Mississippi will vote in referendum tomorrow on an amendment to its constitution that would make a fertilized human egg, i.e., a zygote, a legal person. Alabama flirted with the idea in the last legislative session, but thought better of it, opting instead to pass its ridiculous, impractical, xenophobic, yet thankfully proving to be mostly irrelevant, illegal immigration law.
If the referendum passes, a large swath of Mississippi’s legal code would be incomprehensible without the aid of lawyers and judges, as personhood and its legal ramifications have been fairly well-settled law since at least Reconstruction. No doubt, the Mississippi bar supports the measure, perhaps covertly, but still.
The strategy has split abortion opponents. The National Right to Life Foundation, and Roman Catholic Bishops, have refused to support it, feeling it will harm the cause of limiting abortions by affecting so broad a swath of medicine with the potential for criminality.
My view? Abortion should not be a birth control device. Abortions should be, as Bill Clinton famously put it, “safe, legal and rare.” If a young woman wishes to be sexually active, she should take precautions against pregnancy, if a pregnancy is not desired. Should young men do so as well? Ethically, certainly, but as a practical matter, it is the woman’s body that carries the child, so she has a much greater vested interest in protecting against an unwanted pregnancy, so the onus should be on her.
All that, I hope this stupid movement dies on the vine. It is laughable how conservatives that think the government can do nothing right, yet still wish for the government to exercise its blunt police powers in the bedroom. Women have always found ways around bearing children they did not wish to bear. Upending the social construct of personhood is hardly likely to do anything more than confuse the already confused abortion jurisprudence, and send women scurrying for new strategies. None of this would have been necessary had the Warren Court seen and understood the limits of law to affect human behavior, which would have been an admittedly tall order, considering it had spent the previous decade stretching its jurisprudential reach into every facet of American life, but still, this was an issue better left to the states to decide. So long as movement between states wasn’t restricted, local abortion law could have comported with the community’s standards, much like it ruled in First Amendment pornography cases.