How do you define life? Voters in Mississippi answered that question by rejecting a legal measure known as the "personhood amendment" Tuesday night. If it had passed, the “personhood amendment” would have effectively criminalized all forms of abortion, including circumstances when a woman’s life is in jeopardy. The amendment, also known as Prop 26, considers the inception of life to be the moment when an egg is fertilized, and as such, aims to give that egg human rights. Accordingly, if an egg is entitled to rights, abortion (even in cases of incest and rape), some types of birth control, and infertility methods that compromise eggs, will be outlawed. The amendment was rejected, but in spite of this, it has brought the tenuous relationship between women and the state to light.
Keith Mason, the president of Personhood USA, states: “Personhood is the key to all human rights. To be human is enough to have rights, and those rights should be in the law. We believe that by legally changing the definition of what a person is, it can undermine Roe v Wade and outlaw abortion.” The personhood measure doesn’t stop at just reversing Roe v Wade, targeting birth control and infertility treatments.
Mississippi is a good place for the personhood campaign to take hold. The state has the fifth highest rate of teen pregnancy in the United States. It also has a single abortion clinic; at least seven have been shut down since 1984. Both the Democratic and Republican candidates for governor of Mississippi are backed the amendment, though it failed to pass. The ballot had a 45% approval rate, 44% are opposed, and 11% undecided among those polled.
If the personhood measure was enacted embryonic rights would usurp the rights of women. A woman who has miscarried, or uses contraception, could be considered a murderer. Doctors who choose to save the life of a woman at the sake of an egg would be penalized under Proposition 26. The goal of the “personhood” amendment is to redefine what “person” constitutes, including “every human being from the moment of fertilization, cloning, or the equivalent thereof.”
Supporters of “personhood” hope that this redefinition is the first strep in overturning 1973’s Roe v Wade. In spite of the loss, further campaigns for Prop 26 are already planned for Ohio, South Dakota, Nevada, and California. Petitioning has begun in Colorado, Arkansas, Oklahoma, North Dakota and Nebraska, with signatures being collected in Florida and Oregon. Alabama has already begun the legislative process, and Wisconsin and Michigan are awaiting sponsorship. As Keith Mason puts it, “Pass or fail on the ballot, we are churning up, literally, a movement.”
Keith Mason is churning up a movement where government is in direct opposition to women’s rights. It is a movement where the loss of a woman’s life could be seen as nothing more than a casualty in a political battle. It is representative of an extreme gender war where men (who govern) decide that a woman is worth less, in the eyes of the law, than the potentially male fetus she is carrying. This year alone, 84 laws that restrict access to abortion have been passed. Prop 26 did not win the majority vote in Mississippi this Election Day, but that does not mean it is going away.
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