The Red Light District of Columbia

Sex, gender, and the law in Washington

Mississippi likely to approve “fetal personhood” amendment

Image of a black and white blastocyst and a stick figure person with a not equal to sign in the middle.

Proposition 26, a state constitutional amendment granting fertilized embryos the same rights as living, breathing people is likely to be approved in Mississippi on Nov. 8. The amendment would equate anything that prevents the implantation of a fertilized egg with murder. While this is certainly not the first attempt to grant fetal personhood, it is the first that has a chance of passing.

The amendment would not only outlaw abortion (even in cases of rape, incest, and likely when the health of the mother is at risk), but many forms of contraception as well. Intrauterine devices and all forms of hormonal contraception can prevent implantation of fertilized embryos, even if preventing fertilization is the first line of defense.

Personhood Colorado, the first group to attempt this kind of legislation, has talking points on the birth control issue: “By redefining [conception as the implantation of a fertilized embryo], the abortion and pharmaceutical industries could mislead women by selling them ‘contraceptives’ that in fact do not only prevent ‘conception’ but were also designed to kill the tiniest children by preventing implantation so they cannot continue to grow in their mother’s wombs. Such ‘contraceptives’ are not contraceptive, but are mechanical (IUD) or chemical (pills) abortifacient ‘birth control.’”

Straight from the horse’s mouth: this is about taking away your right to use anything except barrier methods and sterilization to prevent pregnancy.

Embryos created in the process of in vitro fertilization would present another problem: they could not be destroyed under this amendment.

The proposition has the support of both the republican and democrat candidates for governor, even though the democrat is worried about its effect on contraception and health care, according to the New York Times article linked above.

Personhood amendments have the anti-choice community divided. The U.S. Council of Catholic Bishops and National Right to Life groups oppose this tactic because they believe, hopefully correctly, that it will be overturned and possibly result in a stronger Roe v. Wade. These traditional groups prefer their method of chipping away at abortion rights, which has proven quite successful for them. Who needs a full-on assault on Roe that’s likely to fail when you’re doing such a great job limiting women’s access on a case-by-case basis?

The director of the Yes on 26 made a comment that seems to capture the spirit of the fetal personhood movement: “Personhood is bigger than just shutting down abortion clinics; it’s an opportunity for people to say that we’re made in the image of God.”

That godly image sure does have an awful lot of unhappily pregnant women in it.

  • 26 October 2011
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