being illegal in Ireland!


I will close with this: You don’t need to be the victim of the opposition’s propaganda. You can do the right thing and be able to point to a country that is defying everything that Planned Parenthood and the others who oppose this amendment claim would result from it.


The only thing that stands in your way of voting the right way is fear. But I am telling you that it is a fear that is unfounded. Ireland is a testament to that fact.


Montana will not become a place that women and their families will fear. On the contrary, it will be a crown jewel of fine obstetrics and sound law.


Yes, this measure will change Montana. But, change is good, especially when it is a thwarting of old prejudices and grave injustices.


I urge you to follow King as a creative extremist and give a “do concur” on HB 490.


Thank you.