Mississippi Personhood amendment

Right now, I’m writing a uni essay about women, pregnancy and surveillance… It’s pretty theoretical. Perhaps we should adopt a ‘the theoretical is the personal is the political’ type approach to feminism, because as I’m writing this big abstract ramble about how women are turned into walking incubators, or as Purdy would say, fetal containers, I’m also reading all this crazy about the Mississippi Personhood ballot. In fact, it’s so relevant and crazy I’ve managed to work it into my essay in the legal approaches paragraph… It really is one of those things that causes one to lose sleep.

In amongst all the media hype though, this post at the Abortion Gang blog sums up how the consequences have actually been overstated in the media. Not something I’ve previously had to be too concerned about when the media report on anti-woman type laws, but it’s important to point out that many people still don’t understand how contraception works. Really. This is important people! I’m happy that, if courts are to understand this, it would mean that even if this law does get up in the vote, it won’t have quite as wide reaching consequences as what you read in articles like the Huffpost one I’ve linked to at the top here. But that’s assuming courts do get it right…

I am pro-choice, and I focus a lot of my attention on what’s happening in the world which restricts women’s access to contraception, sexual health and abortion. But the flip side of choosing not to have children is of course, having children. Women who make that choice are also at risk, in a horrifying way, under this proposal. Miscarriages become… murder? manslaughter? Who knows how a prosecutor could choose to proceed when a case presents itself. And lets not mention the hundreds of eggs which meet up with sperm but which fail to implant, and are expelled when a woman has a period. Murder! What about spontaneous early miscarriage? These often happen when women don’t actually know they were ever pregnant, for a variety of reasons, when a woman’s body decides that the pregnancy isn’t viable. Murder? What of women who consume moderate amounts of alcohol during pregnancy? According to some studies, this is ok. Others, it’s not. Would this woman be prosecuted for something? Supplying alcohol to a minor? Who can tell, but there have been very vocal minorities in the US advocating this course of action for a long time, particularly in the US. Women have been prosecuted for supplying drugs to their fetuses in other cases, before any law like this in the US, though thankfully these have been overturned. This law paves the way for all kinds of consequences, probably some which haven’t even been contemplated yet. And that’s the point – Professor Cohen of Harvard Law School argues here that the amendment is very ambiguous and may have unintended consequences, even for those who advocate against a woman’s right to choose abortion and for controlling, punitive interventions into women’s pregnancies.

For some extra reading on this depressing potential law, check out this list of links from Feminists for Choice

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