How would you feel if your doctor declared, “No more birth control for you!” Or what if your life was at risk because you had an ectopic pregnancy and doctors wouldn’t operate on you for fear of being charged with murder?
Openly talking about and seeking treatment for our reproductive health with our doctors and then making decisions that we each individually decide are right for us based on that medical advice is something that pretty much every woman in America has done at one time or another. We rely especially on our OB/GYNs as we navigate the variety of medical issues that arise over our reproductive lifetimes.
But if some people in Mississippi get their way this week, those decisions would be made by the state and some could become criminal acts.
On November 8, if the voters of Mississippi approve Initiative 26, which is also being called the “personhood amendment,” it would be the first state to alter its constitution to give full legal rights that its citizens currently have to fertilized human eggs at the moment of conception.
The language of the amendment may seem simple, but the implications for women and their health goes way beyond choosing sides in one of the hottest political debates in America. Initiative 26 states:
“Should the term person be defined to include every human being from the moment of fertilization, cloning or the equivalent thereof?”
Proponents of the effort claim that passage of the amendment is merely the next logical step in their efforts to ban abortions to protect unborn children. But the actual consequences of such a constitutional provision could eventually mean that various common forms of birth control, like the IUD, the morning-after pill and, possibly birth control pills, would be viewed as forms of abortion and could be outlawed.
Are you ready for that?
Reasonable people can differ on whether they support a woman’s right to an abortion or under what circumstances they should be allowed. But women still have a constitutionally protected right to have an abortion, even though some state laws and Supreme Court opinions since Roe v. Wade, which was decided in 1973, have restricted the circumstances under which they can occur. If Mississippi passes Initiative 26, not only would all abortions be outlawed in that state, even in the cases of rape, incest or the life of the mother, certain types of birth control could be outlawed, procedures related to ectopic pregnancies – a potentially life-threatening condition where a fertilized egg implants itself in a woman’s fallopian tubes rather than in the uterus – could be forbidden, and, if taken to its logical conclusion, women could potentially face criminal prosecution if someone deems their miscarriage as suspect.
The Mississippi State Medical Association has gone on the record as opposing the initiative because of the myriad issues it would present for women’s health, including a doctor’s ability to decide what’s in the best medical interests of his or her patient, and whether doctors could be charged with murder or wrongful death by performing certain, regular medical procedures.
Think that some of the darker scenarios sound extreme? Do you believe that we would never live in an America where women’s lives would be considered less valuable than that of a zygote?
Obviously, each one of us can have different views on abortion, the Mississippi initiative, and the current political climate promoting it, as well as similar legislative efforts pending in several other states. But with the potential passage of a state constitutional amendment that is as seemingly extreme as Initiative 26, I can’t help but remember the fictional world of The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood, a novel that explored a future dystopian world where women’s choices about having and raising children were stripped from them and made by the
Odds are that even with a U.S. Supreme Court majority that’s not a friend to Roe v. Wade, if the Mississippi amendment is approved by voters, ultimately it would be ruled unconstitutional. But that would still give Mississippi years to pass and enforce laws needed to implement the constitutional amendment that could, for a period of time, force hospitals to turn away women who are miscarrying, criminalize certain birth control methods, and suspend fertility treatments.
Stranger things have happened. And we live in a country where extreme views are trumping rational thought more each day. Keep a close on eye Mississippi, because of the Initiative 26 folks win, they’ll be headed to your state next.