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yolland 10-26-2011 07:58 PM

Personhood Amendments
New York Times, Oct. 26

A constitutional amendment facing voters in Mississippi on Nov. 8, and similar initiatives brewing in half a dozen other states including Florida and Ohio, would declare a fertilized human egg to be a legal person, effectively branding abortion and some forms of birth control as murder. With this far-reaching anti-abortion strategy, the proponents of what they call personhood amendments hope to reshape the national debate.

Many doctors and women’s health advocates say the proposals would cause a dangerous intrusion of criminal law into medical care, jeopardizing women’s rights and even their lives. The amendment in Mississippi would ban virtually all abortions, including those resulting from rape or incest. It would bar some birth control methods, including IUDs and “morning-after pills,” which prevent fertilized eggs from implanting in the uterus. It would also outlaw the destruction of embryos created in laboratories.

The amendment has been endorsed by candidates for governor from both major parties, and it appears likely to pass, said W. Martin Wiseman, director of the John C. Stennis Institute of Government at Mississippi State University. Legal challenges would surely follow, but even if the amendment is ultimately declared unconstitutional, it could disrupt vital care, critics say, and force years of costly court battles.

The drive for personhood amendments has split the anti-abortion forces nationally. Some groups call it an inspired moral leap, while traditional leaders of the fight, including National Right to Life and the Roman Catholic bishops, have refused to promote it, charging that the tactic is reckless and could backfire, leading to a Supreme Court defeat that would undermine progress in carving away at Roe v. Wade.

The approach, granting legal rights to embryos, is fundamentally different from the abortion restrictions that have been adopted in dozens of states. These try to narrow or hamper access to abortions by, for example, sharply restricting the procedures at as early as 20 weeks, requiring women to view ultrasounds of the fetus, curbing insurance coverage and imposing expensive regulations on clinics. The Mississippi amendment aims to sidestep existing legal battles, simply stating that “the term ‘person’ or ‘persons’ shall include every human being from the moment of fertilization, cloning or the functional equivalent thereof.”

A similar measure has been defeated twice, by large margins, in Colorado. But the national campaign, promoted by Personhood USA, a Colorado-based group, found more receptive ground in Mississippi, where anti-abortion sentiment crosses party and racial lines, and where the state already has so many restrictions on abortion that only one clinic performs the procedure. In 2009, an ardent abortion foe named Les Riley formed a state personhood group and started collecting the signatures needed to reach the ballot. Evangelicals and other longtime abortion opponents have pressed the case, and Proposition 26 has the support of a range of political leaders. Its passage could energize similar drives brewing in Florida, Michigan, Montana, Ohio, Wisconsin and other states. Mississippi will also elect a new governor on Nov. 8. The Republican candidate, Lt. Gov. Phil Bryant, is co-chairman of Yes on 26 and his campaign distributes bumper stickers for the initiative. The Democratic candidate, Johnny DuPree, the mayor of Hattiesburg and the state’s first black major-party candidate for governor in modern times, says he will vote for it though he is worried about its impact on medical care and contraception.

Conservative Christian groups including the American Family Association and the Family Research Council are firmly behind the proposal.

Dr. Randall S. Hines, a fertility specialist in Jackson working against Proposition 26 with the group Mississippians for Healthy Families, said that the amendment reflects “biological ignorance.” Most fertilized eggs, he said, do not implant in the uterus or develop further. “Once you recognize that the majority of fertilized eggs don’t become people, then you recognize how absurd this amendment is,” Dr. Hines said. He fears severe unintended consequences for doctors and women dealing with ectopic or other dangerous pregnancies and for in vitro fertility treatments. “We’ll be asking the Legislature, the governor, judges to decide what is best for the patient,” he said.

Keith Mason, president of Personhood USA, said he did not agree that the Supreme Court would necessarily reject a personhood amendment. The ultimate goal, he said, is a federal amendment, with a victory in Mississippi as the first step.

BVS 10-26-2011 08:11 PM


trojanchick99 10-26-2011 08:26 PM

This makes me ill. Women are just walking incubators to these people.

deep 10-26-2011 08:46 PM

I got to believe there are a lot of fertilized human eggs at in-vitro centers that will be murdered, or do they expect them to be given the full right to life.

corianderstem 10-26-2011 08:52 PM

With apologies to Ms. Simone for co-opting her song, but the title sums up all the things I'm trying to say right now, even if the lyrics are about something else.

Nina Simone - Mississippi Goddam - YouTube

INDY500 10-26-2011 09:31 PM

'Bout time someone spoke truth-to-power for the disenfranchised zygote community.


yolland 10-26-2011 10:03 PM

^ Great, so your illustration for that is a sperm cell. Figures. :rolleyes:

(j/k ;) )

Originally Posted by corianderstem (Post 7392116)
even if the lyrics are about something else.

They're not entirely unrelated...it remains a deeply paternalistic social culture, and while rhetorical abstractions about conception and the rights of zygotes might genuinely be central in the dedicated activist's mind, that's not how most of the people who'll vote 'Yes' on this think about it.

INDY500 10-26-2011 10:12 PM


Best I can do.

KhanadaRhodes 10-27-2011 01:00 AM

what's hilarious is mississippi was one of the minority where rape was legal (though only because of rape) before roe vs. wade.

this whole thing just infuriates me so much.

yolland 10-27-2011 01:07 AM

^ Yeah, well, three guesses what the likely thinking behind that exception was. (Although I think you may have made a wording error there...)

KhanadaRhodes 10-27-2011 01:44 AM

hahahaha, oh wow. i won't edit that so everyone can laugh at my stupidity. :lol:

and yeah, i bet i know why that was so.

INDY500 10-27-2011 08:05 AM

Occupy The Womb

anitram 10-27-2011 01:25 PM

What a ridiculous proposal this is.

It is also essentially legally untenable.

What are you going to do? Have medical doctors report every miscarriage to ensure that there was no "murder"? Women who have miscarried be questioned by the police?

Tiger Edge 10-27-2011 02:07 PM

I'm all for giving cells of any kind individual rights. Imagine the genocide that happens in hair salons on a daily basis. I will not stand for this!! If God wanted our hair to be cut, we would have been born with scissors on our hands.

BVS 10-27-2011 02:21 PM

I want to make sure I have right.

So group of cells = person

Corporation = person

Immigrants = person unless they're brown

Homosexuals = lesser of a person


Black person = scary person

Did I miss anyone?

corianderstem 10-27-2011 02:42 PM


Originally Posted by anitram (Post 7392707)
Have medical doctors report every miscarriage to ensure that there was no "murder"? Women who have miscarried be questioned by the police?

Wasn't there another state who had tried to pass legislation about having to report miscarriages or something like that? With the intent to be preventing miscarriages that were caused by the mother in lieu of abortion? I'm not remembering the details, but I recall reading discussion about the possible implications of having something like that on the books.

deep 10-27-2011 02:54 PM

after a woman has sex, she should be put under house arrest for 45-60 days, just to make sure no "person' is inside of her that could secretly become a homicide.

of course if the women want to volunteerenly go in and pay a pro-life doctor for a blood test to determine if they have a person inside of them early, the house arrest could be suspended.

yolland 10-27-2011 03:52 PM


Originally Posted by BVS (Post 7392742)
Did I miss anyone?

Yeah. Woman = Person, unless known, found, or reasonably suspected to perhaps be occupied by another Person comprising one or more embryonic cells, in which case the most basic right associated with being a free Person is ipso facto suspended.

Like anitram said, it's untenable if enforced, which is why NRLC and the Catholic Church are opposing it. But a pretty stark illustration of how dramatically the discourse--not necessarily the attitudes--have changed since pre-Roe days (remember the tape of Nixon lamenting "Abortions encourage permissiveness...A girl gets knocked up...she goes down to the doctor, wants to get an abortion for $5 or whatever" and Chuck Colson agreeing, yes, legalized abortion leads to female "promiscuousness"?) It wasn't the personhood of zygotes that concerned them, and it won't be what concerns most of these voters either.

Originally Posted by corianderstem (Post 7392757)
Wasn't there another state who had tried to pass legislation about having to report miscarriages or something like that?

I think you might be recalling this story?

kramwest1 10-28-2011 04:43 PM


Originally Posted by BVS (Post 7392742)
I want to make sure I have right.

So group of cells = person

Corporation = person

Immigrants = person unless they're brown

Homosexuals = lesser of a person


Black person = scary person

Did I miss anyone?

The Unemployed = lesser of a person

Diemen 10-28-2011 05:00 PM


Originally Posted by kramwest1

The Unemployed = lesser of a person

Are you proposing a new 3/5ths amendment? :wink:

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