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The Katzwer’s Out of the Bag: Mississippi, fertilized eggs should not be ‘persons’

Published: November 4, 2011
Section: Opinions

“The term ‘person’ or ‘persons’ shall include every human being from the moment of fertilization, cloning or the functional equivalent thereof.”

This is the wording of a proposed Mississippi amendment on the Nov. 8 ballot. The proposed amendment aims legally to make fertilized eggs “persons.” While this amendment may seem benign, it could have far-reaching effects, most of them negative.

Proposition 26, the proposal’s name, is a sly attempt to circumnavigate the Supreme Court’s 1973 Roe v. Wade ruling. If a fertilized egg were legally declared a person, abortion and certain forms of birth control, such as the IUD and the morning-after pill, would become illegal because they would now be classified as murder. This would apply in cases of rape or incest, as well as cases of women just not wanting their babies.

Now, I need to clarify my position on abortion before I go any further. I consider myself to be pro-choice but anti-abortion. I feel that abortion is wrong and should only be resorted to in the extreme circumstances of rape or medical need. Despite this, a woman should still be able to decide if it is something she wishes to pursue.

That being said, Prop 26 is a mistake and should not pass. Unfortunately, both of Mississippi’s would-be governors have thrown their weight behind it, making it more likely to pass.

Republican candidate Lt. Gov. Phil Bryant is a cochairman of Yes on 26, the campaign to pass Prop 26, and Democratic candidate Johnny DuPree, the mayor of Hattiesburg, Miss., says he will vote for the proposition despite some misgivings. Both of these men are just trying to cozy up to Mississippian voters, as the election for governor will be held Nov. 8 as well.

Among those misgivings, DuPree cited the amendment’s possible impact on medical care and contraception—serious issues. For example, if a woman is suffering from an ectopic pregnancy, a medical condition in which the fertilized egg implants itself in the fallopian tube rather than the uterus, could she and the doctor be arrested for murder if they abort it? To clarify: Ectopic pregnancies can be fatal to the pregnant woman. Even if the amendment becomes more specific and eradicates these issues, doctors may need to check the wording of the amendment and that moment of hesitation could cost lives.

Even some diehard pro-lifers are against the proposal. National Right to Life and the Roman Catholic Church have refused to promote the proposition, citing the recklessness of the proposal and the possible backfire. While pro-choice activists fear this amendment could set a precedent for other states and cause anguish for pregnant women, some pro-life activists are worried that it will be overturned and will set back their platform.

James Bopp Jr., general counsel for National Right to Life, said the proposal will certainly be overturned by the Supreme Court because it contradicts the rights given to women in Roe v. Wade. “From the standpoint of protecting unborn lives it’s utterly futile,” he said, “and it has the grave risk that if it did get to the Supreme Court, the court would write an even more extreme abortion policy.”

Anti-abortion activists prefer to fight abortions by hampering access to abortions by restricting the length of time in which women can receive an abortion, forcing women to view ultrasound images of their fetus, cutting government funding to clinics that perform abortion, etc.

It seems that the only people who are truly supportive of this amendment are people who want to be elected to public office or people who have no real knowledge of biology or the law, a.k.a. the people who are voting for the first group.

Dr. Randall Hines, a Jackson, Miss., fertility specialist working against Prop 26 with the group Mississippians for Healthy Families, pointed out that most fertilized eggs do not implant in the uterus or develop further than that stage.

“Once you recognize that the majority of fertilized eggs don’t become people, then you recognize how absurd this amendment is,” Hines said, lambasting the “ignorant” people who are trying to get Prop 26 passed.

While one can argue that this “death” is natural as opposed to abortion, would you consider these failed fertilized eggs to be people? Would you hold a funeral if you “miscarried” after one day?

Most women do not even know they were pregnant when this happens. But, suddenly, an IUD or a morning-after pill are murder, as they prevent implantation.

To stray even further into the ridiculous, questions have been raised by some regarding the ages at which many American milestones occur. If you become a person at the moment of conception, does that mean you can vote when 17 years and three months old? Can you drink when you’re 20 years and three months old? If only Mississippi and the few other states considering this proposal pass it, then will these national standards become defunct?

Before the proponents of this amendment can even hope to be taken seriously, they need to think through some of these issues and provide answers.

While I agree that babies should not be killed, we are talking about fertilized eggs that may not even become babies anyway.

I hope the Mississippi voters will be able to set aside their religious fervor for a moment, as the Roman Catholic Church has done, and think long and hard about the effects this amendment could have.

Unfortunately, Prop 26 will probably pass; I look forward to seeing the Supreme Court smack it down.