Occasionally it’s good to check in and see what our favorite anti-gay hate groups are up to when they’re not hating gay people. Lest we fail to understand that the fights for LGBT equality and reproductive rights are inextricably linked — they are both about the ability of fundamentalist Christian men to control the bodies and sex lives and autonomy of anyone who doesn’t look like them — let’s take a look at the “personhood amendment” being debated in Mississippi right now.
If you’re not familiar with a “personhood amendment,” it goes like this:
Garden variety “pro-life” people tend to be concerned with stopping abortion, and favor using the law to enforce that, rather than actually fighting for things like economic freedom for poor women and sex education, things which have been proven to reduce the need for abortion. [Those are the things the pro-choice movement works toward.] However, there is a subset within the activist anti-choice movement which seeks dominion over all female bodies, and will go to any length to achieve it. A “personhood amendment” would codify in a state’s Constitution that human life begins at the point of fertilization and grant that embryo all the rights of an actual human being. This is patently insane to anyone with a rudimentary understanding of the human reproductive process. By this definition of “personhood,” millions of people “die” every day when embryos which haven’t yet implanted simply don’t turn into actual pregnancies. They aren’t even miscarriages.
The result of such an amendment would, of course, go around Roe v. Wade and ban all abortion in a state, but it would also put in danger lots of other things 99% of women take for granted in the United States. Irin Carmon has a great piece in Salon today which exposes what Mississippi is trying to do right now:
[T]he Personhood movement hopes to do nothing less than reclassify everyday, routine birth control as abortion. The medical definition of pregnancy is when a fertilized egg successfully implants in the uterine wall. If this initiative passes, and fertilized eggs on their own have full legal rights, anything that could potentially block that implantation – something a woman’s body does naturally all the time – could be considered murder. Scientists say hormonal birth-control pills and the morning-after pill work primarily by preventing fertilization in the first place, but the outside possibility, never documented, that an egg could be fertilized anyway and blocked is enough for some pro-lifers.
On the chopping block: the morning-after pill, IUD’s, most forms of in vitro fertilization and, according to some, the regular old birth control pill. Moreover, the door would be open to investigating women who have recently miscarried. It happens in lots of countries.
You may be reading this and thinking, “that is insane. Nobody is that insane.” Have you met Fundamentalist Christian men before?
But a Colorado-based Personhood activist, Ed Hanks, is more than willing to publicly take things to their logical conclusion. He wrote on the Personhood Mississippi Facebook page that after abortion is banned, “the penalties have to be the same [for a women as well as doctors], as they would have to intentionally commit a known felony in order to kill their child. Society isn’t comfortable with this yet because abortion has been ‘normalized’ — as the Personhood message penetrates, then society will understand why women need to be punished just as surely as they understand why there can be no exceptions for rape/incest.”
At several public forums organized by the secretary of state to discuss ballot initiatives, resident Scott Murray’s statement was typical: “I know there is an issue with pregnancies, unmarried pregnancies, but I tell you the greatest prevention is God, and we’ve got to return to God.” So was Stephen Hannabass’ assertion that “we’ve got to repent. We’ve got to come before God and beg for mercy for our state and for our country.”
You see, if Mississippi just “repents” and “turns back to God,” there won’t be any problems anymore! Left unmentioned by these men, of course, is the fact that Mississippi has one of the worst infant morality rates in the nation, as well as one of the worst rates of child poverty. For these people, life truly begins at conception and concern for it ends at birth, especially if you happen to be a woman.
Irin explains that this measure [which was once supported by most Mississippians, until they actually heard the details of it] didn’t really have legs until one of our favorite hate groups got involved. Yes, the American Family Association is an anti-gay hate group, but it’s also an anti-woman and anti-family hate group:
It was the American Family Association endorsement that put media muscle behind the movement in Mississippi, with email blasts, radio PSAs and interviews, promotions on its own website, and combined with the grass-roots energy, the state’s anti-choice groups took notice. Suddenly, people who had previously focused on incremental change – parental consent laws, waiting periods, ultrasound laws – were ecstatically heralding an end of the “murders.” Mike Huckabee keynoted a fundraiser and even presumed GOP front-runner Mitt Romney to endorse the concept on his show.
Ta-da! When they’re not letting Bryan Fischer lie shamelessly about gay people and screaming and crying about hardware stores being mean to them, the AFA is quietly working to take away most of women’s fundamental rights over what they can and cannot do with their bodies. I cannot imagine what the next step would be, should something like this ever pass. Once they have women’s reproductive systems firmly in their hands, will they move on to controlling what they eat or when they speak? I wouldn’t be surprised.
Please, do yourself a favor and read Irin’s whole piece. The part about how this could affect the treatment of ectopic pregnancies will make you sick. There is a good chance that, as the details of the Personhood Movement, and their true goals, come to light, that this will go down in history as one of the patriarchy’s grand overreaches. I hope so. Again, 99% of women think birth control is just great.
And remember — groups like the American Family Association don’t just hate you as an LGBT person. They hate you in any way you might be different from their poorly conceived, bastardized fundamentalist “Christian” view of how people should live.
UPDATE: Two more things. First, here is the video from Freda Bush, a proponent of the amendment, who is also an OB-GYN. Watch as she lies through her teeth about what this bill is about.
Her lies are solidly refuted in Irin Carmon’s piece.
Also, please read PZ Myers, an actual scientist, on the matter.