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The facts about Amendment 26

 

Since the Pill hit the U.S. market in 1960, millions of women have been prescribed this method of birth control, and more than 12 million American women are currently taking it. 

These women are both young and old, single and married. Though they may be from different backgrounds, every woman who has taken the Pill has one thing in common: She is taking a rational and responsible approach to her sexual health and family planning.

But on Nov. 8, birth control could become illegal in the state of Mississippi; yet another unintended consequence of Initiative 26. This so-called “Personhood Amendment” will change the legal definition of the word “person” in Article 111 of the state constitution to include “every human being from the moment of fertilization, cloning or the functional equivalent thereof.”

Personhood USA, the main force backing the movement, was first attempted in Colorado in 2008. After two failed attempts at amending the Colorado constitution in both 2008 and in 2010, the organization set its sights on Mississippi. While Initiative 26 would achieve the organization’s agenda of illegalizing abortion in the state, the proponents continually fail to address the drastic and sweeping consequences that will arise with the very vague language of the proposed amendment.

When addressing sensitive topics like abortion, I choose to present only the facts. Whether you are anti-abortion or not, religious or not, your vote should be “no” on Nov. 8, and here is why.

Unlike other anti-abortion movements that are solely about abortion, Personhood USA’s tactics overshoot its goal, raising far more questions than it answers. For example, defining “personhood” at conception would allow for the criminal prosecution of women who miscarry. An estimated 15 percent of all pregnancies end in a natural miscarriage. Would that mean a woman could be charged with involuntary manslaughter? Murder?

Would law enforcement be obligated to open and investigate a case with every miscarriage? Amendment 26 fails to address these implications.

Amendment 26 would effectively outlaw birth control, and this is why. In addition to blocking egg fertilization, most brands of the birth control pill thin the lining of the uterine wall. This thinning means that on the off-chance that an egg is fertilized, it is prevented from attaching to the uterus altogether, and the woman essentially “miscarries.” 

This secondary mechanism helps to make the birth control pill 99.9 percent effective, but is also what would call its legality into question should Amendment 26 pass in November.

Abortion is a complex, sensitive and difficult issue to address. Whereas many anti-abortion activists would permit exceptions to women who were victims of incest or rape, or in the case of a pregnancy endangering the life of the mother, the Personhood Amendment makes no room for such provisions. A woman is compelled to carry the child to term no matter the circumstances, even if her life is at risk.

Amendment 26 could illegalize clinically assisted fertility techniques like in vitro fertilization. The procedure involves implanting zygotes that are fertilized outside of the body back into a woman’s uterus, and many do not survive this process. Since the Personhood Amendment would define each fertilized egg as a person, both the mother and the doctor conducting the procedure would face legal repercussions.

Amendment 26 will deny essential health and reproductive options and services to all women living in the state of Mississippi, not only Mississippi residents. There are thousands of out-of-state women at Ole Miss alone (myself included), and the university accepted an unprecedented number of out-of-state students in this year’s freshman class. Each and every one of those women will be affected by this amendment. Does this mean that we would have to get our prescriptions filled in Memphis? Could we have it sent to us? Or would it be treated as “controlled substance”, illegal to have at all? 

This is just another example of where Amendment 26 raises more questions than it answers.

Mississippi finds itself in a dire situation when it comes to teen pregnancy and sexual health. According to Mississippi First, the teen birth rate is the highest in the nation, at 64.1 births for every 1,000 teenage (15- to 19-year-old) girls. Mississippi also leads the nation in teen infection rates for several sexually transmitted diseases. In a state where the lack of sex education has perpetuated the cycle of teen pregnancy, limiting women’s access to methods of contraception can only worsen the situation.

It is crucial that Mississippi citizens of all ages, genders, religions and political affiliations realize that this initiative to give legal status to an embryo from the time of fertilization will mandate unprecedented government intrusion into the very personal medical decisions of women and their families.

It still surprises me how few Mississippians know Initiative 26 even exists, and fewer still understand just how far-reaching the implications really are. The representatives of Personhood USA are trying to paint the issue as an abortion debate, when the true nature of the amendment is beyond that — it’s about the reproductive health and freedom of women in the state of Mississippi.

So spread the word. Talk to your friends, family and community. Get involved with organizations like Mississippians for Healthy Families. Take a stand. Come Nov. 8 — each and every vote will count.

 

Lexi Thoman is junior international studies and Spanish double-major from St. Louis, Mo.