On Tuesday, November 8th, Mississippi voters will make a decision that will very likely have national impact. If the majority votes yes on Amendment 26, it would be the first state to declare fertilized eggs as people. Amendment 26, which has the support of the two male gubernatorial candidates--white Republican Phil Bryant and black Democrat Johnny DuPree--would essentially give fertilized eggs the same rights and legal protections as the women who carry them. According to The New York Times, the movement for so-called personhood is advancing similar measures in Ohio and Florida.
If women like the 927 who were raped last year in Mississippi were to become pregnant during their attack, they would be forced to have their rapist's baby.
The state's female victims of incest would also be legally required to carry a pregnancy to term.
And even though one in six women report pregnancy as the catalyst for first-time physical abuse by their intimate partners, abortion would not be an option for Mississippi's girls and women in these dangerous relationships.
In addition to putting fertilized eggs on par with actual girls and women, this so-called Personhood Amendment would ostensibly outlaw IUDs, a form* of birth control that stops a fertilized egg from attaching itself to the uterine wall.
The measure, which RH Reality Check has dubbed the Egg-As-Person Initiative, would also place limits on in vitro fertilization, and create dangerous medical obstacles for women who have high-risk pregnancies.
If carrying a baby to term would literally kill the mother, Amendment 26 essentially says "too bad."
Too bad for the woman who has to die.
Too bad for her partner. Too bad for the doctor who would effectively become a murderer for saving his or her patient. Too bad for the mother's other children. Too bad for her own mother, father, siblings, friends, community and anyone else who loves her. Too bad for the baby without a mother.
In a "Hardball" interview, Ken Blackwell, senior fellow for the pro-26 Family Research Council who is African-American, explained why this bizarre amendment should become Mississippi law:
Technology as well as public opinion has made it crystal clear that what we have at the moment of conception is a small human being. It is not a glob of tissue. It is not something that can be easily dismissed, defined and discarded. It is a human being.
Within the context of the carnage an amendment like this one can cause for beings already on this Earth, this is not a compelling argument. The sanctity of life I get. The sanctity of the magical moment when a sperm wiggles into my egg? Not so much.
I've already covered how the movement for so-called Personhood plays fast and loose with black history. Over at RH Reality Check, Loretta Ross of Trust Black Women crystalizes how Amendment 26--coupled with the equally sinister voter ID Amendment 27 on Tuesday's ballot--is part of a larger effort deny basic rights to African-Americans who comprise the state's largest Democratic voting bloc:
...Mississippi is more than one-third African American, the highest concentration of black people in the country. The majority of white voters in Mississippi are Republican. The majority of Democratic voters are African Americans who should not be taken for granted or for fools. Both ballot initiatives violate basic human rights. The implications of ignoring the twinned priorities of the African American community are enormous.
Personhood efforts actually attempt to trump women's biology - the vast majority of "fertilized eggs" are lost through menstruation or absorbed into the woman's body so that only a tiny fraction go on to become pregnancies. Ironically, it will also prevent women who want to become pregnant from using in-vitro fertilization.
Similarly, consequences for Voter ID are grim. If people are kept from voting - because of the lack of government ID or missing birth certificates - then Mississippi returns to the sixties when voter denials based on race and gender were common and mocked our democracy. In the future, our movements will face an even more Republicanized state legislature, guaranteeing that women's and civil rights will be violated.
I can't speak for the people who truly believe that they are doing God's work by designating a fertilized egg as a person. But I know this: Fertilized eggs can't run the government; cynical, self-serving, power-grabbing men who claim to speak for fertilized eggs can. The women, the girls, the fathers, the offspring whom they claim to care so deeply about are just collateral damage.
More: For a Jackson, Mississippi, doctor's take on more of the medical risks of Amendment 26, watch the video above.
*post has been updated since publication.