Mississippians will vote on three constitutional amendments in the upcoming November election. Two of these amendments are great; the third is sheer jackassery.
I’ll leave the two amendments I support to others. I just want to talk about Initiative 26, the “Personhood Amendment.” This amendment is going to pass with a huge margin; it is a disaster.
There is no question that Roe v. Wade, 410 U.S. 113 (1973), is one of the most poorly reasoned acts of judicial activism in the past 100 years. Prior to Roe, the nation as a whole was moving towards the notion that abortion should be legal in at least some circumstances. In a few short years abortion had gone from being illegal in every state to legal in 10.
After Roe people who had never given abortion a second thought suddenly were against it – as well they should have been. It’s not only an issue of life, but an issue of state sovereignty, which involves millions of lives.
I support the repeal of Roe v. Wade. It’s terrible law. The federal government has no business sticking its nose into the business of the sovereign states. I support most efforts to frustrate the implementation of Roe. Now make no mistake, were Roe to be repealed tomorrow I would support some legal abortion in Mississippi (I do believe a woman who has been raped or who is not able to give legal consent has a federal right to an abortion under the 13th Amendment, but that there is no general right to abortion on demand under the 9th Amendment as provided for in Roe). My guess is that my position would lose, particularly given past federal interference in our affairs. But I don’t mind losing, so long as we as Mississippians are allowed to make the laws under which we live.
Now we come to the “Personhood Amendment.” In order to attack Roe, abortion opponents have been willing to do things that will throw our entire legal system out of kilter.
The Personhood Amendment is going to declare every embryo a person from the moment of conception. Virtually no rational person considers an embryo to be a human being.
It will almost certainly put a stop to in vitro fertilization, where several eggs are fertilized so that a few may be implanted. Yet in vitro fertilization actually promotes life, because without it many children would not be born.
And if we are now to declare all embryos persons, does that mean that next friends will be able to bring false imprisonment suits on behalf of all the frozen embryos of Mississippi? Will we need to appoint a guardian ad litem to every fertilized egg, and have a court hearing to hear arguments of whether or not it is in the best interests of the embryo to be implanted or not?
What are we to do about women whose life is endangered by their pregnancy. Note that I said that their life was actually endangered, not merely their “health,” the federal catch-all. Will a doctor be able to perform an abortion to save the life of the mother? What if there is an estranged husband who orders the doctor not to perform the abortion, even if the pregnancy will almost certainly kill his wife? Doctors shouldn’t have to put up with this, and it is going to affect all aspects of medical care that we receive.
And what about inheritance? If an embryo is declared a person, then when a pregnant woman dies her fetus will inherit a portion of her estate, throwing a real monkey wrench into our current system of descent and distribution. It’s quite possible that some cad who refuses to marry a girl could nevertheless inherit through a month-old fetus. The nutcases out there may not have a problem with this, but I do. And the above scenario only scratches the surface of the wills and estates problems that this amendment will cause.
The fact is that the Personhood Amendment will likely outlaw various forms of contraception. For example, IUDs often work by preventing a fertilized egg from implanting on the uterine wall. Once this amendment passes, any woman having sex while wearing an IUD will be guilty of attempted murder.
A lot of people who support this amendment give a wink and a nod and say it’s only going to be used to outlaw abortion. Well I’ve got news for you. Laws are made up of words and the laws mean what the words say. It’s a sorry judge indeed who doesn’t enforce the laws as they are written, whether he agrees with them or not.
There are a lot of poorly educated preachers going around supporting this amendment, and I’m sure they will carry the day. But friends, may I suggest when it comes to the issues of law and medicine that you might listen to lawyers and doctors. They actually know something about this, and they know this amendment is a terrible law.
Please vote NO on Initiative 26. And should anyone supporting this amendment want to pass an initiative seeking a national constitutional amendment repealing Roe v. Wade, I’m all in.
Saturday Open Thread – May 25th
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