What on Earth is going on in Mississippi? On yesterday’s ballot, America’s most regressive state – more about this in a moment – voted to determine whether a fertilized human egg – a single cell – is a “person.” If it were voted into “factitude,” it would make all kinds of behavior subject to criminal indictment. Fortunately, wiser heads prevailed as 58 percent of voters rejected the amendment to the state’s constitution.
Take a “morning after” pill – you’re a murderer. Abortion . . . likewise. The idea behind this so-called Personhood Amendment was to establish the strongest so-called pro-life (read: anti-choice) laws in the country.
One in three children in the Magnolia State lives in poverty, the highest rate in the nation. It also leads the nation in percentage of population living in poverty. It’s tied for fifth in high school dropout rate. It has the second highest incarceration rate.
We won’t take a stand here as to whether abortion is right or wrong. That’s an individual decision. If you are against abortion, don’t practice it. Voice your opinion. Dissuade others. The question becomes this: If you believe that a person becomes a person when a sperm enters an ovum, does that make it so? Does a state have the right to enforce essentially religious beliefs?
If the answer is yes, here are some complications to consider:
• If a woman takes a “morning after” pill, how does the state prove there was a fertilized egg in her womb? With no corpus delecti, how does one prove murder?
• How would Mississippi afford to provide social services for the likely growing population of financially and emotionally needy unwanted children?
• How will the state accommodate the likely increasing criminal population as these unwanted kids age?
Three of Mississippi’s four members of the House of Representatives, and both of its senators, voted to terminate federal funding of Planned Parenthood. If the Personhood Amendment had passed, it would mean that Mississippi opposes funding family planning and it wants to prevent those who thereby have unwanted pregnancies from removing that predicament.
What if the tables were turned? Imagine if you will that over the decades America develops a population that is overwhelmingly in favor of population reduction. It then mandates that, like China, no mother may give birth to more than one baby. Pregnant with a second child? Too bad; you must have an abortion for the overall betterment of society because, by preventing overpopulation, many lives would be saved. How fair would that be? Would the good people of Mississippi likewise say that since the majority voted for such a program, it should be enforced?
Here is an interesting sidebar that appears in the October 2011 issue of The Reporter, the magazine of Population Connection, a nonprofit formerly known as Zero Population Growth (ZPG), that advocates for a sustainable world population. Its president, John Seager, tells a story of the Bush family. Yes, that Bush family.
Before he became a senator from Connecticut in 1952, Prescott Bush served as the treasurer of the first national capital campaign of Planned Parenthood in 1947. The first time Prescott ran for the senate he lost, due in part to his favoring family planning, which did not sit well with much of Connecticut’s heavily Catholic population. He eventually won a Senate seat in 1952, serving two terms.
George H.W. Bush, Prescott’s son, wrote an expression of praise for ZPG when he was Ambassador to the United Nations in the Nixon Administration. But a funny thing happened on the way to the White House. H.W. realized that if he were to win over the southern states and maintain Nixon’s so-called Southern Strategy, he would have to steer clear of any associations with abortion. Then came George W. Bush, who did away with contributions to the United Nations Population Fund and the U.S. Agency for International Development’s family planning program. So the once enthusiastically pro-family-planning Bushes transformed into neo-pioneers of the philosophy that family planning is not a good idea.
“Why would anyone oppose reducing abortions by providing women with the ability to manage their own fertility?” asks Seager. Speaking of today’s Congress, he adds, “It turns out that a majority of the U.S. House can’t or won’t accept this simple notion.”
As for Mississippi’s vote on personhood, if the ballot initiative had passed, you can bet that this matter would not have been resolved until the U.S. Supreme Court were to decide on its constitutionality.
The ultimate solution to issues of unwanted pregnancies lies with each of us individually. We need to think, and think twice. We need to decide whether unplanned pregnancy – nay, unplanned sexual activity that results in hit-or-miss pregnancy – is a reasonable way to live.
But undermining family planning is definitely the wrong way to go.