It is the debate of the modern age, a debate as old or older than Roe V. Wade, when does life begin, when does the growing child developing inside its mother’s womb become a person? That’s what a Mississippi state constitutional amendment, before voters this week, will attempt to settle once and for all. Amendment 26 seeks to legally assert life and personhood, under the law, begins at conception giving a zygote, very young embryo, all the way up to what is medically termed a fetus the same rights as everyone newborn to old age. Supporters say such actions are to prevent abortion on demand, something so prevalent in society today; while opponents look at the law stating it does far, far more than simply make abortion illegal. In fact worried women’s rights groups are sounding the alarm this could affect everything from certain types of on the market birth control, to medical procedures designed to handle rare and devastating medical issues, emergencies involving pregnant women, even certain fertility treatments. Aside from the proposed law carrying no stipulation for abortions carried out in cases of rape, incest or medical necessity to save the mother’s life, there is the distinct possibility it could ban the use of birth control methods like intrauterine devices (I UDs), hormonal birth control and the morning after pill. Ambiguity of language opens the door to a host of issues plainly not in the spirit of the law and taking away women’s rights to decide what happens to their own body.
Apparently some pro-life groups, individuals are completely unaware of the full use of some of the products they are trying to pull off the market, the implications of potentially removing the most common type of birth control from women’s reach. Not only does it led to unwanted pregnancy, emotional, financial and physical stress but hormonal birth control is also used to treat everything from acne to severe PMS along with other hormonal imbalances. IUDs can be a solution for women still sexually active but too old to safely take the pill any longer or those who may, for whatever reason, have a bad reaction to more traditional types of birth control. And what, when the law is passed women who already have the devices are going to be subject to forced removal, every doctor is what, going to be required to pull the lot numbers, serial numbers off the instrument and run it to see when it was implanted, following a logical conclusion, further legally compelled to call police, have the woman arrested if it was put there after the law went into effect? Any such action causing woman to shy away from medical care, making them more susceptible to reproductive diseases, cervical, ovarian, uterine cancer. The morning after pill, a specific combination of birth control pills, unlike RU486, the so called abortion pill, is given not only to the irresponsible people engaging in one night stands, college debauchery, but to sexual, assault, rape victims to prevent pregnancy caused by a situation they had no control over. Additionally it is not an abortifacient, meaning it will not cause an abortion only prevent pregnancy from ever occurring in the first place. If you are already pregnant, there is no harm to the developing child.
Next are potential problems surrounding fertility treatments; questions regarding not only the limits on embryos implanted during procedures like in vitro fertilization (IVF), which could drastically reduce a woman’s chance to get pregnant, but concerns for doctors like will they be charged with murder for discarding non- viable, defective or somehow damaged embryos? Not to mention doctors are not going to want to practice reproductive medicine if the threat even remotely hangs over their head. Of course it all could be a moot point since no one knows if freezing embryos will be allowed in the future, under constrains of the proposed law. Again actions taken not just by women who want to have children later in life, possibly past age limits for optimum egg viability, but by woman diagnosed with cancer who want to freeze eggs before undergoing things like radiation treatment, so they have the option to have kids later should their health return, something for pro-lifers to ponder noting the cure rates for dozens of types of cancer. Should this law take hold, God help any expectant mother with cancer who needs chemo; odds are she will be refused, on the grounds such powerful medications could harm the developing child, despite doctors who have tinkered with dosages and derations of treatment successfully saving both the mother and delivering a healthy baby. How about teens with cancer who have viable, mature eggs who also need chemo, radiation that could effect egg viability long after their cancer is gone, teens who may lose either their uterus or fallopian tubes during treatment but could still utilize a surrogate should they want children sometime in their life. Speaking of surrogates, they may be used by couples, women unable to carry a child, for whatever reason, personified by the story of TLC’s The Little Couple. In that case both husband and wife have forms of dwarfism making her physically incapable of carrying a child, surely we are past the point today of saying they are not allowed to have children because of their condition, are we going to say they can’t have children through modern medicine because law makers rather than medical professionals want to curtail the uses of IVF? Yet these are the situations both doctors and patients face away from the spotlight of the public, independent of the knowledge of lawmakers, a primary reason at the forefront of leaving medical decisions up to doctors, patients and leaving everyone else out of it.
Then there is the enforcement of these types of laws in states around the country going back 30 years right up to present day according to a Washington Post opinion piece there are an astounding number of cases including a 1987 Washington case where a woman near death suffering from cancer was forced by the hospital to undergo a C-section her doctors were against all in the name of saving the child who died within 2 hours, the mother 2 days later. A Louisiana hospital refused to perform an abortion for a woman on the list for a heart transplant in 1998 even though a pregnancy could kill her. She had to be driven to nearby Texas via ambulance to have the procedure and prolong her life. As recently as 2009 a Florida woman was put on forced bed rest because of early contractions, her doctor appointed by the court “the unborn child’s attending physician” was authorized to do anything to save the life, health of the fetus, no matter if it was against the mother’s will. But nothing compares to the 1996 Florida case in which a woman refused a C- section; subsequently the police showed up at her house during her labor, took her to a hospital where a lawyer had been appointed for her fetus, while giving her no legal representation whatsoever, in the end, forcing her to have the C- section. Worse, when she sued for civil rights violations, the court ruled that whatever her civil rights, they did not override the state of Florida’s interests in preserving the life of the unborn child. And laws have attempted to go farther than this shocking legal intrusion into personal and medical decisions; example a Virginia bill that would have mandated woman who had a miscarriage to report it within 12 hours or face up to a year in jail. Just this year Georgia tried to pass legislation making police investigate miscarriages to ensure they were not caused by “human involvement;” even farther down the slippery slope CDC guidelines given in 2006 advising all women to treat themselves pre pregnant taking supplements like folic acid, leaving some with the question this is still America right?
So in light of these existing scenarios from recent history, it stands to reason that every fear held by women’s advocacy, reproductive rights groups is justified and then some. They have every right to sound off, declare a warning as to what this bill could mean not just in terms of women coming to grips with an unwanted pregnancy, but woman who are desperately trying to get pregnant, women facing life altering, life threatening medical issues who also happen to be pregnant. If this is what’s going to be done with it, no it should never be written into law. Because in every one of the above cases rights were violated, the first with tragic results for both mother and child, and incidentally the only case where the woman’s civil rights were upheld upon bringing a lawsuit; we don’t kill one person to save another as Louisiana tried to do. Telling a doctor, do anything to save the child possibly at the expense of the mother puts said doctor in the position of violating his or her Hippocratic Oath and has to be a choice that mother makes, not government. Barging into the home of a woman in labor, frog marching her to a hospital demanding she have a procedure she doesn’t want could cause complications with the delivery, endanger the health of the child more than a mother’s refusal of an operation. Outside those pertinent facts, ok you want to appoint a lawyer for the fetus; fine, but you also appoint one for the mother legally duking it out before a judge in an emergency hearing. You don’t appoint a lawyer for just one party in a case and use the system to steam roll over the other. You want to say a fertilized egg, an embryo, a fetus has the same rights as the rest of us, fine, but both sets of rights have to be respected under the law, something not happening in any of the previous cases presented. CDC guidelines like the ones represented here are perhaps the scariest part in light of the newest studies saying taking vitamins could lead to excess amounts of them or minerals throughout the body, sometimes shortening life expectancy. Continuing, it doesn’t stop what these puritanical fanatics flippantly call abortion on demand rather driving it underground where shady doctors can endanger the health and lives of woman only increasing mortality rates. Neither is it abortion on demand when a woman has been raped, is a victim of incest, is having an abortion because the child she carries is not viable, if it lives to be born will know nothing but suffering, when she has other children and is having an abortion of her current pregnancy to insure she is alive to be part of her other children’s lives. Clearly something to add into the equation considering all the military widows today, the number of divorces, the number of single parents brought about by women choosing to leave domestic violence situations. Possible heart wrenching decisions facing mothers, families the authors of this bill have zero understanding of.
Forget the violations to basic human dignity forced on women in the name of upholding this law in places it has already passed, the infringement to a modern standard of medical care, the social implications are off the charts. We enacted safe haven laws to prevent teens from leaving babies in dumpsters, drowning then in toilets, all out of fear. Do we want all women, at least in Mississippi and the 12 other states considering similar legislation, to start engaging in various horrible acts just to deal with unwanted pregnancy? On the subject of teens, it promotes irresponsibility disproportionately in this group but likewise across all child bearing ages, when there is nothing you can do to prevent pregnancy, so they play the game of Russian roulette, become pregnant and the consequences are foisted on society. An OBGYN supporting the law appeared on ABC News saying we have to create a culture that respects life; however, part of respecting life is people realizing they have no business creating life and having the legal freedom to act accordingly, a concept that goes out the window with no access to birth control. Meaning more kids born to stressed out, ill prepared, financially incapable parents who will either be on welfare, have their children removed for abuse, neglect, taxing an already broken foster care system. The ones the system doesn’t catch routinely become society’s headache later on needing drug rehab and therapy on the taxpayers dime, contributing to prison overcrowding, for want of a little pill. Demanding a raped woman, an incest victim carry an unwanted child to term is not only monumentally adding insult to injury, but asking for social trouble, to have a child born with fetal alcohol syndrome, born addicted to drugs because the mother couldnâ€™t cope with the consequences of such horrendous act. You may have a mother who gets no prenatal care because she can’t gain access to it, doesn’t take prenatal vitamins because she’s too emotionally traumatized, too distracted to remember to take them. Once you have given the message to a woman she must carry a child that is the product of sexual assault, violation options like adoption after birth are likewise driven from her head, as she doesn’t want to reveal her shame screening potential parents in a more open adoption scenario, doesn’t want to have to explain why she is giving away her child to anyone while she considers traditional adoption, leading to a child who grows up unwanted, unloved, abused, confused as to why their mother treats them so horribly scars that at best last a lifetime, at worst it lays the ground work for the next serial killer, varying levels of psychosis and criminal behavior.
Ironically perhaps hypocritically most lawmakers, politicians and supports of such legislative measures are conservatives championing sexual responsibility, simultaneously taking steps to remove all means to that responsibility, but the one they favor, abstinence. These are the same elected officials who are also the first to decry welfare and the people on it while only perpetuating a situation where more will be needed. The authors of this bill are probably of similar mindset to those around the country crafting the guidelines for women who want their tubes tied, in one Midwestern state you have to be at least 25, have 5 children for a doctor to consider it prior to a certain age, regardless of if you have anywhere from 1-4 kids, are on welfare, repeatedly got pregnant as a teen. A 32 year old getting married wanted her tubes tied, knowing she didn’t want children, having tried birth control that only exacerbated her mental illness, still her doctor refused. But part of sexual responsibility is having access to multiple types of birth control, the choice to freeze eggs until you are ready to use them whether that’s in your late 30’s or 40’s, a particularly pointed fact considering the extended time it takes for up and comings today to gain traction in the workforce, obtain stable, meaningful jobs, advance their career. Again you want to make abortion illegal fine, but donâ€™t craft a would be law so ambiguious it goes after existing birth control and fertility treatments in the process, doubly punishes victims of sexual violence. Piling onto the poor thinking displayed in trying to pass such a law was a family values group representative appearing on Fox News who kept mispronouncing in vitro fertilization, certainly not lending credence to his case, instead making the family values argument more flimsy, looking exactly like it appears to be; in their haste to save developing life, Mississippi lawmakers forgot to account for the unintended consequences of what they proposed.
None of these legislative edicts, crackdowns achieving the end goal of stopping abortions, something only accomplished with increased education and awareness, sex ed. nationwide giving teens vital truths that cause them to delay pregnancy later and later in life. Once someone discovers they are pregnant the more they know about the developing life inside of them, the less likely they are to assume, delude themselves into believing it’s just a blob of tissue, that there is no life there yet. Doctors informing mother’s to be of not only how far along they are but what that means, such as the baby already having eyes, nails, vital organs already in place; telling them in a week or so the baby will have these distinguishing features, attributes can go a long way in changing a mindset, making people think twice before they have an abortion procedure. Utilizing technology can be helpful as well; 3D ultrasounds are wonderful tools to show parents their growing baby, let them hear a heartbeat see with detail and clarity the little boy or girl to be. Another crucial part of preventing abortions is doctor’s bedside manner, knowing how to deal with nervous, shocked patients who find out they are having a baby and are overwhelmed, offering counseling services should they want it regarding all their options, making patients secure in the knowledge no one is going to judge them. That’s how we prevent abortion, how we preserve life not with unenforceable laws intruding on the rights and privacy of woman just because they are pregnant.