Thursday, October 27, 2011

Mississippi: Personhood Status For Fertilised Egg

Update: Rachel Madow conceived in rape tour.

These people are insane, and the article is a testimony to that insanity.

But the proposed Initiative 26 is much more than affording full legal rights to, and declaring 'personhood' status to a fertilised egg, it would effectively outlaw all other forms of contraception other than the purely barrier methods, condoms and diaphragms.

Mississippi has the highest infant mortality rate of any state in the nation. It also has one of the highest rates of teen pregnancy nationwide

And in a country that is visibly coming apart at the seams, the priority in Mississippi are the rights of a fertilised egg. Mississippi did have another priority, but they have already addressed that issue, by imposing a state-wide ban on the sale of vibrators. You think I jest? clicky or: Violators will face up to a year in prison and a fine of less than $10,000. clicky

I don't have a 'stuff you couldn't make up' tag, perhaps I should initiate one. I do have a 'batshit crazy' tag, but that doesn't do justice to stuff like this; 'batshit dangerous' perhaps, might be nearer the mark.

Daily Kos has this: Occupy My Uterus. My Ass! Fertilized Eggs Are NOT People!

Legal Rights for Fertilized Eggs? How a Terrifying Law Could Lead to Jail-time for Miscarriages, Birth Control Bans, and the End of Legal Abortion

Mississippi could well be the first state to pass a "personhood law," once considered too extreme for mainstream anti-choicers.
By Irin Carmon
October 26, 2011

Dr. Freda Bush has a warm, motherly smile. In her office just outside Jackson, Miss., she smiles as she hands me a brochure that calls abortion the genocide of African-Americans, and again, sweetly, as she explains why an abortion ban should not include exceptions for rape or incest victims. The smile turns into a chuckle as she recounts what the daughter of one rape victim told her: “My momma says I’m a blessing. Now, she still don’t care for the guy who raped her! But she’s glad she let me live.”

Bush is smiling, too, in the video she made to support as restrictive an abortion ban as any state has voted on, Initiative 26, or the Personhood Amendment, which faces Mississippi voters on Nov. 8. “It doesn’t matter whether you’re rich or poor, black or white, or even if your father was a rapist!” she trills. But Initiative 26, which would change the definition of “person” in the Mississippi state Constitution to “include every human being from the moment of fertilization, cloning or the equivalent thereof,” is more than just an absolute ban on abortion and a barely veiled shot at Roe v. Wade — although it is both. By its own logic, the initiative would almost certainly ban common forms of birth control like the IUD and the morning-after pill, call into question the legality of the common birth-control pill, and even open the door to investigating women who have suffered miscarriages.

Personhood amendments were once considered too radical for the mainstream pro-life movement, but in the most conservative state in the country, with an energized, church-mobilized grass roots, Mississippi could well be the first state to pass one. Initiative 26 even has the state’s top Democrats behind it.

And in Bush, it even has a respectable medical face. Last month, Bush led a press conference of fellow gynecologists to try to refute the “scare tactics” of the opposition, which includes even the solidly conservative Mississippi State Medical Association. (The group feared 26 would “place in jeopardy a physician who tries to save a woman’s life.”) In one of several “Yes on 26″ videos in which she stars, Bush says unequivocally, “Amendment 26 will not ban contraception.”

But when we spoke, Bush was far less sure. And if her smiling face carries the day, the debate over even basic access to birth control could be heading to similar votes in every state legislature, and extremists have their dream case to take to a Supreme Court where the Roe majority teeters precariously.

That’s partly because the Personhood movement hopes to do nothing less than reclassify everyday, routine birth control as abortion. The medical definition of pregnancy is when a fertilized egg successfully implants in the uterine wall. If this initiative passes, and fertilized eggs on their own have full legal rights, anything that could potentially block that implantation – something a woman’s body does naturally all the time – could be considered murder. Scientists say hormonal birth-control pills and the morning-after pill work primarily by preventing fertilization in the first place, but the outside possibility, never documented, that an egg could be fertilized anyway and blocked is enough for some pro-lifers.

Indeed, at least one pro-Personhood doctor in Mississippi, Beverly McMillan, refused to prescribe the pill before retiring last year, writing, “I painfully agree that birth control pills do in fact cause abortions.” Bush does prescribe the pill, but says, “There’s good science on both sides … I think there’s more science to support conception not occurring.” Given that the Personhood Amendment is so vague, I asked her, what would stop the alleged “good science” on one side from prevailing and banning even the pill?

Bush paused. “I could say that is not the intent,” she said. “I don’t have an answer for that particular [case], how it would be settled, but I do know this is simple.” Which part is simple? “The amendment is simple,” she said. “You can play the ‘what if’ game, but if you keep it simple, this is a person who deserves life.” What about the IUD, which she refuses to prescribe for moral reasons, and which McMillan told me the Personhood Amendment would ban? “I’m not the authority on what would and would not be banned.” No – Bush simply plays one on TV. And if her amendment passes, only condoms, diaphragms and natural family planning — the rhythm method – would be guaranteed in Mississippi.

Bush also says in the commercial that the amendment wouldn’t “criminalize mothers and investigate them when they have miscarriages.” And yet if the willful destruction of an embryo is a murder, then that makes a miscarried woman’s body a potential crime scene or child welfare investigation. What about women whose miscarriages were suspected to be deliberate or due to their own negligence? One Personhood opponent, Michele Johansen, told me she wondered whether she could have been investigated for miscarrying a wanted, five-week pregnancy, because she rode a roller coaster. (Her doctor ultimately told her they were unrelated.)

The boilerplate Personhood response, echoed by both McMillan and Bush, is that no woman was prosecuted for miscarriage before Roe v. Wade, so why start now? Of course, there was no Personhood amendment at the time, nor much knowledge of embryonic development. And in countries with absolute abortion bans, like El Salvador, women are regularly investigated and jailed when found to have induced miscarriages.

Pressed, Bush said, “Look at the numbers of women who were injuring themselves [pre-Roe] in an attempt to have an abortion. It was not 53 million,” the estimated number of abortions since Roe v. Wade.

“I don’t have all the answers,” she said, “but those questions that are there do not justify allowing nine out of 10 of the abortions that are being done that are not for the hard cases,” she said.

But a Colorado-based Personhood activist, Ed Hanks, is more than willing to publicly take things to their logical conclusion. He wrote on the Personhood Mississippi Facebook page that after abortion is banned, “the penalties have to be the same [for a women as well as doctors], as they would have to intentionally commit a known felony in order to kill their child. Society isn’t comfortable with this yet because abortion has been ‘normalized’ — as the Personhood message penetrates, then society will understand why women need to be punished just as surely as they understand why there can be no exceptions for rape/incest.”

Personhood represents an unapologetic and arguably more ideologically consistent form of the anti-choice movement. It aims squarely for Roe v. Wade by seizing on language from former Supreme Court Justice Harry Blackmun – the author of the Roe decision — during the hearings that the case would “collapse” if “this suggestion of personhood is established … for the fetus.”

Similar ballot measures have failed twice in Colorado, where an evangelical pastor and a Catholic lawyer started the Personhood movement, but Mississippi is no Colorado. It’s the most conservative state in the nation. Planned Parenthood (which doesn’t even provide abortions in its one clinic here) and the ACLU are dirty words. Where there were once seven abortion clinics in the state, the one remaining flies in a doctor from out of state. As for supporting life, Mississippi’s infant mortality rate is the worst of any state in the nation. The number of babies who die as infants in Mississippi is double the number of abortions annually. It also has one of the highest rates of teen pregnancy nationwide, alongside a child welfare system that remains dangerously broken.

Even so, if Initiative 26 passes, it would embolden similar efforts in Ohio, South Dakota, Florida and other states, currently trying to get a Personhood amendment on the ballot in 2012. And though there have been no reliable public polls, insiders on both sides believe it is headed for approval. “This thing will pass if people don’t understand what it really means,” says Oxford-based attorney and Initiative 26 opponent Forrest Jenkins. The Personhood movement “can either convince people that birth control is abortion or they can convince people that it’s not really true and we’re just being silly.” (Indeed, when I asked one college student who described himself as pro-life about the birth-control implications, he said, “I thought that was just gossip.”) Unfortunately for opponents, talking about sweeping and nuanced implications takes a lot more words than “stop killing babies.”

Mindful of anti-abortion sentiment in the state, even the local pro-choice opposition has taken to referring to all these implications – like banning birth-control pills — as “unintended consequences” of the initiative. But as my conversations in Mississippi with pro-Initiative 26 doctors made clear, for many Personhood supporters, these effects are anything but unintended. They’re part of the plan.

I had barely arrived in Mississippi when I was declared a “wolf in sheep’s clothing” by the grass-roots wing of the movement. Les Riley, the self-described “tractor salesman with 10 kids and no money” who got Personhood on the ballot, stopped responding to my messages, so I’d posted interview requests on the Personhood Mississippi Facebook page, disclosing that I was pro-choice but committed to giving them a fair hearing.

“This is just a reminder of some of the ‘Neutral and Fair’ mainstream media that are trying to lure us into debate, argument, and confrontation,” Wiley S. Pinkerton wrote on the same page, not long after. “They are coming to this site hoping to catch us without the full armor of God.”

Of course, even if I’d wanted to, the chances of catching any of them without “the armor of God” seemed remote. The Personhood movement in Mississippi is openly theocratic. Riley has written that “for years, the pro-life movement and the religious right has allowed the charge [of being “religiously motivated”] to make them run for cover. I think we should embrace it.” Riley, in fact, had already enthusiastically embraced Christian secessionist and neo-Confederate groups as part of his coalition. (Thenational media play his personal history received by the time of my visit this month might explain some of the hostility to the press.)

Last summer, a more mainstream face, Brad Prewitt – a lobbyist and former high-level staffer for U.S. Sen. Thad Cochran – took over the campaign at the request of the American Family Association, which, like Prewitt, is based in Tupelo. (Riley continues to actively campaign, though he isn’t listed on the official Yes on 26 site. Prewitt promised an interview several times, but never came through.) Prewitt, too, publicly described the conceptual origin of Personhood being “the Bible, Genesis,” and declared, “Mississippi is still a God-fearing

At several public forums organized by the secretary of state to discuss ballot initiatives, resident Scott Murray’s statement was typical: “I know there is an issue with pregnancies, unmarried pregnancies, but I tell you the greatest prevention is God, and we’ve got to return to God.” So was Stephen Hannabass’ assertion that “we’ve got to repent. We’ve got to come before God and beg for mercy for our state and for our country.” Continue into insanity.


Anonymous said...

Wake Up Mississippi!

Cletis L. Stump said...

Mississippi was the last state to require compulsory education. That was 67 years after Mass. did it and believe me that 2 1/2 generation gap shows. Some years ago I suggested a state motto for Kentucky when we were looking to brand the state. They settled on "Unbridled Spirit". My suggestion was "Kentucky: Backward and Looking Forward to Staying That Way". Perhaps I'll put that up for consideration for the folks in Miss.

Himself said...

"Kentucky: Backward and Looking Forward to Staying That Way".

I quite like that.

But surely Cletis, by comparison with Mississippi, even Kentucky would look like a seat of learning.

Himself said...

Thanks Maren. It's only when you see the likes of those billboards, does the surreal become reality.

Anonymous said...

Only In America
The "Ban" on vibrators and other siimilar devices was overturned in the 5th circuit on Feb 13th 2008, it was called the "Obscene Device Law Overturned In 5th Circuit" on the Google news just look for it, The 5th Circuit includes Mississippi, Louisiana and Texas and the descision based on Lawrece Vs Texas, the court decided that was unconstitutional invasion of Free Speech, Privacy and Commerce. Adult Video stores now sell them there. OF course do the cops keep current with all court descions, especially when it comes to delicate matters like this? But Alabama is in another district and that court has yet to overturn thier restrictions on vibrators and I will bet gay couples too. Shame it took so long and the government had to step in but that is what it took, the people really need to read the Bill of Rights and not be so concerned about neighbors bedrooms!

Anonymous said...

Vote No on 26, Mississippi - Here is why

Himself said...

Good link, thanks.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous said...

Does this mean child support begins on the morning after?

Anonymous said...

In case of abortion are men held as an accessory/party to the crime?

Anonymous said...

Has Mississippi legislated in this law a Bill of Rights for this microscopic personhood? Which this would include dietary requirements, avoidance of toxic substances, exercise, and all conditions required for worldly entrance as medical coverage etc.