Next Tuesday, Mississippians will go to the polls to decide on Initiative 26, a personhood amendment to the state constitution that defines a person as “every human being from the moment of fertilization, cloning, or the functional equivalent thereof.” Personhood amendments represent an extreme reach into a family’s privacy, essentially criminalizing abortion and potentially outlawing common forms of birth control.
Right-wing supporters of Mississippi’s personhood amendment, however, decry the fact that the bill will ban birth control as “scare tactics.” “It’s an outright lie that Initiative 26 would ban birth control pills,” said American Family Association Executive Director Brad Prewitt. “Stopping a pregnancy is not the issue; ending a pregnancy is.” 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.
The “profoundly ambiguous” language of the amendment will affect more than just birth control. Because fertilization can be defined as either the sperm’s penetration of the egg or, as Hoye suggests, when the embryo is formed even before implantation in the uterus, the amendment could ban “forms of birth control, stem cell derivation and the destruction of embryos created though in vitro fertilization (IVF).”
Indeed, as Personhood USA President Keith Mason stated outright, “it would ban some current practices of IVF” because he sees it as “the creation of 30 or 60 embryos and then picking through them to see which ones are most likely boys or girls, or basically looking at the ones you want to give life to and destroying the rest.”
Be it an outright attack on a constitutionally protected procedure, on a woman’s personal right to prevent pregnancy, or even on a couples chance to have a child, supporters and opponents agree that Mississippi’s personhood amendment is a far-reaching blow to a woman’s — and family’s — reproductive rights.