More than 55% of voters in Mississippi yesterday rejected the state’s ‘personhood’ initiative—a development that certainly bodes well for reproductive rights in this country, and gives me a little more hope about our collective sanity, as well.
The proposed amendment to Mississippi’s state constitution—which would’ve officially declared that ‘life begins at fertilization’—was aimed at outlawing abortion but could have had implications far beyond that— a world where a fertilized egg is legally considered a person is a world where using any birth control that blocks a fertilized egg from implanting in the uterus (such as IUDs or Plan B) is tantamount to murder.
“It’s not even abortion, it’s not even pregnancy—that’s how far back this reaches,” Donna Crane, the policy director for NARAL Pro-Choice America, told Mother Jones. “It’s possibly the most extreme position you can take on this issue and far to the right of where most right-to-life individuals are.”
This isn’t the last we’ll hear about personhood—the folks behind the Mississippi initiative, Personhood USA, are trying to get similar measures on the 2012 ballots of at least six states, according to NARAL. Proposed constitutional amendments similar to the one advocated in Mississippi are in the works in Florida, Ohio, Montana, Oregon, Nevada and California. And Republicans in Congress, including Rep. Michele Bachmann, have also introduced personhood bills at the federal level.
So far, voters aren’t biting. The citizens of Colorado rejected such an amendment in 2008 and again in 2010. Activists in Alaska tried to get a personhood measure on this year’s ballot, but the state’s attorney general struck it down as ‘clearly unconstitutional.’
Of course, that’s kind of the idea—get one of these babies to pass somewhere, anywhere; get a legal battle going over its constitutionality; get the Supreme Court to have to weigh in on the legality of abortion in a way that totally circumvents Roe v. Wade. The personhood movement is a ploy as much as a plea.
For now, though, let’s take a moment to appreciate the 55% of voters in Mississippi who don’t believe abortion should be illegal in any and all circumstances and want to keep birth control like Plan B and the IUD as viable contraceptive options in their state. And if you want a really smart take on the personhood issue in general, go read Sarah Brown at the Washington Post, who marvels that anti-abortion efforts so rarely focus on “the most obvious and available remedy, which is the widespread, careful use of contraception.
Instead, we are presented with personhood propositions. Or the harassment of frightened, upset women at abortion clinics. Or severed public funding for birth control. Or lawsuits. Or murder.
How can this be? Are we to conclude from this deeply perverse state of affairs that that those who oppose abortion see contraception as equally repugnant? Isn’t it clear and obvious that contraception is preferable to abortion? That it presents far less of a moral challenge (perhaps no moral challenge at all) than abortion?
[...] What is the logic that leads those who oppose abortion down the personhood path rather than the prevention path?
Photo: The Atlantic