Last Tuesday, a large majority of Mississippi voters rejected the Mississippi Personhood Amendment, Initiative Measure No. 26. Despite polls that indicated a close vote, it was a landslide for the pro-death crowd.
What made this initiative unique was that it abandoned the incremental approach to ending abortion, i.e. parental notification, informed consent, twenty-four hour waiting period, etc. and struck at the very core of the issue: Is the unborn child, from the moment of fertilization, a person under the Constitution of the United States? If it is, and had the Amendment passed, several important objectives would have become law in Mississippi:
First, all human beings, regardless of size or development stage, would have equal rights and protection of the law. Second, abortion would be outlawed. Third, embryonic stem cell research and cloning would be illegal.
But, alas, none of these things will become law. So what can we learn from the demise of the initiative? To begin, there will probably always be a sizable percentage of the population that will support some form of abortion. Some might be squeamish about partial-birth abortions, but when it comes to eliminating the “right” altogether, they will fall in line and vote the pro-death way.
Also, a society that is steeped in the contraceptive mentality will be fearful that such a law would prevent them from using certain types of contraception. Here there is a delicious irony. For decades, the manufacturers of The Pill, the IUD, and other forms of contraception have denied that these methods are abortifacients. But when this amendment was placed before the voters, suddenly these same people were telling the voters that since these methods might be abortifacients, under the new law the user could be arrested for murder. It is a dubious claim for a number of reason, not the least of which is that it would be unenforceable. Still, who wants to go to jail for using The Pill?
Finally, and this is perhaps the most disturbing cause, a large number of Mississippians apparently are unable to follow the logic behind the amendment. If, in fact, a fertilized egg is a human person, complete with all the necessary male and female chromosomes, then how can it not be a human being? And if it is a human being, then how can any government deny its right to exist? How can the power of the state not be used to provide equal protection of the law? The logic is impeccable. To deny it is to deny reality. It takes a lot of mental gymnastics and a redefining of words to escape this reality. When human life begins is not a religious doctrine. It is a scientific fact. The American Bioethics Advisory Commission wrote, “Due to advances in scientific biotechnology, we know with no doubt whatsoever that a human life begins at the moment of fertilization.” This Commission is not a department of the Catholic Church.
And yet one must assume that other fears influenced the negative voters. Perhaps the thinking went something like this:
All right, I admit that the fertilized egg is the beginning of human life, but what if my daughter gets raped? How can she be forced to carry the child to term?
All right, I admit that the fertilized egg is the beginning of human life, but what if my daughter simply makes a mistake? She shouldnʼt be punished for making a mistake. (Thank you, Mr. President.)
All right, I admit that the fertilized egg is the beginning of human life, but whoʼs going to buy the food to feed another child?
All right, I admit that the fertilized egg is the beginning of human life, but place my child for adoption? No way. Thatʼs like abandoning my child.
I know. I know. The last one makes no sense at all. But over the years as a counselor in a crisis pregnancy, I have heard women say, “Iʼll abort my child before I give it up for adoption.”
So no matter what the reasons for rejection, the bottom line is that the initiative failed, and in this country, founded on the principle that God grants to all people the right to life, the unborn child is still not a person–and still subject to slaughter at the whim of others.