"Personhood" amendments would write Christian perspectives into law
Tomorrow, Mississippi will vote on Initiative 26 and decide whether to dramatically alter their state constitution with the addition of the words:
The term ‘person’ or ‘persons’ shall include every human being from the moment of fertilization, cloning or the functional equivalent thereof.
It's known as a "personhood amendment," and championed by extreme anti-choice activists who want to do more than just outlaw abortion in Mississippi.
If passed, this amendment would not only completely ban abortion but would also make illegal many forms of contraception (those that prevent a fertilized egg from implanting itself in the uterus, like an IUD or emergency contraception). In-vitro fertilization may no longer be an option in the state, as embryos may be disposed in the process. Same goes for stem cell research. If a woman is pregnant and facing an emergency situation or medical complication, she could be denied any care that might harm the fetus in order to save her life.And If a woman miscarries, she and her doctor could be subjected to an investigation, prosecution, or even jail time. Already, Mississippi has one of the worst maternal mortality rates in the nation - should this initiative pass, it's safe to say that being a woman in Mississippi is downright dangerous.
Beyond the very real threat this amendment poses to the health and well-being of Mississippi women, there is something profoundly disturbing in answering the serious moral question of when life begins in a state document. Jewish teachings say that while the soul exists before birth, life begins only when a baby emerges from the womb. In Talmudic discussions of pregnancy, a woman's life is considered paramount to that of her fetus. And while different Jewish traditions may have different opinions on abortion, even the most Orthodox among us approve of abortion to save the life of a woman. Should Mississippi voters amend their constitution on Tuesday, they are writing into law a particularly Christian and conservative perspective, honoring that view above all others.
No matter the outcome on Election Day, tomorrow will not be the end of this battle. Personhood activists are trying to place a similar amendment on the ballot in Florida in 2012, and have announced their intent to ban abortion and contraception in all fifty states. To learn about tomorrow's vote and the serious consequences of personhood amendments, visit www.votenoon26.org.
Note: Emily Kadar is an employee of the Center for Reproductive Rights, an opponent of Initiative 26. The views expressed here are her own.