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Mississippi’s Initiative 26 Personhood Bill Horror Movie

So you know those classic 1980’s horror movies where the teenagers are all going about life, holding their keggers at someone’s house while their parents are away from home, and suddenly the prom queen is stabbed to death by some unseen assailant?  And then the kids are all taking a hike through the woods because all kids like to take hikes through the woods, and one of them is garrotted?  And then the teens are all having a meeting to talk about this invisible psycho who is killing all the kids in this town and DURING THE MEETING, one of the kids is suddenly covered in knife slashes and everyone is sprayed with blood?

You totally get how three kids could be taken by the Jason-Freddie-Krueger-Michael-Myers-mashup, I mean, these things happen.  But it’s when the kids creep into the deserted, burned out house at the edge of town where the monster once lived that you finally scream at the movie screen, “you are so fucking stupid!”

That’s pretty much how I sum up my reaction to Mississippi’s Initiative 26 which goes to vote tomorrow morning.

It’s a horror movie starring your uterus.

A Life Begins at the Moment of Fertilization Amendment will appear on the November 8, 2011 general election ballot in the state of Mississippi as an indirect initiated constitutional amendment. State election officials have numbered the proposal as Initiative 26. The measure proposes adding language to the Mississippi Constitution that declares that life begins at “the moment of fertilization.”

Well that’s okay you say, because you believe that life begins at conception.  But there is a huge gap between believing something and creating laws that govern other people.  There are plenty of things I believe with all my heart, but very few of which I need you to believe too in order to have my own personal happiness.  When we take our beliefs and force others to comply with them, what we end up with is not only fascism, but laws that have the ability to stab you in the ass when you least expect it.

We’ve seen backdoor abortion bills try to pass in the past.  What are backdoor abortion bills?  They are laws that effective outlaw abortion by going through the backdoor of lawmaking since they can no longer go through the front door and contradict laws on the books.  By going through the backdoor, they create laws that cover things other than abortion that can effectively be used to apply to abortion in the future.  It’s like a Jedi mind trick: “these are not the abortion laws you’re looking for.”

We saw it back in 2008 in Georgia.  And we saw it in 2010 in Oklahoma.  And now we’re seeing it at 2011 in Mississippi — and these personhood (or personhood-type) bills are starting to feel like the legal version of the Jason-Freddie-Krueger-Michael-Myers-mashup: jumping out to slash our reproductive rights.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: reproductive rights are reproductive rights, and if you want the freedom to choose whether or not you have access to fertility treatments, you need to support other reproductive rights.  Legal wranglings are not a pu-pu platter where you can say hands-off my embryos and making decisions for me about their creation and storage but then leave women who want to choose whether or not they carry a child back on the plate.  Either your government’s hands are in your uterus or they’re not.  And frankly, the only hands I want near my uterus are the ones attached to my RE who is making decisions in regards to my reproductive (and emotional) health by tailoring those decisions to my own unique situation.  The only people I want making decisions that affect my body are my doctor and myself — and my body extends to people I create with my body.

And yes, as Ezra Klein of The Washington Post points out, this has everything to do with fertility treatments:

The Mississippi ballot has incredibly important legal implications: no state has ever given an embryo constitutional rights and, legally, it’s not quite clear what happens when you do. There is a lot of speculation that it could outlaw infertility treatments and birth control, while almost certainly banning abortion. If passed, the Mississippi law would near certainly bait a legal challenge that could wind its way up to the Supreme Court.

I want a woman to have a right to choose because I believe women are smart enough to choose when they want to have children and when they don’t.  I don’t believe that the government needs to tell me when to have a baby or when not to have a baby.  I really believe that you, and you, and even you, are intelligent enough to know whether utilizing an abortion is the right choice for you.  And I don’t want laws that are going to make accessing fertility treatments harder for infertile men and women.

Anti-abortion activists haven’t been able to get in through the political front door.  So they have gone after instead what they can influence through the back door.  And to that I say hands-off my fucking embryos and uterus.

Oh, and don’t answer the phone since the call is coming from inside the house.

Other people are writing about MS-26 (and if you did too, please let me know in the comment section below and I’ll move you onto the list):

Photo Credit: Double Feature Podcast


1 Josey { 11.07.11 at 8:56 pm }


Fertility Lab Insider did a great post on this bill too. Craziness…

2 missohkay { 11.07.11 at 9:05 pm }

Jen @ This is Personal wrote a great post a few weeks ago on the issue. http://thisismorepersonal.tumblr.com/post/11654378162/mississippi

3 Sue { 11.07.11 at 9:05 pm }

Thank you for writing this, Mel. You nailed it.

I’ve been following this because a friend of my recently moved to MS. It’s so horribly frightening. So horribly frightening.

I’m posting this on my fb page.

4 Magpie { 11.07.11 at 9:20 pm }

Thanks. Well said.

5 AlexMMR { 11.07.11 at 9:39 pm }

If a woman can consent to allow one man to have access to her body (sex) and denies access to a second man but that second man invades her body anyway, that’s rape, despite the fact that she gave the first man consent.

Therefore, if an embryo is a person, and it accesses a womans body without her consent, it is guilty of rape, despite the fact that the woman gave her gentleman friend consensual access.

If something like this passes, I really want to see some lawyer bring that up in court one day.

6 marty { 11.07.11 at 10:12 pm }


My home state. It makes me so sad, so often.

7 Mali { 11.07.11 at 10:24 pm }

This is just shocking. And the ways it could be used against women just horrify me. Will they make it illegal for pregnant women to drink alcohol, or to take hot baths? The possibilities (and horrors) are endless.

8 Jen { 11.07.11 at 10:45 pm }

Thank you for a well thought out response to this horrible legislation. I can’t write about it without descending into incoherent rage. These laws and bans on late term abortions and other laws would have forced me to be a life support machine for my dying baby, no matter how much damage that did to my mental and physical health. I’m so grateful for people like you that stand up for people like me. Thank you.

9 Rachel { 11.07.11 at 10:58 pm }

This is so unfair, and so ridiculous. I’m terrified that people will not do their research, or put enough thought into the consequences. I wish politicians put as much time and thought into taking care of LIVING people as they do into those as yet to be born/conceived.

10 Tigger { 11.07.11 at 11:31 pm }

I’ve got it up on my FB, as well as on my Twitter feed. If I can keep focused long enough to get my papers done, I may just write a post on this. If I do, I shall let you know.

also? The horror movie parallel amuses me.

11 Kimberly B. { 11.08.11 at 1:18 am }

I’ve been passing this information onto everyone since I first heard about it. I will share this on my facebook page as well to continue to pass the word.

12 loribeth { 11.08.11 at 8:18 am }

Watching with concern from north of the border (and if anyone thinks we’re safe up here from such legislation, think again). The thing that amazes/amuses/disgusts me is that the same people pushing this sort of legislation are usually the same ones screaming at governments to get out of their lives & businesses & let freedom of choice rule. But women’s lives & bodies? Well, that’s another matter entirely, it seems. :p

13 Chickenpig { 11.08.11 at 9:14 am }

Is it wrong that this post made me laugh out loud? I know, this is totally serious shit, but the horror movie analogy….tee hee BWA HAAA.

I for one don’t think this bill has a fiddler’s fart of a chance to pass. It’s all over the internets right now that Mississippi wants to take away people’s birth control, and no one wants access to birth control messed with. People against the bill are doing the smart thing and emphasizing birth control and not access to an abortion. Everyone agrees that less unwanted pregnancies are a GOOD thing. Let’s hope that knocks some sense into people. Aaarg….

14 Gil { 11.08.11 at 9:55 am }

Scary stuff. I would hope that Mississipi has a little more common sense than that.

I wrote on this today too: http://thehardestquest.blogspot.com/2011/11/wtf-mississippi.html.
Keeping fingers crossed that this one doesn’t get far at all…

15 Blanche { 11.08.11 at 10:46 am }

I really wish I could post this on my Facebook page without feeling like I’d be outing myself … which is a whole ‘nother level of issues.

16 Terri Davidson { 11.08.11 at 10:50 am }

Hi, Mel:
Thank-you for adding your fearless voice to this issue. Dr. Craig Sweet from Florida, one of the next states in the Personhood movement’s crosshairs, also wrote a great blog post today on this. Also encourage everyone to like the Mississippi Fertility Institute’s Facebook fan page. Dr. Isaacs, its medical director has been working tirelessly to stop this, just like his live’s work and his patients’ dreams depended on it — which it does! Polling shows an incredibly close race. There is the possibility of stopping this, which is a big turnaround from a few days ago.

17 KH99 { 11.08.11 at 11:43 am }

Hi Mel,
I’m horrified by this amendment and trying not to believe it is likely to pass. I just posted on it: http://babywithatwist.wordpress.com/2011/11/08/debating-personhood/

18 Keiko { 11.08.11 at 11:44 am }

Thank you for including me in your roundup on this. I’ve been tweeting like a fiend. Facebooking. Emailing. And yet… I’m pretty fucking terrified that this will pass, that we’re seriously about to move into a real-life version of The Handmaid’s Tale. I’m literally sick to my stomach over this.

Mississippi: don’t fuck this up, please.

19 Hairy Farmer Family { 11.08.11 at 12:54 pm }

‘Either your government’s hands are in your uterus or they’re not’… what a marvellous phrase!

Well done, lady. Watching all this in some bemusement from over here.

20 Eggceptional Blues { 11.08.11 at 1:04 pm }

Amen. That’s flipping ridiculous, back off my reproductive organs!!!

21 jen { 11.08.11 at 1:09 pm }

If laws like this passed. I would not be writing this. I would in fact be dead. My cornual ectopic would have killed me. This was a placenta. The embryo had already failed to grow appropriately. I am thankful that I was able to get medical care and am in fact alive. I think other women should have the right to decide their care with their doctor and not some faceless mob trying to push their agenda. I’m fired up…

22 geochick { 11.08.11 at 3:38 pm }

We’ve seen it twice in Colorado….fucking drives me crazy. At least we were smart enough to roundly defeat the measure both times.

23 electriclady { 11.08.11 at 3:38 pm }

Great post. Regarding access to care, the other thing that has struck me in reading about MS 26 is that there are reportedly only four IVF doctors in the entire state of Mississippi. There are more than twice that many in my NYC clinic, and that’s just ONE clinic out of many dozens in the state. It is already hard enough for women in MS to get reproductive care; this proposal might eventually make it impossible.

24 frankiesoup { 11.08.11 at 4:18 pm }

That is terrifying. I’m in the UK so this news hadn’t really filtered over here. That was an interesting – if hard – post to read.

Do people thinking about passing those sorts of laws consider mitigating circumstances at all? Imagine being brutally raped and being forced to have the baby because abortion is illegal – what about when that kid gets old enough to ask where daddy is and mummy has to relive the whole ordeal? Imagine knowing that you are the direct result of a violent, wicked act.

And what about in cases where scans reveal severe abnormalities in the fetus which would result in severly reduced quality of life i.e. where the child could only breath using a respitator. We wouldn’t keep an animal alive in those conditions because it’s undignified. How come it’s ok for a human baby to be forced to endure that kind of pain?

I’ve always admired how dear the American people hold the concept of freedom. What the hell happened to that here? Surely it’s against women’s rights to have control of their bodies taken from them?

*Twitch* Angry. *Twitch*.

25 Illanare { 11.08.11 at 4:20 pm }

This is seriously scary, even from over here across the pond.

26 Brett Cottrell { 11.08.11 at 4:26 pm }

Mississippi thinks eggs are people, and the Supreme Court thinks corporations are people. Does this mean corporate eggs will be people? All those tasty eggs you buy at the supermarket? People. That Egg McMuffin you ate for breakfast? People. Quiche? People, too. It’s a scary thought, unless you’re a cannibal. http://brettcottrell.blogspot.com/2011/11/there-is-no-i-in-uterus-but-there-is.html

27 Kate { 11.08.11 at 4:36 pm }

people need to read the real Roe v Wade decision. Outlawing abortion will not stop them, it will just make them dangerous and illegal and kill more people overall. Second though, what about frozen IVF ready embryos? Its already hard to know what to ‘do’ with them without laws….

28 Audrey { 11.08.11 at 5:25 pm }

I did not write about it, but jesus I was upset when I read about it. I have a particular friend who is in her early 20s and likes to spout political rhetoric like she has a clue and isn’t just repeating what her parents say. This is one of those things she likes to spout about – embryos being people. I want to kick her in the pants every time.

29 JustHeather { 11.08.11 at 5:46 pm }

Thank you for a brilliant post, Mel! I’m fully on board with what you wrote. My body, my decision! And I am so glad I was able to use that right when I needed it.

30 Rachel { 11.08.11 at 8:58 pm }

Audrey: be careful kicking your friend in the pants. Dont want to get too close to any reproductive organs and injure an egg. That’s murder.

31 FET Accompli { 11.09.11 at 10:19 am }

I am fired up too. But I also want to say that I read through all the comments, and they are so smart, clever and witty.

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