I’m pretty pleased that the Mississippi’s Proposition 26 (also known as the “personhood amendment”) did not pass. Not just because I’m pro-choice (although I am), but because it was exactly the sort of law that tends to be really horrible for minorities and people in uncommon situations: one that is based on people’s feelings about the subject in the “usual case” with no discussion of how the law will play out in unusual cases. The proposed amendment simply left it up to the discretion of courts and prosecutors the legality of terminating ectopic pregnancies, using in vitro fertilization (including freezing and transfer of embryos), providing potentially lifesaving treatment for pregnant women that could put the pregnancy at risk, or use of hormonal birth control (even sed for a medical reason other than birth control, such as endometriosis).
Proposition 26’s proponents even acknowledged that these details were yet to be fleshed out. Freda Bush, one of the individuals interviewed in the article I just linked, even went so far as to say “those questions that are there” regarding whether women could be prosecuted for miscarriages and whether birth control would be banned “do not justify allowing nine out of 10 of the abortions that are being done that are not for the hard cases.” Basically, in Bush’s thinking, if the “hard cases” are sufficiently rare, they’re not even worth addressing with your legislation.
The problem is that laws generally aren’t construed to apply to only the situations voters or legislators were imagining at the time the laws were passed. Defining embryos as people won’t just potentially affect the legality of abortions, it affects the legality of pretty much any imaginable act that someone takes involving an embryo.
So while I’m pleased that abortion is still legal in Mississippi, I’m even more pleased that Mississippi voters decided not to approve an “anti-abortion” measure that had potentially wide-reaching and unpredictable effects on women experiencing unusual and problematic pregnancies, women who miscarry, and women who are in need of hormonal birth control.