Tomorrow, Mississippi voters will decide whether or not to treat women as less than human. Make no mistake. The Personhood Amendment is not about granting personhood to fertilized eggs. It’s about taking it away from women.
If this amendment passes, it will make contraception and fertility treatment criminal. Pregnant women will spend every moment of their pregnancy at risk of prosecution. After all, what if a woman risks her pregnancy by lifting too much or eating unpasteurized bleu cheese? What about women who miscarry? Will they be charged with manslaughter? Think I’m being ridiculous? Think again. This is already happening: “Outcry in America as Pregnant Women Who Lose Babies Face Murder Charges.”
And what about the thousands of spontaneous abortions that happen to women every day? Fertilized eggs that don’t implant are discarded naturally by the body. Most women don’t even know they might have been pregnant. Do they get a tax deduction for the loss of that “person”? Those fertilized eggs that no one mourns stand to have more rights than human women.
As a New York Times editorial points out, “A fertilized egg might be eligible to inherit money or be counted when drawing voting districts by population.” The consequences of this amendment are far-reaching. If this amendment passes, it will apply to all existing laws in the state. Just think about how often the word “person” and “human” appears in our laws.
Doctors will face criminal prosecution as well for any life-saving measures they take for a pregnant woman that risk the egg, embryo, or fetus. Victims impregnated through rape or incest, including young girls of reproductive age, will be forced to bear that child even at the risk of their own lives. Is this what we want for ourselves, for our daughters and granddaughters? A sadistic legacy that not only threatens women’s rights but their very lives?
History is cruelly repeating itself. I was one of many women who fought hard for women’s rights, and we made significant gains in the 1970s. I am sure none of us expected this patriarchal viewpoint to rear its ugly, deadly head again. And this time, the voter support backing it is chilling.
Of course, even if it passes, it will undoubtedly be struck down by the Supreme Court. Making reproductive choice a potentially criminal act is no different from forcing people to donate their organs. No one, and especially not the government, has the right to another person’s flesh. But how long can we expect the Supreme Court to do the right thing? All the current Republican presidential candidates support some version of a personhood bill. In Mississippi, even the democratic gubernatorial candidate supports the amendment.
But if it passes (and sadly, even if it doesn’t), you can bet we will see more of this. Initiatives are already in the works in North Dakota, Florida, Ohio, Montana, and other states. These, too, will likely be struck down by the Supreme Court, but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t take them seriously, for they demonstrate a disturbing, misogynistic viewpoint that will continue to force its way into our politics, just as other violations of church and state separation have been gaining ground and government sanction. We must speak up now, before it’s too late. Before they take away our basic rights. Before they take away our voices.