Note: More than 55% of voters said “no” to initiative 26. It fell far short of the percentage it needed to pass.
Today is election day all over the country. We are all taking part in local elections and deciding on which measures or initiatives to pass or defeat. One initiative, however, should really have everyone in this country sitting up and paying attention.
The state of Mississippi is voting today to decide on the definition of “personhood”. It is a thinly veiled attempt at getting around Roe vs. Wade. By redefining when “personhood” begins, it is the hope of people who are voting “yes” that legal abortions will be defined as murder. In fact, an individual responding on Facebook to something on of my cousins said noted that “bringing up these issues (which I will get to in a minute) are just pro-abortion liberals’ way of trying to slide legal abortions in under the radar.” Note the use of the word “legal”.
This post isn’t meant to debate whether or not Mississippi should make abortions illegal. If people in that state (or anywhere else, for that matter) want to take on Roe vs. Wade, have at it. That is their right to do so and it doesn’t matter whether anyone agrees or disagrees, just as it is also the right of anyone in this country to fight to keep it legal, whether anyone agrees or disagrees. I think pretty much anyone who hasn’t been living under a rock for the last forty years has an opinion on whether abortion should be legal or not. But what is at stake in the state of Mississippi has far greater implications than I think many people realize, and that is what I feel so strongly that I need to address here.
Before I go any further, let me post here the exact wording of what is being voted on today. Personhood Mississippi has the entire proposed amendment on its website. It reads as follows:
Be it Enacted by the People of the State of Mississippi: SECTION 1. Article III of the constitution of the state of Mississippi is hereby amended BY THE ADDITION OF A NEW SECTION TO READ: Section 33. Person defined. As used in this Article III of the state constitution, “The term ‘person’ or ‘persons’ shall include every human being from the moment of fertilization, cloning, or the functional equivalent thereof.” This initiative shall not require any additional revenue for implementation.”
Here’s where this is such a horrible idea. Fertility Authority asks the questions:
…if embryos from an IVF cycle do not develop normally in the lab or do not result in a live birth after embryo transfer, could the fertility doctor or lab be criminally liable? Will patients be prohibited from donating frozen embryos to research? Will laws like this take away a person’s rights of disposition over their embryos? Would non-IVF treatments such as artificial insemination be threatened because they carry the risk of miscarriage, and would a woman who suffers a miscarriage be subject to criminal charges? Who will have legal responsibility for fertilized eggs created during fertility treatment but not transferred to a woman’s uterus?
Birth control will become illegal, according to Personhood’s website. Here is a direct quote:
“Yes on 26 takes no position on birth control methods, which are contraceptive rather than abortive in their actions.”
Reason: We are opposed to those birth control methods which act as abortifacients. These could include forms of the pill which act to prevent implantation of the newly formed human into the lining of the womb; forms of the IUD, which can act the same; and prostaglandin suppository drugs, which act to cause delivery of whatever size baby the uterus contains.
I have no problem saying that I use birth control pills. But I don’t use them to control pregnancy. After 13 years of not getting pregnant, that ship has sailed. But my periods are ridiculously irregular. They stop in the middle and restart. Some are only two days long, some eight or nine. Some are so light I could probably get away with a Band-Aid, some are so heavy leaving the house isn’t usually a good idea. I get cramps so bad they knock the wind out of me and I can’t breathe. Birth control pills help even that out a little. But under this law, that would be illegal, leaving me to suffer unbearable every month.
According to this amendment, there are absolutely NO exceptions. But then this:
What about when a pregnancy threatens the life of the mother?
Some pregnancies may cause a life-threatening situation. An example is an ectopic pregnancy, where the pregnancy is not in the uterus but growing outside the uterus. It can cause internal bleeding and death.
Should the amendment pass, the fetus’ right to life is not greater than the mother’s right to life. Both would be equal. If both lives cannot be saved, then the doctor could save the mother’s life even if the fetus dies.
The legal principle of “self-defense” allows someone to act to protect themselves. If their life is threatened they can defend themselves even if it causes the death of whoever is threatening them. So the mother is allowed to defend herself to save her life even if it causes the death of the fetus.
The legal principle of “double effect” protects someone from blame for bad things that might happen in the course of helping someone in trouble. When someone pulls a man from a burning building and he is injured in the process, the rescuer is not blamed for the injury. So, a doctor may help a woman with a life-threatening pregnancy even if the fetus dies as long as his intent was to save the mother.
These principles are unaffected by the amendment. Amendment 26 does not stop a doctor from helping or force women to die due to pregnancy complications.
Nice on the surface, but take a look at this from the state of Illinois: CIVIL IMMUNITIES (745 ILCS 30/) Abortion Performance Refusal Act. This act directly states that physicians will be allowed to let women die rather than perform a life-saving abortion, and the physicians will no be prosecuted. I’m actually surprised Mississippi didn’t jump on this one as soon as Illinois even brought up a whisper of it.
Slate.com brought up a very important point that these all say “may” or “could”, not “should”. In other words, it’s a variation on the legislature in Illinois.
The point at which life begins is also hotly debated within the scientific community. Is it when sperm meets egg? When cell mitosis begins? Implantation? Or is it when the heart actually forms and begins to beat? If a zygote eventually splits completely, becoming twins, at what point was the twin a “person”? Is there a difference between when “life” begins and when “personhood” begins?
Some states have already passed legislation making abortions illegal after certain points during pregnancy. In Texas and Oklahoma a woman must have an ultrasound 24 hours before undergoing the procedure. North Carolina calls it the “Woman’s Right to Know Act”. In South Dakota there is an unprecedented 72 hour waiting period. Nebraska was the first state to enact a 20 week ban, also adopted by Indiana, Idaho, Kansas, and Oklahoma.
In Nebraska a woman who was just past the 20 week mark was forced to watch her baby die in her arms and then waited in the hospital for a week for infection to clear up. She very much wanted her baby, but her water broke way too early, leaving her with no amniotic fluid, without which the baby cannot survive. The law prevented her doctors from inducing labor, so rather than having a greater opportunity to actually save the baby, they had to wait it out for ten agonizing days. At that point, the mother had an infection that could have killed her. The pro-life organizations’ response was that it was better for the baby to die in the loving arms of her mother than to have labor induced early.
So, so many gray areas and such vague wording. The Facebook poster accused me of using examples that were “far-fetched” and “not likely to ever happen.” I sincerely hope so. But if you had told me ten years ago that what happened to the woman in Arizona was a possibility or the Illinois legislation were possible, or that pharmacists would be allowed to refuse to fill prescriptions for legal emergency birth control that prevents conception (before “personhood” begins, I would add), I would have said, “No way. Too far-fetched.”
If you would have told me that politicians would try to pass legislation to refuse funding for an organization that provides healthcare to impoverished women because it would free up non-taxpayer dollars to provide abortions and that politicians would grossly over inflate the numbers of abortions provided (only 3%) to accomplish this, I would have said, “No way would anyone let that happen to their wives, mothers, daughters, sisters, nieces.” (Indiana, Kansas, Ohio)
I know a lot of people in the political world and the blogosphere are referring to all of these things as a “War on Women”. I have actually been pretty hesitant to use this term because I think the word “war” is pretty extreme. On the other hand, I think there are times when “extreme” is an okay thing because, at the very least, it calls something to attention that might have otherwise gone unnoticed. We may not ever sway all the way over, but it gives us something to think about, a different view of things to consider. But I’m starting to wonder.
I’m wondering if these things could possibly be debated as unconstitutional? Oh wait…. that’s right… the Equal Rights Amendment still hasn’t passed!!
I have to believe the people who come up with these ideas have their hearts in the right places. The politicians, well, I’m not so sure they aren’t just trying to rally enough people to get themselves re-elected. But how far will we go? If I live in Mississippi, get pregnant, then miscarry, will my lifestyle be under scrutiny for the purpose of prosecution? My sister said it best when she said,
2011!! YAY PROGRESSIVE NEW MILLENIUM!! Will it really be? Whould women be allowed to vote? Should alcohol be legal? Is segregation even morally, much less legally, ever acceptable? How far back can I go with being mandated by the law what personal choices I’m allowed? If you don’t like it, don’t do it. Wow, you can drive an electric car, skype to your family, smoke pot medicinally in some states, program your DVR from your phone but now we should legally & medically go backwards??? Laws are in place for a reason & are just as important!
She went on to say that voting against this amendment does not make you less Christian. It does not make you pro-choice or any less anti-abortion. It makes you pro-women. It means you are intelligent enough to understand that this is vague, dangerous legislation. I’m so proud of my little sister I could burst.
What’s scary, though, is that because there is no amendment to the United States Constitution guaranteeing equal rights for women, anything goes. Laws can be made or rolled back because there is nothing that constitutionally prevents it from happening. I’m actually pretty astounded (although I shouldn’t be) that the state of Mississippi is spending its time voting on constitutionally guaranteeing the rights of a single-celled zygote but have not done the same for the women who grow, give birth to, and nurture the children these embryo go on to become.
All we need are three states to pass the Equal Rights Amendment. Ladies, we need to all wake up, and it doesn’t matter which side of the abortion debate we are on. Take a stand for women everywhere and for future generations. Please!
If you want abortions to remain legal, great. Take action. That is your right. If you want abortions to become illegal, great. Take action. That is your right. But please, please for the love of women everywhere, please don’t do it like this.