Initiative 26: life-threatening proposition for Mississippi women

phone bank

HATTIESBURG, Miss. - The legality of abortion has remained a hot topic in American politics since the landmark Roe v. Wade ruling in 1973, which upheld the right of a woman to have an abortion. This ruling has since been hailed by proponents of women's rights and reproductive freedom as a cornerstone ruling, while decried by its religious opponents and used as a political wedge issue by the right wing. However, in recent years, opposition to this ruling, and the rights it guarantees, has become increasingly active. The most recent incarnation of this opposition is the "personhood" initiatives, which have dire consequences for women.

Since riding into power in the House of Representatives, and many state legislatures, with a battle cry of "jobs, jobs, jobs," the Republican Party has instead introduced, debated, and in some cases passed, literally hundreds of bills or amendments related to abortion and abortion rights. This ranged from cutting off funding to Planned Parenthood (which provides the majority of its health care services outside of abortion) in Indiana, to requiring a mother to listen to a sonogram of her fetus's heartbeat prior to any abortion in Texas. And in South Dakota, Republicans have tripled the waiting period for receiving an abortion, from 24 hours to 72, an unnecessary hardship for women living in the mostly rural state. In addition, it forces women to receive "abortion counseling," which is a euphemism for religious "pro-life" lecturing.

However, all of these pale in comparison to the "personhood" initiative being pushed in Mississippi. Personhood USA, an extremist Christian anti-abortion organization, is pushing Initiative 26 which would amend the state constitution to say that legal personhood begins the moment an egg is fertilized by a sperm.  Having tried this route twice unsuccessfully in Colorado, this group turned to Mississippi, likely due to it being a highly conservative and religious area that not surprisingly happens to be plagued by a terrible education record.

This personhood initiative has many unintended, and some intended, consequences that have the potential to be horrific for the women of Mississippi.

The most salient is its potential to prohibit women from seeking abortions as medical care in instances in which the life of the mother is threatened - ectopic pregnancies, for example. The ambiguous wording of Initiative 26 seems to allow no exceptions for the life of the mother. The Personhood Initiative group, in their "Mississippi Personhood Booklet," makes its stance clear: "A life of the mother exception to any abortion law would be a violation of the equal protection clause of the Fourteenth Amendment because other classes of people are not given that same kind of exception." The measure would prevent doctors from terminating ectopic pregnancies, which could have fatal consequences. Basically: there would be no life-of-the-mother exceptions, and women needing that care can either flee to other states, or die.

The initiative may also ban many common forms of birth control, including Intrauterine devices (IUDs). This is because most forms of birth control not only act by preventing fertilization, but if fertilization does occur they prevent the fertilized egg from implanting on the uterine wall. The Personhood Initiative considers that an act of murder. After weeks of denying these facts, and decrying them as "scare tactics," Personhood USA spokesman Walter Hoye admitted that Initiative 26 would, in fact, ban hormonal birth control.   

Even more appalling, Initiative 26 would prevent rape victims from receiving the "morning after" pill. According to the Yes On 26 FAQ, rape victims would be forced to go through pregnancy and childbirth.

Ironically, Imitative 26 could also harm those seeking to become pregnant. According to Dr. Randall Hines, one of only four physicians who perform In vitro fertilization (IVF) in Mississippi, Initiative 26 would make the most common and effective IVF practices illegal. Rims Barber, director of the Mississippi Human Services Agenda, says that because "more than one egg is harvested and fertilized to achieve a successful IVF pregnancy, making all the embryos 'people' under Mississippi law will make it difficult if not impossible to continue offering IVF treatment in our state."

It is no surprise, in light of all this, that several Mississippi medical associations are strongly opposing Initiative 26. Mississippi Doctors Against #26, the Mississippi State Medical Association, the Mississippi Chapter of the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, the Mississippi Nurses Association, the American Society of Reproductive Medicine and the Society of Assisted Reproductive Technology have all come out strongly against this proposed amendment to the constitution as both dangerous and shortsighted.

Even some normally "pro-life" figures oppose the initiative. Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour, a staunch conservative and "pro-life" supporter, has expressed his "concerns" about Initiative 26.  He stated on MSNBC that he may not vote for Initiative 26 because of its "ramifications on in vitro fertilization and [ectopic] pregnancies" for Mississippi's women.

Unfortunately, Mississippi does not face this threat alone. Similar measures are being pushed in Alabama, Georgia, Oklahoma, and Montana.

Visit the No On 26 website, educate yourself and others, and, if you can, spare a dollar or two to help them get the word out ahead of the November 8 election to prevent Initiative 26 from becoming a very real cloud over the head of hundreds of thousands of Mississippi women.

Photo: Jackson, Miss., phone bank. Mississippians for Healthy Families Facebook page.

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  • Mr. Ebersole,

    I also live in Hattiesburg and am shocked to find out that you speak so negatively of the place that you call home. I have reviewed that article that you referenced in your response. I am just as shocked to see you quoting a statistic from 2003! Surely, your journalistic efforts should have extended far beyond that amount of research. I also viewed the U.S. Department of Education's website and Ms. is NOT the lowest performing state. Alabama is currently performing at a lower level. Actually, Mississippi's scores in reading and math have steadily climbed over the last few years. Please understand, I am not negating the fact that Mississippi has educational issues, among other issues. I just take such issue with someone posting inaccurate information regarding Mississippi. Actually, if you look at the website, you will see states like Florida who have dramatically dropped off in the last few years. It's funny because I lived in South Florida for a few years and would hear negative references about Mississippi, yet when we brought a few a those same people to this state to visit, they fell in love with it due to the hospitality.

    On another note, you referenced the current poverty level in Mississippi in the aforementioned linked article....here's a crazy thought.....rather than perpetuating the issue with undereducated, impoverished children, let's stop allowing the parents of the teens turn their heads. I'm so sick of dealing with the entitled attitudes of some people. No! You aren't entitled to anything! Get off your butt, go to school, get educated, get a job and stop holding your hand out! I'm sorry if that sounds harsh but it's not my responsibility to take care of these punks who are walking around the mall with their pants around their knees in the middle of the day, nor is it my responsibility to care for the half-dressed teenager who is pushing the stroller. Sorry. I managed to go back to school with 6 children and get my degree. And no, I didn't take any form of government assistance through that process.

    I realize that this state has issues but, as you should know since you have lived elsewhere, so do other states. Let's start looking for positive things to communicate with the public and starting fixing the issues rather than just posting about them.

    Posted by Ms. Woman, 11/11/2011 2:19pm (3 years ago)

  • If you dont want an child
    Then do get PREGNANT!
    THATS MY OPINION !!!
    THIS COULD BE GOOD ADVICE !!!!!!!
    ALOT OF GIRLS HAVE KIDSS BUT DONT WANT THEM
    SO IF I WERE THEM I WOULDNT GET PREGNANT!!
    BUT I WOULD LIKE TO BE A PEDIATRISTION
    BUT I DONT WANT KIDS NOW !! IM FOCUSED ON SCHOOL NOT CHILDREN OR BABIWES

    Posted by Alaina Rowzee, 11/09/2011 6:15pm (3 years ago)

  • If you can take my fertilized egg out of my body, and it will live on its own, it is life and i will say you are right...

    Many of your young girls in Mississippi are getting pregnant, because you do not tell them about different types of contraceptions (school can only teach abstinence-only, which of course doesn't work, since babies are born to 15 year olds) and now you want to take the contraception away from those that do take it????? That is not logical....

    Posted by Hana, 11/07/2011 11:40pm (3 years ago)

  • First of all, why is a cell given a higher priority than a woman? This will only lead to unnecessary lawsuits, higher divorce rates, a decrease if not complete stop in the production of medicine, health care, food production, among many, many other things. Soon, women will be unable to work due to liability issues. Eventually women will become a trading commodity. Finding a woman that can have children without having a miscarriage and being convicted of manslaughter will become a currency. Women unable to bear children will become worthless.
    There are plenty of things going wrong in this country and this is one of the worst. Women have worked hard to gain the right to work. Equal pay, which we still do not have. Why is it not our right to live?
    I have had a miscarriage. It KILLED me. I'm still not over it. But, if I were to get pregnant and it become life threatening, my husband would not let me die. Before a fetus can feel or think, I believe it is our right as women to have that choice. A fourteen year old girl, raped by her father would be forced to have the child and very possibly die or have other complications as a result. Not only would those complications arise, but the child would likely have other problems.
    Taking this right that Roe v Wade gave us away from us is stepping backwards. This is where the Federal government needs to step in, the ramifications of this are overwhelming. This is simply a religious initiative. An extreme religious initiative. I've read the Bible. I've read the book of Mormon. I've studied Buddhism, Islam, monotheism, polytheism, you name it. I have a belief structure that picks up pieces of all of these. I love me some Jesus but I also believe in science. Scientifically, logically, this is a terrible, terrible initiative. This is, simply put, taking away women's rights... it's a steep slope, but once the first step is taken, it can't be stopped. The Federal government should shut this down.

    Posted by Holly Megan Johnson, 11/07/2011 9:24pm (3 years ago)

  • If this bill passes many doctors will be leaving mississippi to practise elsewhere.

    Who gives government the right to make a personal decision for someone. Birthcontrol is also used to control irregular bleeding with so many patients who have this problem.

    This comes down to moral issues, if God allows us as individuals the right to choose why should man be indiffent to our "right" of choice.

    Judy Jarrell

    Posted by Judy Jarrell, 11/07/2011 1:57pm (3 years ago)

  • This will not ever pass and the sad thing is that there is not enough information on it. I am an educated Ms woman with children, I do not approve of abortion EXCEPT on rare cases which would endanger a mothers life. I have actually known of cases where abortion was used more as a form of "birth control" and this is not acceptable. It is entirely TOO easy and something does need to be done. Without the proper information, how can anyone make a educated vote?
    We can spend millions of dollars on a political rep. or a highway, but not any on the facts of something so serious and life altering, THIS is the sad fact of this ammendment.

    Posted by msjoye, 11/07/2011 11:27am (3 years ago)

  • @ Ms. Woman: actually; I live in Hattiesburg Mississippi. I also used to live in Texas; and have written an article about its record as well. And as far as the educational record; there is a linked article about Mississippi's educational record- try it out.

    and @ Eric: the proposition can be found in whole at the MS Secy. of State's website: http://www.sos.ms.gov/page.aspx?s=7&s1=1&s2=50

    Posted by Ryan Ebersole, 11/06/2011 7:07pm (3 years ago)

  • Well im aggrovated about the Whole thing i wanna read the actual Amendment before its passed....All is see is partisan Opinions anywhere and everywhere. POST THE DARN BILL WORD FOR WORD AND LET ME DECIDE! GOD THE MEDIA HAS GONE TO HELL@@!!!!

    Posted by eric, 11/05/2011 5:35pm (3 years ago)

  • My comment is directed at, not the initiative portion of this article, but rather at your comment ABOUT Mississippi. I am an educated female who has been blessed to grow up in Mississippi for the whole of my life. I take great issue with your ignorant remark regarding Mississippi's education system. Mississippi is actually performing at level 5, the highest, in a great number of her schools. Sir, I encourage you to actually perform your own research PRIOR to printing an article. If you decide to compare actual numbers involved, Mississippi actually performs at a higher level than most of the states that are plagued with inner city issues, such as drugs, drop-out rates, underqualifies teachers, etc. Our graduation:drop-out rates are much lower than the aforementioned states. For those reasons, I would like to assert that you, because you felt you had the power, simply assumed that Mississippi is "plagued with a terrible education record" and felt it acceptable to post ignorant, uneducated remarks in your article. Yes, we are struggling with the Initiative 26 issue here. But to assert that we are unable to make an educated decision because we have a terrible education record is preposterous! Regarding Initiative 26, unless you are a female and of Mississippi heritage, do NOT presume to tell us how we should feel regarding pregnancy or life! My assumption is that you have never carried a child or given birth. My assumption is also that you were not, and do not currently, live in the state of Mississippi. How about writing an article that gives completely accurate facts and then let readers choose what side they might want to be on, rather than trying to push your own agenda. I am undecided how I feel about Initiative 26 and will do my own research to uncover the truth because there are too many articles pushing agendas. I simply had to comment on your assumptions about Mississippi and the level and quality of education attainable in my great state. I can only assume that if you listed your home state that I would be able to uncover some not so flattering statistics about the state that you call home.

    Posted by Ms. Woman, 11/05/2011 10:20am (3 years ago)

  • Proposition 26 should not even be on the ballot. You've got to be kidding me. As much sexual abuse that is going on this cannot even be considered as an educated decision.

    Who's idea was this anyway?

    Posted by Sherry Molpus, 11/05/2011 9:31am (3 years ago)

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