COMMENTARY | Voters in Mississippi will decide November 8 on Initiative 26 (MS-26) which would amend the state’s constitution to define a person as “every human being from the moment of fertilization, cloning, or functional equivalent thereof.” There would be no exceptions for rape or incest, and the ramifications on birth control could be significant.
“All persons are humans, no matter how small,” said Keith Mason, founder of Personhood USA , the fundamentalist religious group behind MS-26. “These people are created by God.”
“It’s an embryo,” said Walter Hoye, California pastor and president of the Issues 4 Life Foundation, a group pushing for similar legislation in California. “To call it a fertilized egg is dehumanizing.”
The vote in Mississippi has already re-energized the debate nationwide, and forced Republican presidential candidate Herman Cain to walk back statements when Rick Santorum said Cain’s was essentially a pro-choice position.
Supporters who argue the change will not affect birth control or either trying to be deceptive or don’t understand the science of fertilization or the way laws work. That’s the contention of opponents who see the measure as draconian.
What would happen if MS-26 passes is unclear. It cannot be legal standing, as no state can override the Constitution or the Supreme Court’s interpretation thereof. It would have a chilling effect, however. In my view, the movement is a sort of misogynists’ Jim Crow. It’s anti-woman, anti-choice, and anti-family. To grant personhood at conception flies in the face of science and relies wholly on the mythology of the fundamentalist, who imagines a bank of souls waiting in the ethos to inhabit an egg if it’s introduced to sperm.
That said, I’d rather see alternatives to abortion utilized, but freedom of reproductive choice enhanced. Mississippi leads the nation in teenage pregnancies. The state has the highest poverty rate in the nation. Citizens and elected officials could be looking for ways to help mothers and families instead of attacking their reproductive options.
Supporters of this type of initiative may see it as a way to eventually force the Supreme Court to reconsider Roe v. Wade, feeling they have their best shot in the Roberts court with Alito, Thomas, and Scalia on their side. If MS-26 passes, the case will likely end up there, but supporters may find that by attempting to be so ambiguous, they overplayed their hand. The result could be a high court ruling affirming abortion rights.
That was acknowledged by Joseph Latino, the Roman Catholic bishop of Jackson, Mississippi. He called the effort “noble,” but declined endorsing it, saying it “could ultimately harm our efforts to overthrow Roe v. Wade.”
It would be interesting to see just how many of the proponents of MS-26 are also on the movement to get legal prohibitions against Sharia Law enacted. They are against religious fundamentalism in government, except when it’s their religion.
From other Yahoo! Contributors:
In the End, it’s All Politics, by Rick Combe
Referendum Would Set Back Women’s Rights, by Katherine Cook
Too Ambiguous to be Passed, by Floyd Saunders
Initiative 26 Simply Setting a Standard, by Janoa Taylor