Growing up in Arkansas in the 40's, 50's and 60's, it was not uncommon to hear the declaration "Thank God for Mississippi", as it was always made in defense of our state for at least not being the very last in per capita wealth or education. In that context it was not a very complimentary expression. With the advent several years ago of casino gambling to that state in places like Tunica and Gulfport, hundreds of millions of dollars flowed into Mississippi's state coffers that brought about major infrastructure improvements, new factories, increased jobs and improvement in education, all of which pretty much made that expression fade away.
Now, all of a sudden, a new draconian legislative initiative comes along that makes one wonder what has happened to all of that progressive thinking and notable achievement. Specifically, it is Amendment 26 - The Mississippi Personhood Amendment which, if approved, would amend Article III of their state constitution to define a person or persons to "include every human being from the moment of fertilization, cloning or the functional equivalent thereof". In short, every fertilized egg would become a person with all of the rights, privileges and protections now afforded all of the other living, breathing and functioning humans in Mississippi, including criminal prosecution of anyone who destroys that egg whether intentional or not. As reported on ABC News on November 4th, this definition "....goes beyond what most anti-abortion politicians and groups advocate, which is to define life at conception and limit abortion only to cases of rape, incest or when the mother's life is in danger", so it is very clear what the true intent of this initiative is and where it's headed. In fact their own website at http://personhoodmississippi.com/amendment-26/what-it-says.aspx admits that if this amendment is approved then "...abortion will be outlawed in our state; cloning and other forms of medical cannibalism will be effectively stopped; and a challenge will be set up to Roe v Wade". In a more drastic practical application of this ill-conceived law, if a couple engages in sex and then use a morning after pill as a form of now legal birth control, they could be prosecuted for murder. More problematic is what happens in cases of in vitro fertilization procedures when unused eggs are destroyed after a successful pregnancy is achieved. So much for a legal lifeline that medical science has created for otherwise childless couples.
This issue was discussed at great length during the Diane Rehm Show this past Monday, October 31st, so go to http://thedianerehmshow.org/shows/2011-10-31/consequences-granting-legal-status-fertilized-human-egg listen to the entire discussion. And you thought the spooks and goblins of Halloween were scary? It would almost be funny if the implications weren't so serious. Some of the more interesting reactions to this topic have ranged from wanting to claim such eggs as dependents for tax purposes, to wanting to know if a mother dies during childbirth could the egg be charged with manslaughter, to why there is not as much concern for the living children of Mississippi now unwanted and living in foster homes, to wanting to know if a mother who miscarries can be charged with murder, to personal injury attorneys having a field day with the accidental death of that fertilized egg. Ever heard of unintended consequences? Well, this initiated act is chocked full of them, not the least of which is an absolute assault on the rights of women to make their own determination concerning family planning. Furthermore, forget about innovative medical procedures being developed in Mississippi to aide women in that planning, which is one of the reasons why almost every medical group in that state is against this measure. I had held out some anticipation that Governor Haley Barbour might bring some reason to this ballot question, but I noticed in an AP article yesterday that he has already voted for it, so I can only hope that the good people of Mississippi will come to their senses and vote this bad boy down next Tuesday. If not, then "Thank God for Mississippi.