Volume 13, Number 30
October 27, 2011
Personhood Vote Looms in Mississippi
On November 8, residents of Mississippi will be asked to vote on Initiative 26 a ballot measure which would amend the state’s constitution to establish that legal “personhood” begins “from the moment of fertilization, cloning, or the equivalent thereof.” While similar ballot or legislative measures have been resoundingly defeated in Alabama, Colorado (twice), Georgia, Montana, North Dakota, and Oklahoma, initiatives are gaining momentum in a half dozen states. In each state ASRM members have and continue to take an active role advocating against the measures. Intense education efforts via local and national media drives and voter outreach is underway in Mississippi, however we will not know the outcome until the vote has been taken and given the politics of the state are concerned this time may prove favorable to the supporters of Personhood.
The goal of efforts to declare a fertilized human egg to be a legal person is to ban abortion for any reason, including those resulting from rape or incest. These measures would likely bar some birth control methods, including IUDs and morning-after pills that prevent fertilized eggs from implanting in the uterus. They would also potentially outlaw the destruction and the cryopreservation of embryos created as part of the process to treat infertility. Moreover, they would possibly prevent doctors from providing necessary and often life-saving medical procedures to women experiencing miscarriage or ectopic pregnancy. Personhood measures are a dangerous intrusion of criminal law into the provision of medical care. They unduly restrict the doctor-patient relationship while jeopardizing women’s rights, and also literally their lives.
ASRM is firmly opposed to Imitative 26 and is working in coalition with other groups that have joined the Mississippi for Healthy Families Campaign (http://www.votenoon26.org/home). Individual ASRM members in Mississippi have drafted communications, participated in press conferences and been interviewed for both print and radio stories. In August, ASRM sent a letter to Secretary of State Delbert Hosemann expressing its concern about the measure’s effect on infertility treatments and its position that “an embryo, in vitro or in vivo, is a cluster of cells with a unique potential to grow into a full-fledged individual. However, in human reproduction, even as undertaken without medical assistance, fewer than 20% of fertilized eggs implant in the uterus. Given the uncertainty that any particular embryo will develop to become a person, it is unreasonable and imbalanced to give constitutional rights to fertilized eggs or embryos.”
Interestingly, traditional abortion rights opponents, including the National Right to Life and the Roman Catholic bishops, view state personhood measures as counterproductive to their larger goal of overturning Roe v Wade.
ASRM will report on the outcome of November 8 vote and should it pass will be actively involved in litigation on the matter. ASRM will continue to keep its members apprised of efforts in other states and welcomes the interest of members who want to take an active role in advocating against these measures. Those interested should contact Sean Tipton with ASRM’s Office of Public Affairs at firstname.lastname@example.org.