From CNN News comes this bizarre event: Mississippi will hold a referendum to determine whether voters think that “personhood” begins with conception.
Voters in Mississippi will be given a chance to decide whether life begins at conception, a controversial abortion-related ballot initiative that the state’s highest court has refused to block.
The Mississippi Supreme Court late Thursday allowed Measure 26, also known as the Personhood Amendment, to appear on the state ballot November 8. The decision was a rejection of a lawsuit filed by the ACLU and abortion-rights groups.
The 7-2 ruling said those groups had not met the legal burden required to restrict the right of citizens to amend the state constitution. . .
. . . Anti-abortion forces hope the amendment, if passed, would ultimately be appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court, providing another opportunity for the justices to overturn the landmark Roe v. Wade decision legalizing abortion.
Here’s a screenshot of the proposed state constitutional amendment from an anti-abortion site:
I recognize that for many abortion is not a clear-cut issue, and there is controversy about the stage at which aborting a fetus should be considered illegal or immoral. Some, like Peter Singer, even think that some euthanasia of severely afflicted or doomed newborns might be permitted, and I can see the validity of that view as well.
At any rate, according to a 2006 survey by the Guttmacher Institute, only 1.5% of abortions in America involve fetuses older than 21 weeks, the age at which the fetus is usually considered viable, 3.8% occur between 16 and 20 weeks, and fully 61.8% occur at less than nine weeks. And since I grew up in the sixties and seventies, when there was lots of sex and drug-induced coupling, ergo many abortions, I know that women don’t take the procedure lightly, and hardly regard it (as many religious people seem to do) as a form of birth control.
Clearly, an 100-cell blastocyst does not have any feelings or thoughts (much less a soul), and to deem that ball of cells equivalent to an adult human being elides some very serious differences involving sentience. A blastocyst is no more what we think of as a “person” than an acorn is the same thing as an oak tree. And this doesn’t even take into consideration the widespread view that abortion is a private matter involving the wishes of the parents, the fact that women will seek out abortions whether or not they’re illegal (thousands of Irish women, for example, fly to England every year for abortions), and the possibility that the production of unwanted children may be bad for both those children and society.
Further, if a fetus at any state is deemed a “person,” then abortion becomes equivalent to murder.
Now there are nonreligious objections to abortion, but clearly much of this “personhood” kerfuffle derives from religion and its attendant concept of a soul. That of course is why these initiatives often originate in conservative areas of the U.S., and why nonreligious countries, like those in Western Europe, allow legal abortions. In the largely Catholic Republic of Ireland, abortion is totally illegal unless a birth would endanger the life of the mother.
It seems to me that although America is a democracy, it’s dicey to leave the definition of “personhood” up to the voters rather than the judiciary (but please, not this Supreme Court!). Please weigh in below with your thoughts on the issue, especially if you’re a woman, the sex on whom the onus for abortion falls most often.
h/t: Diane G