Nothing New in 41 | Jackson Free Press | Jackson, MS

Nothing New in 41

Recently, I received an email from a fellow activist that included the new petition to get a personhood initiative back on the ballot. This wasn't news to me. Those of us who worked to defeat Initiative 26 in 2011 knew more than a year ago that Personhood Mississippi was planning a new petition drive.

As I sat looking at my computer screen and read Initiative Measure No. 41 ("The right to life begins at conception. All human beings at every stage of development are unique, created in the image of God, and shall enjoy the inalienable right to life as persons under the law."), I couldn't help thinking that those behind it really believe Mississippians who voted against Initiative 26 were just confused.

They may have a point but not in the way they think.

Mississippi does need more education around reproductive health. Most of us fighting "personhood round one" found that many people didn't have a good grasp on how reproduction and birth control work. Without that basic understanding, it was hard for them to understand how personhood could threaten anything other than abortion. But this is a new day: Mississippians know better now, and for those who don't, plenty of us are ready to inform them.

The truth is that Initiative 41 is nothing new. The petition's writers took out words they believe scare people—like cloning. They want us to think this version will only affect abortion-care access and not IVF or hormonal birth control—but it will. They don't want us to understand that giving an embryo the same rights as a woman takes all kinds of pregnancy options away from childbearing women.

The impact personhood could have on women's birthing options is what people have talked about the least. If your fetus is legally a person with rights equal to yours, your doctor can accuse you of endangering a child for not having the caesarean section they recommend, for not following their advice for testing and ultrasounds, for wanting to give birth at home, for using a midwife who isn't a nurse, or numerous actions that some doctors deem dangerous, such as taking medication while pregnant.

Personhood USA and Personhood Mississippi should know that just because they changed the wording—and put a woman out front—it doesn't mean Mississippians have stopped paying attention to their message. That message hasn't changed, and neither has the opposition.

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