Written by Kim Gandy, Ms. Magazine
I had a miscarriage in 1991. No one accused me of murder. No one arrested and jailed me on suspicion of abortion. No one charged me with endangering the miscarried fetus.
If Initiative 26 to amend the Mississippi constitution passes next week, that won’t be true for the next woman who miscarries. She will be looking over her shoulder for the police (not the anti-abortion police, the real badge-carrying kind) to question her about the circumstances and maybe arrest her if she doesn’t have a doctor who can offer a satisfactory explanation.
Think I’m exaggerating? Think again. Initiative 26 would define a fertilized egg, from the moment of conception, as a legal “person” with all the rights and legal protections of a living, breathing child. From the moment of conception. So a miscarriage would be murder, unless you could prove it was accidental. And of course, so would an abortion–at any stage, no matter how early.
Yep, the birth control pill too–because hormonal pills can prevent a fertilized egg from implanting in the uterus. Yes, I know, implantation is the accepted medical definition of pregnancy, and you’re not yet pregnant if the fertilized egg hasn’t implanted in the uterus–but why should Mississippi care what the obstetricians and gynecologists say?
What about an ectopic pregnancy, where a fertilized egg has implanted in the fallopian tube? Would surgery to remove it be prohibited? Maybe yes, because there is no exception to preserve the life of the woman. Seriously: no exception.
Worst of all (could it be worse?) is this: If this passes in Mississippi, it will encourage our opponents to put it on ballots in key states such as Ohio, Florida and Wisconsin next year, affecting millions of women and bringing ultraconservative voters to the polls. If we win in conservative Mississippi, it will discourage them from pursuing this strategy in (even slightly) more progressive states. Think about it.
I was fortunate to have had my miscarriage in circumstances of care and support, where the trauma of miscarriage was not compounded by threat of prosecution.
If you have friends in Mississippi, they may not be so lucky. If you haven’t talked with them lately, this would be a good time to call, write, text, Facebook or otherwise remind them to Vote No on 26 next Tuesday. It could affect far more than Mississippi. Don’t let it slip your mind–do it now.
This post was originally published by Ms. Magazine.
Kim Gandy, active in women’s issues for 30 years, is the former president of NOW and is currently VP and General Counsel of the Feminist Majority.
Photo from incognito2020 via flickr