Vote NO on Mississippi personhood initiative

In no way should a fertilized egg be recognized as a person. Period. Voters in Mississippi today will get to decide that measure, which many said is a back-door attempt to void abortion rights granted to women in the state.

The question, which asks voters to give legal status to a fertilized egg, can set the stage for a slew of legal problems in the state.

The process of interpreting and implementing the amendment is likely to be complicated and fraught with legal challenges, considering the word “person” appears more than 9,000 times in the Mississippi constitution. The law would unequivocally ban abortion, with no exceptions for rape, incest, or life of the mother, but advocates on both sides argue about the legal implications beyond abortion. The initiative could be interpreted to ban emergency contraception as well as the regular birth control pill, which can both affect a fertilized egg’s ability to attach to the uterus. It could also complicate the legality of in vitro fertilization, which can result in a number of unused embryos, and stem cell research.

The “personhood” amendment raises other, murkier questions: If every fetus is considered a person, does this affect voter districting? Would a woman who is three weeks pregnant be able to claim her fetus as a dependent on federal tax forms, or in claims for government assistance? If a woman who doesn’t know she’s pregnant engages in some negligent activity that leads to a miscarriage, could someone prosecute her on behalf of the embryo?

“This law can go to the silliest and most radical extreme if you take it literally,” said Michele Alexandre, a civil rights law professor at the University of Mississippi. “If this passes, all heads will turn to the legislature to figure out how to implement it, but the law gives no guidance as to how to do that. It can reach into so many spheres — the combinations are endless.”

“To try to figure out what it would mean to impose this standard definition that always includes an egg, embryo and fetus could have consequences we couldn’t even speculate about, because we haven’t thought of them,” said Alexa Kolbi-Molinas, staff attorney for the American Civil Liberties Union. (SOURCE)

Sadly, some experts are predicting the measure could either squeak by or could be rejected by a razor-thin margin.

Measures like this aren’t designed to protect the rights and privileges of the unborn. They aren’t designed to stand up and give a voice to whom they believe are people inside a woman’s uterus.

They are designed to simply roll back Roe V. Wade and are a clever way to take away the right for women to seek an abortion. Referendums such as these could not only make birth control illegal, but could also set the stage for local coroners or prosecutors to investigate when a woman has a miscarriage.

It’s not rocket science as to why doctors have come out against the measure.

“The thing that we’re mainly concerned about is our physicians’ ability to take care of our sisters and our daughters and our mothers in ways that we’ve been taking care of them for 100 years,” said Dr. Tom Joiner, a family practitioner who is also president of the state medical association. “What this thing is doing is it’s taking it out of the realm of medical decisions into the realm of legal decisions.” 

Joiner and other opponents of Initiative 26 are concerned that by attempting to criminalize abortion, the initiative will criminalize routine medical practice that intentionally or not terminates a pregnancy. There is no mention in the initiative of an exception for pregnancies resulting from rape or incest, nor for the health of the mother, as in the case of life-threatening conditions such as ectopic or molar pregnancies. (In an ectopic pregnancy the fertilized egg implants outside the uterus, most often in the fallopian tube; in a molar pregnancy the fertilized egg becomes an abnormal growth such as a tumor rather than a fetus.) 

“These pregnancies were not meant to go on to be people and we don’t think calling them persons is going to do any good for the patients that carry them nor the pregnancies themselves,” said Tupelo obstetrician-gynecologist Dr. Wayne Slocum, vice chair of the Mississippi section of the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. 

Slocum said because ectopic and molar pregnancies never result in live births, casting those fertilized eggs as “persons” does not make sense. “They just need to be treated either with medication or surgery,” he said. “If not the mother can bleed to death or have dire consequences.”

The Mississippi personhood question is not in the best interest of the mother and her health. It’s not in the best interest of the state. The personhood question is about reducing women to second-class citizenship by possibly forcing her to carry to term a pregnancy that could eventually become a danger to her health. It’s about revoking her right to an abortion if she so chooses. It’s about shoving the retroactive anti-abortion agenda down the throats of the public at large. It’s about anti-abortion activists bypassing the judicial system to directly challenge Roe v. Wade.

Tell so-called pro-life, anti-abortion activists that you value a woman’s right to choose and vote NO on the Mississippi personhood question.