In less than two weeks, voters in Mississippi will vote on a "personhood amendment," declaring that human life begins at conception. Sponsored by anti-choice extremists, proposition 26 would outlaw not just abortion, but also most forms of birth control.
If question 26 passes, it won't be the first time we in the coastal metropolises roll our eyes at the backwardness of that particular state. The personhood amendment will be immediately challenged on constitutional grounds, and could be stricken down by the courts in an expedient fashion, rendering the only real damage the colossal waste of taxpayer's money.
(Note to proponents of austerity: All amendments are really expensive).
So why do I, secure in my oasis in the heart of blue state America, care? Why am I suddenly encouraging carpet bagging?
I have three main reasons:
Because if the personhood bit passes in Mississippi, other states will be more likely to try similar initiatives. Because any interference with a woman's right to choose makes my blood boil. And because the presumptive nominee of one of the major political parties doesn't seem to have a problem with legislating that life begins at conception.
The trouble, as alert Iowan Beth Schopis observed at a Romney town meeting this week, is that the most popular forms of contraception don't necessarily prevent conception. They avoid pregnancy by preventing implantation.
Anti-choice extremists believe that interfering with the implantation of a fertilized egg constitutes abortion. Lunacy, I know, especially when you consider that over 99 per cent of sexually active heterosexual women have used contraceptives (according to the Guttmacher Institute). But there you have it. Mississippi's question 26 would outlaw the pill, the IUD, and various other hormonally based methods of contraception, as well as the morning after pill (which is already tough to come by in many parts of this country).
The amendment's fallout wouldn't even stop there.
IVF? Forget about it. Fertility clinics are death camps for embryos. Sure, you can put the good ones on ice for years, but anyone who's ever read the first thing about assisted reproductive technology knows that the clinics fertilize way more eggs than they use. So what becomes of the B-list blastocytes? Down the drain.
Should the state really be calling this homicide?
What about fetal stem cell research? I'm guessing that's to be outlawed as well. Not that Mississippi was really in the hunt, in terms of attracting world class researchers to their state anyway.
Would rendering all abortion homicide have a chilling effect on the professional discretion of doctors faced with terminating a pregnancy in order to save a patient's life? What about the other frequently cited exceptions in abortion jurisprudence? Do we really want to classify the dispensation of the morning after pill to a rape or incest victim as murder? Isn't this starting to feel awfully Orwellian?
What makes me angriest of all is that Romney, the proponents of Mississippi's question 26, and indeed a huge majority of the right wing in general and self-described Christians in particular, seem to espouse as Gospel Barney Frank's old quip that the republicans believe life begins at conception and ends at birth.
Mississippi is one of the poorest places in America. It has a lousy education system, high unemployment and inadequate health care. A staggering 38 per cent of the state's ACTUAL CHILDREN live below the poverty line. Will this personhood amendment do anything to alleviate their suffering?
Should any major party candidate, but especially one who's running on his economic prowess, endorse such an idiotic, nonsensical, and hopefully Constitutionally doomed measure? And why am I hurling all these annoying questions at you from atop my soapbox?
Because the fact that a major party's presumptive nominee (and his main rivals, for that matter) seem to feel ambivalent at best about not just a woman's right to choose, but her right to prevent pregnancy in the first place.
Even if a caveman dresses in designer suits, speaks Harvard MBA and lives in a $12 million dollar beach house, he's a still a cave man. One no feminist should feel the least bit comfortable with.
Here's the link to Rachel Maddow's fantastic segment: