What Mississippi’s Personhood Amendment Means To Women

Nov 08 2011 Published by under Uncategorized

For all the talk that conservatives do about small government, it is clear they don’t mean it. At least they don’t mean it when it comes to women and their reproductive health. It is just as clear that Mississippi’s so called “personhood” amendment has nothing to do with being pro-life.  Rather, it attempts to constitutionally reduce women of child bearing age to second class citizens.

One need only look at perspective of those supporting this proposition, on the meaning of being pro-life.  Some people who claim to be pro-life won’t think twice about a woman losing her life while bearing a child. Heck, they are even willing to risk a woman’s life when in all probability; the Zygote/embryo/fetus will not survive. Obviously in situations in which a woman’s life is threatened by a pregnancy, we are faced with an ethical dilemma.  Whose life matters more: the potential child or the person carrying the fetus?  But how does one claim to be pro-life when risking the woman’s life in the name of forcing her to endure a pregnancy in which the Zygote/embryo/fetus has no chance of survival?

In the case of the former, no one can make that decision lightly, nor should they.  However, it should not be decided in cookie cutter fashion by the state.  Some women may decide that ultimately, bearing the child is worth any risk that comes to her life.  Others may decide the opposite, for a variety reasons.

Today, the people of Mississippi will vote on the so called “personhood” amendment to their constitution.   Proposition 26 would:

“…amend the Mississippi Constitution to define the word “person” or “persons”, as those terms are used in Article III of the state constitution, to include every human being from the moment of fertilization, cloning, or the functional equivalent thereof.”

According to Raw Story, this proposed amendment to Mississippi’s constitution goes much further than the already extreme position of banning abortion in all circumstances.

Proposition 26, if enacted, would bring about a total ban on abortions, with no exceptions for rape or incest. The state is voting on whether to define a “person” as “every human being from the moment of fertilization, cloning, or the equivalent thereof.” It would also ban birth control, the morning after pill, and cause legal problems from women seeking in vitro fertilization. It would also require authorities to investigate some women who suffer miscarriages, as a lost pregnancy could potentially be construed as a murder under the right circumstances.


A few questions come to my mind when thinking about this proposition. What happens to the personhood of the expectant mother?  If some interpretations of the implications stemming from this proposition are correct, this proposal effectively makes the expectant mother a lesser person.

As noted by thinkprogress:

Worse, because the proposed legislation could make any effort to terminate a pregnancy a criminal act, it could also bar doctors from saving the lives of women with ectopic pregnancies, which are never viable and need to be terminated as soon as possible.

According to the Mayo Clinic:

An ectopic pregnancy can’t proceed normally. The fertilized egg can’t survive, and the growing tissue may destroy various maternal structures. Left untreated, life-threatening blood loss is possible. Early treatment of an ectopic pregnancy can help preserve the chance for future healthy pregnancies.

Some people suggest is merely a medical condition like any other.  No, it is not the same as a cold, or a hangnail.  Ectopic pregnancies put the woman’s life at risk even though the odds of the zygote/embryo/fetus surviving are non-existent.  Moreover, if the woman survives a failure to treat an ectopic pregnancy it means she is less like to successfully bear children in the future.

Since we do have a medical procedure to save the woman’s life, though it would be banned under this proposal, how is failing to actively save her life any less a murder, then making it a criminal offense to use birth control because that could prevent a Zygote from attaching to the women’s womb?  How are any of the consequences in this scenario consistent with being pro-life?

How much government would it take to monitor each and every conception in Mississippi?  How does such monitoring coincide with the conservative mantra of “small government?”  What about in cases of miscarriage in which there is a mandatory requirement to determine if the miscarriage was intentional?  To give you some perspective, roughly 25% of pregnancies end in miscarriage.  What happens to the woman’s constitutional right to the presumption of innocence?

Advocates of this proposition also have the audacity to argue in cases of rape or incest, so what if the woman is “inconvenienced” a little.  She can always give her rapist’s child up for adoption, if after carrying it for nine months she feels she would be inconvenienced a little.

Inconvenienced?  No.  Inconvenience is waiting half an hour for a table at a restaurant.  Forcing a woman to bear her rapist’s child is just plain cruel.  Rape is about a man imposing himself on a woman in the name of having power over her.  Some women may choose to carry the zygote/embryo/fetus and either give the born child up for adoption or raise the born child herself.  However, it should be her choice.  Not something imposed on her by the state.

I really hope that the people of Mississippi will see this for what it is – an attempt to reduce women to second class citizens.

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