March 17, 2008— -- What is it about this children's book
That fills Dr. Seuss fans with such scorn?
Anti-abortion groups took a look
At Horton and they saw the unborn.
We all learned to read with the books written by Theodor Seuss Geisel and grew up with characters from the "Cat in the Hat" and "Yertle the Turtle" to the "Sneetches and the Grinch."
But do the books have a hidden meaning?
Since the 1980s, some anti-abortion rights groups have interpreted the book "Horton Hears a Who" as an anti-abortion parable.
If you don't remember, it's the tale of Horton the elephant who discovers a whole town of tiny people living on a speck of dust. Though his neighbors think he's crazy and make fun of him, Horton makes it his mission to protect his new friends, declaring his intention with the famous line:
"A person's a person no matter how small."
Despite the fact that the book was written in the 1950s, long before the legalization of abortion in 1973, the statement has become an anthem to legions of anti-abortion rights activists.
"Horton Hears a Who" has the message that every single person, no matter how small, deserves protection," says Kristi Burton, who leads Colorado for Equal Rights, a group that has drafted a state ballot initiative stating that life begins at conception.
"That's what our amendment is saying. Obviously, it uses legal language but it says the same thing."
Burton led a group of several dozen activists who attended the movie premiere of "Horton Hears a Who" in Denver Friday to praise the film's message and hand out T-shirts with Horton's famous statement.
That could get them in trouble with Dr. Seuss Enterprises, which represents the interests of the late author. According to Seuss biographer Phil Nel, Geisel threatened to sue an anti-abortion rights group during the 1980s that used the statement on its stationery, forcing them to back down.
Burton insists that her group talked to attorneys to make sure that they could reprint the sentence on their shirts. A lawyer for Dr. Seuss Enterprises did not return calls seeking comment.