Multiple issues at play in vote on personhood

Published 6:00 pm Sunday, October 23, 2011

The debate over Initiative 26, commonlyknown as the Personhood Amendment, on the Nov. 8 general electionballot comes down to two “E” words – emotion and education.

    Emotion surely has driven the issue to next month’s ballot throughan involved initiative process carried out and supported bythousands who are pro-life. They see passage of Initiative 26 as agiant step toward steering women with unwanted pregnancies awayfrom abortions.

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     It must be emphasized thatregardless of how one feels about abortion and regardless ofwhether the initiative passes or fails, legal access to abortionswill remain the law of the land.

    According to the Secretary of State’s office, Initiative 26 “wouldamend the Mississippi Constitution to define the word “person” or”persons,” as those terms are used in Article III of the stateconstitution, to include every human being from the moment offertilization, cloning, or the functional equivalent thereof.”Whether that happens will be put before voters with the question,”Should the term “person” be defined to include every human beingfrom the moment of fertilization, cloning, or the equivalentthereof?”

    Shortly after the initiative was approved for placement on theballot, it was reasonable to assume that voters in a Bible Beltstate like Mississippi would easily approve its passage. The largenumber of “Vote Yes on 26” signs appearing in yards and alongroadsides also would seem to indicate the measure is likely topass.

    However, more recent attention by columnists, the media and healthcare professionals has raised the possibility that passage may notbe so certain – or at least not by as wide a margin as previouslythought.

    A number of organizations have raised concerns that reproductivemedical practices – particularly in vitro fertilization, in whicheggs are removed, fertilized and replanted in a woman’s womb -would become more complex and difficult if Initiative 26 passes.The question rises of what to do with the unused, fertilized eggs -each of which would be a “person” under the new law.

    Another question surrounds some contraceptive devices, such asIUDs. How could their use be reconciled with the new law. And whocould be found guilty of violating it?

    Still others raise the idea of how much government intrusion isacceptable into citizens’ everyday lives.

    Some supporters of the initiative have rejected these arguments as”scare tactics” and contend that any unanswered issues can beresolved after the amendment passes.

    “Sort them out later” is a difficult pill to swallow when it comesto resolving such issues as life, when it begins and when it can beended.

    Perhaps the issues can be resolved later and perhaps they cannot.Anyone who has been through the legal system understands what kindof Pandora’s Box can be opened over any uncertain issue.

    This is why education on Initiative 26 and its potentialramifications is so important.

    Voters must be able to make informed decisions when they go to theballot box on Election Day. The Secretary of State’s office’swebsite at offers an overview of Initiative 26 andthe other two proposed amendments on next month’s ballots, andadvocates for and against the measure have their respective sitesfor voters to visit.

    The issue of personhood and its related topics remains a highlyemotional issue for many people. Regardless of how one feels aboutthe subject  – for oragainst – emotions must be tempered with education as Election Dayapproaches and a potentially far-reaching decision awaits.