Talking to Mississippi Voters: Some Personal Experiences in the Final Days


See all our coverage of egg-as-person initiatives here.

See all our coverage of Mississippi Initiative (Prop) 26 here.

Reports from Mississippi are mixed. A respected journalist said on the Diane Rehm Show earlier this week that the personhood amendment will pass overwhelmingly. Initiative 26 opponents on the ground say opposition is growing as people begin to understand how extreme the initiative is. Even Gov. Haley Barbour doesn’t like it. If polling has been done, it has not been made public so we really don’t know what voters will do Tuesday, Nov. 8. What I learned from participating in the Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice’s phonebank to Mississippi voters this week was enlightening. Most people have made up their minds, one way or the other, and they’re not talking – or listening; a few still have not heard about Initiative 26 (for example, one woman who had just returned home from two weeks in the hospital), and a few are still unsure, including a woman whose story left me convinced there is hope for defeating this awful legislation.

A busy young mother I spoke to put it bluntly: “You mean the abortion thing?” When I said yes, she continued: “You mean whether the mother dies or the baby?” I said yes again. She said she knew how she was voting – against 26. After all, she’s a mother and knows the terrible consequences of forbidding medical treatment to a pregnant woman.

An older woman said she knew all about it – two of her granddaughters, who are students at local community colleges, are going door-to-door to talk to people about the amendment, along with several of their friends. She said many people did not understand the harmful consequences of the amendment and her granddaughters and their friends are educating them. We agreed that young people – at least these young people – aren’t apathetic. She is very proud of them.

What gave me the most hope was a long conversation, about 12 minutes. The woman I spoke to was a middle-aged working mother who defined herself as pro-life. At first, when I mentioned the reasons why the amendment is so bad – it would ban birth control and in vitro fertilization, ban all abortions even in cases of rape – she said she had heard that wasn’t true. We discussed the amendment in more detail and she said: “It’s so complicated. I wish things were simpler, like they used to be.” She said she felt like she was living in Russia because there was so much government control these days. Finally, she said what was really on her mind. Her stepdaughter had had an ectopic pregnancy – and her life had been saved by a medical procedure that would be banned if the amendment were passed and changed laws regarding abortion. It took a relatively long phone call to get to that point – and when we hung up she still wasn’t sure about how she would vote. But she’s thinking about it, and that may be the best we can do in the final hours before Tuesday, Nov. 8.

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  • lifeisbeautiful88

    When abortion was illegal, women could always get life-saving treatment even when that treatment required the removal of the child. The same would be true under Initiative 26. Of course, doctors should always try to save both mother and baby, when possible. The Mississippi legislature will never outlaw life-saving treatment for the mother.

     

    Maybe you can explain why even though the eagle is no longer an endangered species, its eggs are still federally protected while they’re still in the mother eagle; once they are laid; through the 35-day incubation period and beyond through hatching. In fact, even the nonliving eagle egg shell is protected by the federal law. We’re talking a $100,000 fine! Shouldn’t a human baby have at least the same protection under the law?

  • jennifer-starr

    I’m beginning to think you’re some kind of bot that only gives out programmed responses. 

  • johann7

    …I’ll respond seriously anyway, just in case I’m wrong and you actually care about this issue and by extension the accuracy of the discourse around it.

    “When abortion was illegal, women could always get life-saving treatment even when that treatment required the removal of the child.” No, this is patently untrue. Even WITH abortion legal, access to health care is still restricted. Many women NOW still can’t “get life-saving treatment”; that said, even women who could/can afford health care couldn’t/can’t always get medically-necessary abortions – please see the results of this Google search demonstrating that maternal mortality did and still does occur: http://www.google.com/search?q=childbirth+death

    “The same would be true under Initiative 26.” That’s not at all clear; as the initiative simply changes the definition of “person” as used in the state constitution to include living embryonic cell clusters (all the way back to a fretilized ovum), it would be up to courts to determine the specific impacts in terms of various laws on the books. Granted, I would consider an abortion to protect the safety of a pregnant woman (in a state that defines a fetus as a legal person) to fall under terms of justifiable homicide by way of self defense, but there is no guarantee the Mississippi Supreme Court will.

    The really interisting bit here is that defining a fetus as a legal person allows for a (some will certainly say distasteful) framing of the pregnancy/birth as assault by the fetus against the woman (the fetus constantly drains blood from the woman without her consent, the physilogical changes associated with pregnancy may cause the woman pain or other harm, and birth itself frequently causes injury to women and may, in the case that it is not consensual as it’s the result of a coerced/forced pregnancy, even fall under Mississippi’s Sexual Battery statute 97-3-95). Were I in Mississippi and capable of becoming pregnant if this initiative becomes law, I would attempt to charge my fetus with assault and take out a restraining order, compelling law enforcement to keep the fetus 500 yards away from me at all times, by imprisonment if necessary, in order to highlight the total absurdity of declaring something that is in no way an autonomous person a legal person (with the right lawyer and judge, this could potentially allow women to force the state to pay for their abortions, which is a delightfully ironic twist for a law the framers of which intend nothing of the sort).

    “Of course, doctors should always try to save both mother and baby, when possible.” Unfortunately, medical science is not a matter of exact absolutes. What this usually looks like in practice is terminating a pregnancy to drastically increase the woman’s odds of survival. It may be *possible* to save her without terminating the pregnancy, even if the odds of doing so are drastically lower than not.

    “The Mississippi legislature will never outlaw life-saving treatment for the mother.” Well, this is a ballot initiative, so I’d be more worried about the actons of Mississippi’s registered voters than its legislature at this point, but I don’t think you can say “never” here with any degree of certainty.

     

    “Maybe you can explain why even though the eagle is no longer an endangered species, its eggs are still federally protected while they’re still in the mother eagle; once they are laid; through the 35-day incubation period and beyond through hatching. In fact, even the nonliving eagle egg shell is protected by the federal law. We’re talking a $100,000 fine! Shouldn’t a human baby have at least the same protection under the law?” WTF? I fail to see what laws governing treatment of endangered species have the least bit to do with reproductive rights. Unless you’re a militant vegan, I can’t imagine you’re arguing that all non-human animals have the same rights as humans; unless you ARE arguing that, your analogy is specious. We can discuss federal protections for endangered/threatened species on their own merits, but they really have nothing to do with this issue. Basically, eagles are not people, so we can regulate eagles in ways in which we cannot/should not regulate people.