Mississippi is gearing up for a November election that may effectively ban abortion and some forms of birth control, labeling them as murder under a new state constitutional amendment.
The state’s ‘Personhood Amendment,’ aims to redefine when a person becomes a person, and would classify a fertilized human egg to be a legal person. The push to redefine personhood will also be on the ballot in six other states this fall, including Ohio and Florida, two political battlegrounds.
Proponents of the amendment argue that the bill is not only a legal issue, but also a moral one.
“I view it as transformative,” Brad Prewitt, a lawyer and executive director of the Yes on 26 campaign, told the New York Times. “Personhood is bigger than just shutting abortion clinics; it’s an opportunity for people to say that we’re made in the image of God.”
Opponents of the bill, however, point out dangerous side-effects. Along with effectively outlawing abortion (because it “kills” a fertilized egg), it would even ban pregnancy termination in cases of rape and inscest, because as Dr. Freda Bush says, “It doesn’t matter whether you’re rich or poor, black or white, or even if your father was a rapist!”
Doctors in Mississippi are also worried that the amendment would also ban many birth control methods, including IUDs and “morning-after pills,” which prevent fertilized eggs from implanting in the uterus.
Health officials say the personhood amendment’s assertion that life begins at fertilization is a matter of “biological ignorance” because most fertilized eggs never implant in a woman’s uterus or develop further.
Dr. Randall S. Hines, a fertility specialist in Jackson, Mississippi told the New York Times: “Once you recognize that the majority of fertilized eggs don’t become people, then you recognize how absurd this amendment is.”
Despite limiting the reproductive rights of women, Republican and Democratic gubernatorial candidates (which includes Johnny DuPree, the state’s first black major-party candidate) are endorsing the bill, which looks like it may pass in Mississippi, one of the most conservative states in the union.
The ‘Personhood Amendment’ has not only been decried by pro-choice activists and medical professionals, but many pro-lifers are torn about it as well. While it enjoys support in Mississippi, anti-abortion groups like the National Right to Life and the Roman Catholic bishops are not supporting Mississippi’s bill because they feel it will ultimately damage the possibility of overturning Roe v. Wade at the Federal level.
Whether or not Mississippi’s ‘Personhood Amendment’ becomes law remains to be seen, but one thing is clear: Anti-abortion activists, and many in Congress, are working overtime to limit the reproductive rights of women.