Debating Personhood

Today, Mississippians are at the polls voting on Amendment 26, an amendment that is ostensibly anti-abortion but has far-reaching implications for women’s reproductive health, including banning some forms of birth control and possibly prohibiting IVF because it defines life as beginning at fertilization.

I don’t live in Mississippi, but I’m watching this vote because what one state is able to enact can spread to other states.  On a macro level, I’m appalled because we are in 2011 and enacting this amendment takes women’s rights back to at least the 1920s and possibly further.   Really?  Is this amendment necessary?  Who are these people? With the country in such dire straits economically, is this effort what legislators should be focusing their energy on?  A quick Google search finds that Mississippi has a troubled education system that could benefit from legislative attention.  One site declares Mississippi the worst state in the nation for science education, which is perhaps no surprise given this amendment.

What the amendment is really doing by granting an embryo the status of a person is taking away a woman’s personhood. Your embryo’s right to be born is more important than you are.  What is this loathing towards women?  Why the animosity towards letting a woman have any control over herself and her health?

On a micro level, I’m very worried about this amendment’s implications for IVF.  IVF treatment requires the creation of multiple embryos.  If this amendment is passed, does this mean that doctors will be required to transfer all embryos created to a woman, resulting in an Octomom situation?  If the embryos fail to implant and grow, will the woman be prosecuted for a hostile uterus?  If a couple has frozen embryos like we do, will they be required to place them for adoption (yes, embryo adoption exists) if they do not with to use them?  The amendment’s supporters dismiss concerns and say the details will need to be worked out once the law is enacted.  That this amendment has been written with such simplicity is terrifying and illustrates a classic case of unintended consequences.

It is perhaps a contradiction to be infertile and pro-choice.  Unable to have a child but longing for one, yet still supporting a woman’s right to choose and make decisions for herself.  You might think that infertiles would welcome amendments like Amendment 26 because it will create more children, children who might be placed for adoption–you know, the answer to all of our infertile problems because everyone knows that infertility and adoption are a perfect fit.  But I don’t think that way because I value my liberty.  I value my free will and my ability to make decisions for myself and my family.  I value my personhood.

Today’s CNN article on Amendment 26 highlight’s one pro-life couple’s lack of support for the amendment: their infertility.  They had their son through IVF.

“It is a concern, but a bigger concern for us is to not be able to have children,” said Robin Carpenter. “If it means that I’m labeled a murderer, but I am able to have children, it’s a risk that we’ll definitely take.”

The desire to have children might label this woman and others like her a murderer if they need to use fertility treatments.  How ironic that a law that seeks to ensure embryos personhood could result in no children for infertile couples.

Please, Mississippi, before you vote, stop and think.  Show the nation that you have good sense and defeat Amendment 26.

A few other perspectives on Amendment 26:

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