The Weekly Ringer

The University of Mary Washington Student Newspaper

Legislation Could Define When Life Begins

3 min read
Brace yourselves folks. Legislators in Mississippi believe they’ve answered the age-old question of what qualifies as a life in the eyes of the law, and that’s a fertilized egg.

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Brace yourselves folks. Legislators in Mississippi believe they’ve answered the age-old question of what qualifies as a life in the eyes of the law, and that’s a fertilized egg.

Legislators in Mississippi, Florida and Ohio are moving for a personhood constitutional amendment titled Proposition 26. This proposition would declare a fertilized human egg a legal person, thus deeming abortions and some forms of birth control as murderous.

Brad Prewitt, lawyer and executive director of the “Yes on 26” campaign, stated, “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.”

Personhood amendments like Proposition 26 would outlaw abortions in all instances including rape and incest, would bar some birth control methods including intrauterine device and “morning after pills” which prevent fertilized eggs from implanting in the uterus, as well as criminalize the destruction of embryos fertilized in laboratories.

The introduction of Proposition 26 has caused a schism within the anti-choice community, between those who view the amendments to be a step in the right and moral direction, and others, which include the traditional anti-abortion organization National Right to Life, and Roman Catholic bishops who have deemed the amendments “reckless” and undermining to the progress made in repealing Roe v. Wade.

The actions of Mississippi differ greatly from the approach taken by other states in respect to abortion legislation. States with adamant anti-abortion sentiments typically employ restrictive, bureaucratic, as well as financial tactics to limit abortion accessibility.

The Mississippi amendment has its sights set on sidestepping the abortion arguments and legal battles by extending the term “human” to include every human being from the moment of fertilization, cloning, or functional equivalent thereof.

Personhood amendments similar to that of Proposition 26 have been squashed twice in Colorado, despite the fact that Personhood USA is a Colorado based campaign. In hindsight, the defeats were a minor setback now that Mississippi has proved welcome ground for yet more violations of women’s rights. Mississippi is prime real estate for Personhood USA because the issue of abortion transcends party and racial lines, easily rallying candidates for the cause.

Dr. Randall Hines, a fertility specialist in Jackson who works with Mississippians for Healthy Families, has stated in opposition to the amendments, “the amendment reflects biological ignorance; most fertilized eggs do not implant in the uterus or develop further.” Hines goes on to say that “Once you recognize that the majority of fertilized eggs don’t become people, then you recognize how absurd this amendment is.”

Speaking on behalf of Mississippians for Healthy Families, Hines fears that the amendment would cause severe and unintended consequences for doctors and women dealing with ectopic or similarly dangerous pregnancies as well as for in vitro fertility treatments. Hines finishes by saying that, “they’ll be asking the Legislature, the governor and judges to decide what’s best for the patient.”

With the seeming lack of regard for the likelihood of a ruling of unconstitutionality, and the aims set to federal amendments the personhood campaign and Proposition 26 represent a real threat to us all, and I urge you all to hold your government representatives accountable to their constituency.

On Nov. 10, 2011, two instaces where the term “anti-choice” were used were changed to reflect correct AP style.  The correct term is “anti-abortion,” as now reflected in the article.