Friday, November 4, 2011

Mississippi Is Turning Women Into Criminals

There's an amendment being voted on next week to the constitution for the state of Mississippi which is called the "Personhood Amendment." It's fairly simple in its language:

Initiative 26 would define personhood as "every human being from the moment of fertilization, cloning or the functional equivalent thereof."

This amendment has been pushed by a group called "Personhood USA," in attempt to overturn Roe v Wade. It's based on a statement made during arguments:
Justice Potter Stewart said, "If it were established that an unborn fetus is a person, you would have an impossible case here."

Which is why this measure is being pushed. By defining a "person" as an egg from the moment of fertilization, it makes it their case that it is a legal person. There are multiple problems with this definition, not just from an ethical standpoint, but from a legal and biological standpoint.

Human fertilization is a complex process in itself. A series of things have to happen in sequence, and with the right timing, for the egg and sperm to merge. Even after that point - when Mississippi wants to define it as a person - it has to travel down the fallopian tubes, and implant in the uterus. For this to happen, a series of things have to go right. Which more often than not, it doesn't.
John Opitz, a professor of pediatrics, human genetics, and obstetrics and gynecology at the University of Utah, testified before the President's Council on Bioethics that between 60 and 80 percent of all naturally conceived embryos are simply flushed out in women's normal menstrual flows unnoticed. This is not miscarriage we're talking about. The women and their husbands or partners never even know that conception has taken place; the embryos disappear from their wombs in their menstrual flows. In fact, according to Opitz, embryologists estimate that the rate of natural loss for embryos that have developed for seven days or more is 60 percent. The total rate of natural loss of human embryos increases to at least 80 percent if one counts from the moment of conception.

Even, if implantation does occur, and development starts, it doesn't mean that things will go smoothly.
According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, a majority of pregnancies never go past the first few weeks, and even after a clinical diagnosis of pregnancy (using ultrasound), there's still about a 25 percent chance of miscarriage.

Given the odds, and the number of things that have to go right, it's often more astonishing that women carry to term than that they don't. But, that highlights the problem with the Personhood Amendment: Every one of those embryos which didn't implant, or those that miscarried, is a "person" whose life has been lost. Even more, this would ban many forms of birth control.
Unfortunately for proponents, the Personhood movement spokesman Walter Hoye stated the opposite on NPR’s Diane Rehm Show. As the Florida Independent reports, when asked if there were any restrictions on birth control in the amendment, Hoye answered “no…well, yes,” adding, “any birth control that ends the life of a human being will be impacted by this measure,” including the pill:
HOYE: Any birth control that ends the life of a human being will be impacted by this measure.
REHM: So that would then include the IUD [intra-uterine device]. What about the birth control pill?
HOYE: If that falls into the same category, yes.
REHM: So you’re saying that the birth control pill could be considered as taking the life of a human being?
HOYE: I’m saying that once the egg and the oocyte come together and you have that single-celled embryo, at that point you have human life, you’ve got a human being and we’re taking the life of a human being with some forms of birth control and if birth control falls into that category, yes I am.

In short, many of the most commonly used forms of birth control become illegal because they prevent implantation. The result of this amendment is not "stopping abortion," although it's been promoted this way by many on the right. Instead, because they ignore biology, the actual result of it is to make women "killers," because they failed to save a person - even though she may never have known that conception had taken place, or was trying not to become pregnant.

If this passes, and I sincerely hope it doesn't, it will mark a new low in women's rights. It's not just an assault on reproductive choice, it makes them criminals. For that alone, it should never be allowed.

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