Mississippi's abortion amendment ill-conceived

Mississippi, a bible-belt state that already has several of the nation’s strictest anti-abortion regulations and only a solitary clinic where these procedures are performed, is attempting to put an abortion ban into their state constitution. Both of the gubernatorial candidates endorse this legislation. The proposed amendment, which will be voted on Nov. 8, would declare that life begins when an egg is fertilized. The state already has several laws regulating abortions, including a requirement of both parents’ consent for any minor requesting an abortion, mandatory in-person counseling prior to an abortion, and a 24-hour waiting period before any woman can finalize her decision to terminate a pregnancy. How is this proposed law relevant to me? While Mississippi is the only state with such an amendment on the ballot this fall, efforts are under way to put the question to voters in at least four other states in 2012. This means it is bigger than Mississippi. This is a national call to make access to abortion illegal.

This proposed amendment claims that life occurs at fertilization and life is legally protected. Therefore, Mississippi is attempting to make abortion completely illegal. If abortion is to become illegal, women will find other dangerous ways to end any unwanted pregnancies that are damaging to their physical and mental health. It may not be legal, but that doesn’t mean people won’t find a way to do it; they have done so historically and many women lost their lives or fertility to unsanitary backroom abortion shops. Who cares when life starts? An abortion is an abortion. Whether you support or oppose abortion, it doesn’t matter when life starts; it’s the act itself that is the cause of controversy.

One can agree with the sentiments of pro-life activists and encourage life, while still providing room for a woman to make her own decision. Frankly, it’s not my personal right to make that decision for my sisters, aunts, friends, or daughters. It is insulting to attempt to force any woman to carry out an unwanted pregnancy, whether it came about through rape or another circumstance.

This amendment does not address the underlying problem, but takes a step back into the dark ages. People have engaged in sexual relationships outside of marriage for centuries, and while the religious may not want to accept this, it will always occur. What this state really needs to be focusing on is making birth control more accessible and educating citizens on the need for using birth control if they are sexually active. Abstinence should also be encouraged as a form of birth control. The problem with this amendment is that it also eliminates essential forms of birth control such as Plan B. Should abortion be used as a form of birth control? In my opinion, absolutely not. According to a study released by The American Society for Reproductive Medicine, it damages the woman’s emotional health and physical health. Should the option still remain available? Yes, as it is absolutely the woman’s right to make a decision concerning her own body. We have no right to force a woman to bear a child that she very well might have to take care of on her own. Especially if she may face doing so without the involvement of the father or without any financial support.

Supporters of the amendment don’t want to focus on the the economic ramifications and freedom of choice, because they are only looking at it as a spiritual issue. But, as voters, we must consider that if we truly have the right to religion, then we have the right to decline religion, and this whole issue is a religious one. According to an article just released by the Associated Press, campaigners for the proposed law claim that their mission is to “end a sin that blights America” emphasizing the religious motive behind the campaign. America is about freedom of choice, is it not? This includes not forcing opinions and lifestyles on one another or making life decisions for each other. Supporters are attempting to impose their personal religious beliefs on others by forcing women to carry unwanted pregnancies, including those caused by rape or incest.

This is not just a woman’s burden; this amendment would affect men as well. By reducing the woman’s right to control her future and her life, the course of a man’s life dramatically changes as well. If a child enters a world that is not prepared for it, it is an economic burden that may cause the quality of the child’s life to continue in poverty and deprivation.  I would like to know where these lawmakers are when the child is born and needs to be clothed, fed and educated. It’s all fine and well to create a law but I question whether, if they actually had to live with the social and economic effects of this law, they would actually be supporting it for long.

In attempting to amend the Mississippi constitution to begin life at fertilization, those in favor of the proposed law are attempting to outlaw abortion in seeking state changes, putting the question to voters, rather than federal changes. I find this to be an unproductive measure to have on the ballots.


By Elizabeth Reeves