The first incarnation of this year's Personhood Amendment, which says the term "person" applies to humans from their biological starting point, popped up in 2008, when the face of the proposal was 21-year old Westword cover girl Kristi Burton.
This year, Kristi's playing a quieter role for three main reasons. New blog. New husband. New baby.
Kristi Brown -- she uses the "Burton" name mainly as an aid to people trying to place her in the context of her past pro-life work -- got married last summer, and in setting up yesterday's telephone interview for this post, she apologized in advance if she didn't answer. After all, she was due to give birth to her first child, a daughter, in three days, and she might be in labor.
But no. When the appointed time came, she was on the line and ready to talk about another project to which she recently gave life: The Lost Generation, a new blog.
Kristi Burton in a 2008 photo.
The Lost Generation "is designed to bring more awareness to the pro-life issue -- awareness meaning really putting some education out there," she says. "Whether I'm linking to other sites or writing myself, I'll be exposing the public to the real truth of the issue, just like we tried to do on the campaign. But most of the messages will stay positive. We want to put the truth out there in a positive way for people, and point them to good resources."
Regarding the blog's name, Burton Brown says, "I'm young -- I'm 23 -- so I'm part of that generation where about a third of the other people in our generation were killed through abortion. So we lost friends we could have had, brothers and sisters and classmates we could have had. It's very personal to me, because when I look around a room, I know that some of us are missing."
Back in 2008, some of her detractors implied that she was merely a highly photogenic figurehead for the Personhood Amendment -- someone whose role was being exaggerated for the sake of publicity. Is her blog a way to show this wasn't the case?
"That's not my goal," Burton Brown replies. "I believe passionately about this issue, and I believe lots of people want to see the truth. But back in 2008, there were no big organizations telling me to do what I did. It was just something I felt I should do -- I and a few of my friends and family members -- and a lot of people jumped on board and supported us. But they weren't the driving force to get it started."
In the end, the Personhood Amendment lost handily, managing to register only about 27 percent support. But in a February interview, Personhood USA's Keith Mason made it clear that his organization would keep bringing the proposal back until it passed -- and Burton Brown believes that's the right course of action.
As an example of how persistence can pay off, Burton Brown points to the issue of women's suffrage in South Dakota. According to this timeline, a measure on the subject was first introduced in 1890 and didn't pass until 1917.
"Everyone today clearly believes women have the right to vote, but it had to be repeatedly tried before the public voted for it," she says. "And it's the same for this issue -- which is really a human rights issue. Sometimes society doesn't recognize the truth until it keeps being put in front of them -- and then, people are like, 'Why didn't we realize this earlier?' And I think that will be the same kind of thing with the personhood issue."
This time around, Burton Brown has served mainly as an occasional consultant for the pro-personhood forces, who she compliments for taking the high road despite attacks from opponents that she sees as inaccurate. Take, for instance, the suggestion that the amendment is so broadly written that it would even nix standard birth control.
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"That's untrue," she stresses. "What it would do is protect every human being from the moment of conception -- so if the birth control methods are really preventing conception, they wouldn't be outlawed. If, on the other hand, you're talking about abortion pills -- chemical abortion -- it would have the potential of banning those. But not the kind that bar conception. That should be every couple's decision to make on their own if it doesn't hurt human life."
Despite the prevalence about what she sees as widespread misinformation, Burton Brown is confident the Personhood Amendment will draw considerably more than 27 percent support this time around, in part because the political climate is decidedly more conservative in 2010 than it was during 2008. But even if it fails again, she'll find other ways of working on the pro-life issue. After completing coursework at Oak Brook College of Law & Government Policy, an online institution with a Christian focus, she recently passed the bar. Rather than joining a traditional law firm, she hopes to use her skills on behalf of the pro-life movement, perhaps in conjunction with a nonprofit advocacy group.
But that'll have to wait, at least for a little while. After all, she's got a baby to deliver -- the ultimate pro-life statement.