On Nov. 8, Mississippi voters will vote on Initiative 26, a personhood constitutional amendment that defines a person as “every human being from the moment of fertilization, cloning, or the functional equivalent thereof.” Personhood amendments like this are an extreme invasion of a woman and family’s privacy, not only criminalizing abortion but potentially outlawing common forms of contraception.
While the religious right are standing firmly behind the amendment, not all anti-abortion supporters are thrilled about the this radical overreach. Today on Fox and Friends, Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour (R) expressed considerable concern over the bill’s ambiguity, noting “a lot of pro-life people have problems with this particular language.” Following up with MSNBC’s Chuck Todd, Barbour reiterated that he believes “life begins at conception” but that he may not vote for the bill because of the “ramifications” it will have on a woman’s reproductive rights and health:
BARBOUR: I believe life begins at conception. Unfortunately, this personhood amendment doesn’t say that. It says life begins at fertilization, or cloning, or the functional equivalent thereof. That ambiguity is striking a lot of pro-life people here as concerning. And I’m talking about people that are very, outspokenly pro-life. [...]
TODD: How are you voting on it?
BARBOUR: Really I haven’t decided. If you would have asked me when this was first proposed, I would’ve said A, the legislature would’ve passed it 100 to 1. And B, I believe life begins at conception and therefore I would be for it. I am concerned about some of the ramifications on in vitro fertilization and [ectopic] pregnancies where pregnancies [occur] outside the uterus and [in] the fallopian tubes. That concerns me, I have to just say it.
Barbour is correctly concerned about the “profoundly ambiguous” language of the bill. Fertilization can be defined at least four ways, beginning either with the sperm’s penetration of the egg or, as those behind the bill suggest, when the embryo is formed even before its implantation in the uterus. Such a definition could ban the birth control pill, stem cell derivation, and — as Barbour notes — in vitro fertilization procedures for couples trying to have a baby.
But it is important to note that Barbour’s preferred ban from “conception” still subjects women to serious ramifications. Conception is medically defined as the implantation of the embryo. Most women don’t even know that they are pregnant until four to six weeks after this occurs. “Life at conception” rules would be the most radical ban on abortion yet, completely eradicating a woman’s constitutional right to choose.