As ThinkProgress has been reporting, Personhood USA and its affiliates in the states are fringe anti-abortion groups that are determined to redefine life as beginning at the moment of fertilization, effectively outlawing contraceptives like birth control pills. Personhood Mississippi has succeeded in getting a “personhood” amendment on the Nov. 8 ballot that will allow voters to change the state’s constitution to say life begins at the moment of fertilization.
Yet Missisissippi Democrats are too afraid of challenging the anti-abortion lobby in a conservative state to stand up against Republicans to fight the measure. Laura Bassett reports in the Huffington Post that many are asking “where are the Democrats” in this debate:
Members of the medical and legal communities have raised concerns that the amendment could have unforeseen, far-reaching implications for women’s health, such as banning certain kinds of birth control, in vitro fertilization and stem cell research.
But state Democrats have been cautious of publicly opposing or even questioning the amendment for fear of alienating Mississippi’s pro-life majority.
In defining a legal human being from the moment of fertilization, Initiative 26, often called the “Personhood Amendment,” would criminalize abortion in Mississippi, with no exceptions for rape, incest or life of the mother.
The American Civil Liberties Union and other groups are challenging the measure, but could have a hard time finding Democratic allies, since many have already come out in favor of the amendment. That includes Jim Hood, the Democratic Attorney General, who endorsed the amendment said he would defend it if it were challenged. The Democratic candidate for Mississippi governor, Johnny DuPree, told Huffington Post that that he supports it as well, despite his “concerns about some of the ramifications.”
In fact, only one senate Democrat would publicly oppose the amendment, and the Mississippi Democratic Party has declined to take a position on Initiative 26.
Leola Reis, a spokesperson for the No on 26 campaign, commented, “it’s really disappointing to not see state leadership publicly talk about the shortcomings and dangers of this initiative for the women and families of Mississippi.”
The personhood amendment does far more than restrict abortion rights. It would recognize every fertilized egg as a complete human being with full rights, and place millions of women in legal jeopardy. The medical community has long been in agreement that fertilization does not mark the beginning of a pregnancy — fertilized eggs must first be implanted, and only about half of fertilized eggs actually result in a pregnancy. But Personhood USA considers contraceptives that can prevent fertilized eggs from implanting tantamount to abortion, and wants to make it a punishable offense for women to control their own fertility.