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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


    Definition of ‘personhood’ may restrict birth control

    The Mississippi ballot next week includes a scary initiative — the “personhood amendment,” which would define personhood as starting when a sperm fertilizes an egg. It’s a push by anti-abortion activists who want to make abortions impossible to get, but it’s also a threat to most forms of birth control.

    According to Proposition 26, “the term ‘person’ or ‘persons’ shall include every human being from the moment of fertilization, cloning or the functional equivalent thereof.”

    It’s like this. A squatter’s hanging out in your house, totally taking up your space when you don’t want him there. The law says he’s allowed there because he’s a “person” now. Mississippi’s Proposition 26 is basically you and a squatter, except the squatter is a fertilized egg and the house is your uterus.

    I know: What a crude, poor analogy. After all, a squatter is capable of living independently. A fertilized egg is just a speck, and it can’t exist at all without occupying someone else’s “house.”
    If personhood begins the moment an egg is fertilized, then abortions would be effectively criminalized.

    Additionally, intrauterine devices would almost certainly be illegal. IUDs prevent a fertilized egg from implanting in the uterus. This definition of personhood could also threaten the Plan B pill, which has a high dose of hormones to prevent a woman from ovulating. Although science disputes the claim, anti-abortion activists say these hormones could also block a fertilized egg’s implantation, similar to how an IUD works.

    You could argue that other hormonal forms of birth control, like the pill, offer a similar high dose of hormones to prevent ovulation, and that this could possibly, maybe, potentially (but probably not actually) fail. Then the hormones might perhaps stop the implantation of a fertilized egg.

    Personhood USA is using the slogan, “Vote for life” to push Proposition 26. It’s a rallying cry — “Stop killing babies!” that also whispers for more control over contraceptives.

    The hysterics of anti-abortion activists are getting so loud that they’re drowning out common sense. There isn’t anything complicated about the notion of contraceptives. The whole point of birth control is to prevent unwanted pregnancies and therefore abortions. By effectively making them illegal, the personhood amendment alienates more moderate voters.

    While Mississippi’s Proposition 26 isn’t the first personhood amendment seen by the states, it has the best chances. Its backer, the Colorado-based group Personhood USA, first pushed the initiative in Colorado in 2008. The measure was put on the ballot again in 2010. According to The New York Times, it failed by large margins both times.

    Somehow, failure encouraged Personhood USA to take its amendment on the road.

    Personhood USA expects more success in Mississippi, where there is just one clinic to perform the procedure anyway because the state has already restricted accessibility to abortion so much. Gallup ranked it as the most conservative state this year.

    Frighteningly, similar campaigns to define personhood in Ohio, Wisconsin, Florida, Michigan, Montana and other states may get a boost if Proposition 26 passes in Mississippi.

    If such an extreme initiative passes, and fertilized eggs are given their own full legal rights as independent “people,” there’s little to keep anti-abortion efforts from escalating.

    The Mississippi initiative is just a sneaky, slippery slope toward more limits on reproductive rights.

    — Kristina Bui is the copy chief. She can be reached at

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