JESUSLAND—In about one week from today, Mississippi voters will "decide" whether something that's smaller than the period at the end of this sentence is a "person" for legal purposes—and to say that their collective opinion will create vast legal problems across the country is hardly an understatement.
At issue is Initative 26 which would amend the state Constitution to define a "person" to "include every human being from the moment of fertilization, cloning or the functional equivalent thereof." The measure is expected to pass with a large majority, leaving Mississippi's women as second-class citizens, potential slaves to the zygote growing inside of them.
Think about it: Everyone knows that drinking alcohol may retard development of a fetus, so does that mean that every pregnant—or potentially pregnant—woman who takes a drink is guilty of child abuse? What about cocaine or opiates, which can addict fetuses in the womb? Obviously, the amendment would put all abortions off the table as "murder," but under the new scheme, even women who miscarry will automatically come under suspicion of the same... with all the investigations, police reports, trials and imprisonment that "murder" entails.
But it's not only abortions; several different birth control methods, including IUDs and certain types of birth control pills, rather than preventing fertilization, merely prevent the fertilized egg from attaching to the wall of the uterus. All of those would be ruled illegal under Initiative 26. And using embryonic stem cells for scientific experimentation or medical treatments would of course be (with apologies to John Cleese) RIGHT OUT!
But besides turning women's sexuality into a legal minefield, the initiative would also create a number of legal and practical problems which its proponents have clearly never thought about. For instance, Jessica Berg, a professor of law and bioethics, recently pointed out on National Public Radio that doctors who practice in vitro fertilization would be legally barred from disposing of any embryos they created, even if the woman from whom the eggs came managed to become pregnant early on in her treatment.
"You could never get rid of them," she said of the fertilized eggs. "It's not clear whether you could freeze them, because we certainly don't have a concept of freezing indefinitely a person. It's not clear how you then adopt them—would you have to go through all the normal adoption proceedings?"
Fertility specialist Dr. Randall S. Hines takes the concept a bit further, stating, "Once you recognize that the majority of fertilized eggs don't become people, then you recognize how absurd this amendment is."
Then, from the sublime, we segue into the absurd: Will pregnant women get unfettered access to HOV lanes on highways? Would displaying the ultrasound of a fetus be considered child pornography? (No clothes!) During census periods, would a pregnant woman count as two persons for purposes of redrawing voting districts? Could a fertilized egg inherit money or property?
As a New York Times editorial pointed out, "Because a multitude of laws use the terms 'person' or 'people,' there would be no shortage of unintended consequences."
On the bright side, however, it would appear that Mississippi residents who attain the age of 20 years and three months would be able to drink alcohol nine months sooner than their peers in other states, and if Mississippi had a porn industry, its 17 year, three month old youngsters should legally be able to make sexually explicit content. Also lop nine months off whatever age Mississippi has set for teens to be able to drive.
Of course, to the initiative's proponents, nothing is more important that "saving" that collection of cells.
"Personhood is bigger than just shutting abortion clinics," said Brad Prewitt, a lawyer and executive director of the Yes on 26 campaign, which is named for the Mississippi proposition. "It's an opportunity for people to say that we're made in the image of God."
And sadly, being an atheist won't provide an exemption from this asshole idea.