My thoughts on the Personhood Amendment

Citizens of our lovely state of Mississippi will be voting on an Amendment to its Constitution that seeks to define who is a person in the following way, “The term ‘person’ or ‘persons’ shall include every human being from the moment of fertilization, cloning or the functional equivalent thereof.” I am really worried it will pass.

I have a known history of miscarriage, as well as preterm labor on the cusp of the third trimester. I *chose* to accept significant personal risk to try to save Natan’s life, and to spend nearly 6 months on bedrest, with other medical interventions, to bring Samuel into this world safely. I can’t help but think, “What would this amendment mean for me? Or for a woman like me?”

According to every article I’ve read, and conversation I’ve had, I am pretty lucky not to have been in a state with a Personhood Amendment in January 2007. Which is pretty funny given that I pretty passionately believe Natan was a person. He has a name, a coffin, a grave, a family.

Everyone, every doctor, nurse, intern, resident was kind to me during the week I was hospitalized trying to stop labor with Natan, and in the hours after he died. The University of Michigan Hospital sends us a card every year. I got to hold Natan, his body intact, after he died, and I was stabilized. They dressed him, took photos. It was the best of awful circumstances. In the hospital, I rejected the memorial box they made for us, but the next day I wanted it. They’d held onto it, telling us that’s a normal grief response: wanting to run away as fast as possible at first, regretting that later. I remember the anesthesiologist most of all, I guess because he was next to my head. He was so kind, and I vaguely remember him dropping by my room to check on me later. I firmly believe I would not have been okay had the hospital doctors, nurses and staff not been so kind–had the hospital not been prepared and able to respond to my preterm labor and Natan’s death as an inexplicable tragedy that I did not bring about.

What would have happened if we’d been in a post-Personhood Amendment Mississippi? What will happen if we decide to have another baby? Would I have been forced, rather than allowed, to make the choices I did? Would I have been investigated after Natan’s death? Would the police have had to question us all, to determine if we were suspects? I am telling you without a doubt, even if that investigation had been short, it would have been hideously intrusive, and pointlessly cruel.

I was almost thirty years old, I really wanted to be a mom. So I was the perfect pregnant lady. I’d been on prenatal vitamins, with extra folic acid because my nephew has spina bifida, for months. I did not drink coffee. I did not drink alcohol. No March of Dimes, I did not smoke or do street drugs. I did go swimming a few times, and walk to campus 3/4 of a mile away. I didn’t question my doctor enough when he assured me I wasn’t having real contractions the week before I was hospitalized. Okay that I do regret, but it doesn’t make me culpable.

Where am I going with this post? It would have been ridiculous and traumatizing to investigate me. I’m not sure I could’ve gone on to have Samuel if there’d been a suggestion of blame. I rejected an autopsy for Natan’s little body. When the neonatologist asked if we wanted one, I distinctly remember responding, “I think we all know why he died.” He answered, “Yes, I believe we do.” And I told him I didn’t want to be responsible for damaging his body any further. Would Natan have been autopsied against the will of his parents? I know that’s explicit, but it’s necessary in the context of this discussion.

What will happen to women and their wanted pregnancies, their wanted children? Because this is not just about abortion. If I’d developed an infection, I’d have had to deliver to save at least my reproductive organs, possibly my life. I was past the point of viability, but not by much. Would I have been forced to wait a week or more, and an ethics panel or judge been called, to decide *for me* what risks had to be taken with my life, my body, and my ability to carry future children?

In my pregnancy with Samuel, what would have happened? I wrote a few months back about the controversy with Makena. Fortunately, it seems like pharmacies are still allowed to make the compounding version of the progesterone drug I was on from weeks 16-36. Would a pregnant woman who didn’t take that, with a known risk, and who delivered early, be prosecuted? Are the people behind Amendment 26 willing to pick up the bill for that?

Is getting pregnant with my history like dropping a boulder off a building onto a busy street? I can’t *know* it will kill someone, but odds are good?

A young woman stopped by the Personhood Booth at the U of MS football game (so I heard since I wasn’t there at the time), and said she’s in favor of the amendment because she’s Catholic and against birth control. That’s fine. I’m Jewish and against pork. I’m also a highly committed vegetarian, and think eating meat is unethical and immoral. I usually just say meat production, and keep quiet around meat eaters. But if we’re being honest about personal religious and ethical obligations that we’d like the rest of the world to accept….

I know people who are against abortion believe they’d be preventing murder with this amendment. We disagree on that–but it’s not just about abortion. This amendment is still like bringing a power hammer to hang up a picture. You’re going to destroy everything in the vicinity. This amendment is not the answer.

Check out this website: Support it if you can. I don’t know what the implications of this amendment will be for a woman like me. But I do believe obstetricians, lawyers, ACOG, and the Mississippi State Medical Association, when they say it will have scary and far reaching effects, and could endanger the legality of birth control, VBAC, IVF, and choices women and families need in their lives.


2 responses to “My thoughts on the Personhood Amendment

  1. Brilliant and moving illustration of the dangers of this amendment.

  2. Wow, what an amendment. Hard to underestimate the cans of worms that that could open….great post.

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