Gingrich Signs Personhood USA Pledge

Well, Newt Gingrich signed the Personhood pledge. True story: A few weeks ago, when Gingrich’s surge started, I said to a friend, “I’ll say this for Newt. If he were president, I don’t think he’d, like, allow the United States to go out of business and succumb to the mass anarchy of roving mobs by accident.” To which the person replied, “No, if Newt were president and that happened, it would be on purpose.”

The guy’s not stupid, in other words. He’s smart enough that when he recently spoke in favor of a national personhood amendment at the Thanksgiving Family Forum, and then got flack for it, he clarified that he thinks personhood begins at “successful implantation,” not fertilization. Perhaps he was thinking of how the personhood-at-fertilization definition—so decisively trounced in Mississippi—raised serious worries that assisted reproduction and hormonal birth control would become unavailable and/or illegal.

Except now he’s signing the pledge put forward by Personhood USA, which says . . .  the opposite. Indeed, spokeswoman Jennifer Mason had said just weeks ago, “If Newt Gingrich believes that life begins at implantation, he is scientifically incorrect. . .  Any human embryology textbook confirms that life begins at the moment of fertilization.”

So did he inexplicably change his mind, opting for the bluntest possible definition of fetal personhood and tossing out the slightly-less-blunt one he had previously espoused? Did he miss the salient difference between the two definitions? (That seems unlikely.) Or might it have something to do with the fact that Romney hasn’t signed the pledge, that neither Gingrich nor Romney (albeit for different reasons) are viewed without suspicion by evangelical Protestant Christians or conservative Catholics, and that Gingrich has made a shrewd calculation that this will endear him to the people put off by his extramarital affairs? I can only guess, but like my friend said, here’s a smart guy who does things on purpose.

sarah.morice.brubaker@ptstulsa.edu'

Sarah Morice-Brubaker is an assistant professor of theology at Phillips Theological Seminary in Tulsa, OK. In addition to writing for RD, she’s also written for The Christian Century, Dialogic Magazine, and Faith and Leadership. She has a chapter in the forthcoming edited volume from Ashgate, Placing Nature on the Borders of Religion, Philosophy, and Ethics.