Why the Mississippi “personhood amendment” failed

Mississippi voters decided yesterday by a 55 percent majority not to outlaw abortion and some kinds of birth control methods. Photo by The New York Times.

Yesterday Mississippi citizens voted against a so-called “personhood” amendment that would have outlawed abortion and would have prohibited some types of birth control, too.

The amendment itself came as a shock to those of us who believe this issue had already been decided (Roe v. Wade, hello). The arguments leading up to the vote also came as a shock: The polls showed evenly split support, even as some leading conservative figures voiced their hesitation.

Here’s why the amendment failed:

  1. It would have prohibited some forms of birth control. Here are the facts: Almost all women (99 percent!) between ages 15-44 have used at least one form of contraception. Of the 43 million fertile 15- to 44-year-olds out there who don’t want to get pregnant right now, 89 percent are using a birth control method. Although I have some kind of horrified respect for the woman who’s about to give birth to child No. 20, not all of us want to populate the earth so plentifully.
  2. The amendment would have prohibited abortions for rape or incest victims. Wow .
  3. The amendment could have penalized doctors who perform in-vitro fertilization procedures. The personhood amendment worried some doctors who perform in-vitro fertilizations. The amendment declared that life begins at conception; if that life fails—as many in vitro fertilizations do—does that mean the doctor is a murderer?

Personhood USA, the group that brought this measure to the ballot yesterday, is also trying to get similar measures passed in other conservative states: Florida, Montana, Ohio and Oregon. The Colorado-based group has already tried to get a similar measure passed in its home state and failed. Twice.

The Mississippi vote was about choice, something our hairy-legged feminist ancestors fought so doggedly to achieve. As women, we should have the choice to populate the world with twenty babies or one or none. We should also be able to choose when we have kids so that we’re as financially and emotionally responsible as possible.

No woman in her right mind uses abortion as a birth-control method—it’s traumatic and expensive—but the option should be there. Having children is a tough and very personal choice to make. But it’s a choice we have, and it should stay that way.

Worthy reads:

–By Tara Cavanaugh

3 thoughts on “Why the Mississippi “personhood amendment” failed

  1. Pingback: Birth control: it’s more than family planning for me. It’s life planning too. « FemThreads

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