Mississippi voters are gearing up to vote on a measure that could redefine a fetus as a person with rights. On the November 7th ballot is Initiative 26, known by many as the “Personhood Amendment”, changing the legal definition of the word “person” or “persons” (terms used in Article 3 in Mississippi’s Constitution) to include “every human being from the moment of fertilization, cloning or the functional equivalent thereof”.
In layman’s terms, this amendment outlaws abortions at any stage of the pregnancy (even in cases of rape, incest, or in cases of ectopic pregnancy) by giving the right to life to the fetus rather than viewing the mother as the only one with legal rights.
Supporters of this initiative argue that human life starts from the moment of conception. Their main purpose to passing this initiative is to “protect life regardless of age, health, function, physical or mental dependency, or method of reproduction” (as quoted by the Christian Medical and Dental Associations). As Personhood USA, the group behind the initiative and the Personhood Movement puts it, “A person, simply put, is a human being. This fact should be enough. The intrinsic humanity of unborn children, by definition, makes them persons, and should, therefore, guarantee their protection under the law.”
But according to those who oppose this initiative, it goes deeper than that.
Their first concern is that the proposed measure does nothing to prevent unplanned pregnancy or teen pregnancy. Beyond abortions, the language in this initiative is so broad and vague it is actually endangering the use of birth control such as IUDs, birth control pills, or the morning-after pill. Most birth controls tend to thin the lining of the uterine wall. If a woman’s egg happens to become fertilized, this thinned lining is unable to support the pregnancy and the woman would miscarry. If Initiative 26 passes next week, a woman who miscarries in this manner could be guilty of homicide. As a result, it is doubtful that insurance companies would cover any form of birth control, thus stripping a woman of the opportunity to access affordable birth control. This will only lead to a drastic increase of unplanned pregnancies, a rise in women needing government assistance, an influx of poverty stricken families, and a whole new crop of problems for Mississippi in the snowball effect the passing of this initiative would have on the state.
Also threatened if this amendment passes is assisted fertility techniques like in-vitro fertilization. In the process of in-vitro, eggs are fertilized outside of the body and then implanted in the woman. Many of these fertilized eggs do not survive before implantation. By Initiative 26’s definition, each one of those eggs that have been fertilized but died could cause the mother and the doctor to face legal repercussions.
It is my personal opinion that passing Initiative 26 is a horrible idea. But why do I care since this is going on in Mississippi and not here? Because, first and foremost, it is silencing the reproductive rights of women in more ways than one, regardless of where this is occurring. Second, this affects not only residents of Mississippi, but college students from out of state, and any other woman who has reason to make medical decisions regarding their reproductive system in the state of Mississippi. Third, California could be next. Already there are groups gathering signatures in Florida, Montana, and Oregon to include this initiative on their state ballot.
If Mississippi passes this initiative, it will become law 30 days after the vote. It will undo all the advances medical science has done for the well being of family planning. And it will be a step backwards in the rights of women in Mississippi….and beyond.