Keith Mason, a leader of the “personhood” movement, which seeks to ban abortion by defining human embryos as full-fledged people with legal rights, says his family home came under attack last week, with vandals hurling a boulder that shattered the glass of the front door and spray-painting images of red coat-hangers on his sidewalk and home.
The attack, which happened last Wednesday morning around 1:30 a.m., Mason says, followed a Newsweek profile of Mason and his wife, who run a nonprofit group called Personhood USA, based in Denver. The group, which believes human life begins the moment egg meets sperm, is collecting signatures in several states to bring personhood to state ballots this fall. The Newsweek article did not include the family’s home address.
Mason says he was awake at the time of the attack. “I was in the basement, catching a movie and having a beer, to just chill,” Mason says. “I heard a loud noise and thought one of our kids had fallen down the stairs." Mason says he ran upstairs from the basement, then "ran through a bunch of glass" and "saw red." He describes the scene as "surreal—I didn’t know if it was blood on the glass or what. It turned out to be spray paint. There was red paint all over the side of our house. They spray-painted coat-hangers all over my sidewalk and door. We called 911. The police were there within three minutes.”
Mason says the vandals had “yanked down” the security lights on the home as well. “We got up and left and tried to find a hotel room, but they were all booked from the fires,” Mason says, referring to the wildfires forcing people from their homes in Colorado. “We literally knocked on a friend’s home at 4 a.m.”
Mason says his family has now moved to an undisclosed location and does not plan to return home.
Mason jokes that he hadn’t expected to inspire people to “redecorate his home,” but adds that his three kids were “pretty traumatized,” and that his son started crying when a vacuum-cleaner salesman knocked on the door in the days after the attack. Mason says of the vandals, “There was a tricycle in our front yard. I just don’t get that. I’m told there’s some really bad cats out there.”
Cheri Stottke, a Denver police investigator, confirmed the attack on Mason’s home and said police are searching for suspects.
The online clashes focus heavily on the potential effects of personhood laws on women’s reproductive rights.
Pro-choice activists argue that any contraceptives that prohibit an embryo from implanting in the womb would become illegal if an embryo is, by law, a person. According to the FDA, the copper IUD and morning-after pill can prohibit implantation, although the science behind that thinking has been contested. In-vitro fertilization could also come under threat, opponents say, as the process can result in discarded embryos. Mason says he does not believe IVF should be banned, but “reformed.” He says he does not oppose birth control, but rather pills or devices that “kill a living human being.”
Pro-life activists criticized their opponents, meanwhile, with one site saying the Newsweek story, which it described as “fairly reported” and “balanced,” “scares abortion activists.”
On The Daily Beast, the story sparked a war of words as well. However, when some of the comments turned vicious and personal, the site closed the comments section.