Tomorrow is the big vote on Amendment 26, the Mississippi Personhood Amendment designed to protect all life, regardless of age, health, function, physical or mental dependency, or method of reproduction according to its supporters. Personhood supporters have been introducing this issue in multiple states, including Colorado, Georgia, North Dakota, in the past couple of years, and currently have an active petition going in all 50 states. Here’s the low down:
What exactly is Personhood about?
Personhood supporters are trying to enforce into law the personal belief that a zygote, the cell formed when an egg and sperm join, deserves the same legal consideration as a born human being. If this becomes law, then not only would abortion become illegal, but likely so would IVF, the morning after pill, and – though supporters like to dodge around this point – some, if not all, birth control.
Who supports this?
The usual suspects. Republican candidates, Live Action and other pro-life organizations, basically anyone who has been anti-choice and anti-birth control all along. You know, the people who stand on sidewalks and yell at you when you go into clinics, the ones who vote to let pharmacists shame you for trying to buy emergency contraception, the ones who use racist appropriation to compare zygotes’ personhood to the civil rights struggles of African and Native Americans? Those guys. And there are a lot of them.
What does it mean if it passes?
Lots of things, none of them good.
1) Good-bye abortion rights. Pretty self-explanatory, I think; even if there are still laws in place that make abortion legal, with a constitution that says a legal person with rights exists before the woman is even pregnant (conception/”personhood” occurs before implantation, which is the medical definition of pregnancy), that’s not going to last long.
2) IVF gets trickier. What about women who genuinely want to get pregnant but can’t without medical intervention? The freezing of embryos will be banned, meaning that women who need to undergo multiple courses of IVF will have to have eggs harvested each time, which is not easy. Plus, any egg that was successfully fertilized would be considered a person and could not be destroyed, nor could multiple pregnancies be selectively reduced, potentially leading to a large number of women experiencing twins, triplets, quadruplets, quintuplets…you get the idea.
3) Good bye to your birth control, and the morning after pill. Now you may ask, doesn’t hormonal birth control and emergency contraception work by preventing ovulation, so that there is no egg to fertilize in the first place? Yes, you logical thinker you! But because these methods could hypothetically prevent a fertilized egg from implanting by making the uterus an inhospitable environment, birth control is likely to be on the chopping block – especially the 99.9% effective non-hormonal IUD, which works by irritating the lining of the uterus to prevent implantation. If you think this seems far-fetched, consider that pro-life activists are already after your birth control and have been for a while now.
4) The criminalization of women will increase big time. We know that abortion will be at risk for becoming illegal, but what about miscarriage? How does one know that a woman didn’t cause the end of her pregnancy, now considered the death of a person with the same status as the living breathing mother, through her own actions? Can you imagine suffering the loss of a miscarriage and then having the police get involved? That is not as far-fetched as it sounds: some women find themselves in that situation already (you can find good examples here).
For more thoughts on the effects of Personhood laws, check out David Plotz’s article at Slate and Angela Castellano’s article on 150 Mexican women petitioning the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights to declare the state of Morelo’s personhood law a human rights violation.
What can be done to stop this?
- Pay attention to the Personhood supporters in your state! You can look on Personhood USA’s site to find your state and see what action is being taken.
- Sign up at the Planned Parenthood Action Network to follow what petitions, protests, or phone banks PP is doing, and join in!
- Start your own petition at Change.org and pass it around.
Most importantly, call your local government and let them know how you feel the moment a Personhood bill comes around. These bills have so far been defeated in every state and we can keep that trend going.