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“Mississippi Goddamn.” Nina Simone Said It. Last Night, I Thought It.

1:10 pm in Uncategorized by RH Reality Check

Written by Rebecca Sive for RH Reality Check. This diary is cross-posted; commenters wishing to engage directly with the author should do so at the original post.

See all our coverage of the Mississippi Egg-As-Person Defeat here, our coverage of Mississippi Initiative (Prop) 26 here, and our coverage of egg-as-person initiatives here.

Nina Simone said “Mississippi Goddam.” I thought it. Last night. And then my faith in the American people, especially in the Mississippi people, was redeemed.

My friend Jodi Jacobson, editor of RH Reality Check, pointed out this morning that while the “egg-as-person” amendment, Initiative 26, was roundly defeated by Mississippi voters yesterday, Initiative 27, the “voter ID” amendment, passed.  (Loretta Ross has eloquently and passionately written about both initiatives here and here.)

Initiative 27 is also insidious; according to Jodi, it “…will disenfranchise minority voters who already suffer discrimination in a state with a history of denying African Americans their right to vote.”

I recently gave a speech in which I told the story of asking my mother why she wasn’t going to Mississippi to register voters. This was in 1964, at a time when my mother –and father — were dragging my sister and me around as they relentlessly canvassed, leafleted, drove people to the polls, and otherwise made sure that local (Democratic) voters exercised the franchise. So, suffice to say, this daughter of an immigrant mother doesn’t take this matter of the right to vote lightly.

Yet, while my mother has never made it to Mississippi (in significant part because of its history of denying voting rights), I have – willingly and many times.In fact, I love Mississippi. I go every chance I get. Am I crazy? Nope, not in this respect, anyway.

I love, love, love Mississippi for its music. I first heard the (Mississippi) blues as a teenager growing up in New York. That song was Jimmy Reed’s “Big Boss Man,” played every day to open Jack Spector’s WMCA radio show. Later, my love affair with Mississippi was sealed when, as a college student, I heard Albert King’s “Born under a Bad Sign” and Robert Johnson’s “Sweet Home Chicago” (ironically, a story of leaving “bad” Mississippi for “good” Chicago). Read the rest of this entry →

Defeating Personhood: A Critical But Incomplete Victory for Reproductive Justice

2:19 pm in Uncategorized by RH Reality Check

Lady Justice (Photo: vaxzine, flickr)

Lady Justice (Photo: vaxzine, flickr)

Written by Loretta Ross for RH Reality Check. This diary is cross-posted; commenters wishing to engage directly with the author should do so at the original post.

See all our coverage of the Mississippi Egg-As-Person Defeat here, our coverage of Mississippi Initiative (Prop) 26 here, and our coverage of egg-as-person initiatives here.

The headlines all say it – “Personhood defeated in Mississippi!” This was a tremendous victory for the pro-choice movement that started campaigning on the ground only September 8, years after proponents of the “Yes on 26” ballot initiative flooded the state with a superbly orchestrated campaign that included well-financed organizing and petition drives. As of this writing, 55 percent of the voters rejected this dangerous, precedent-setting initiative that would have declared a fertilized egg a “person” and outlawed most contraception, in vitro fertilization, and would have criminalized abortion – even in cases of rape and incest. These dangerous, unintended consequences even persuaded conservative voters to defeat the initiative, splitting the traditionally unified anti-abortion base.

Mississippi was a peoples’ victory, a triumph in which people of all backgrounds, races, professions and religions came together. Congratulations are definitely in order for the tireless activists in the state, and for those professional campaigners who came from out-of-state to direct the No on 26 campaign, led by Mississippians for Healthy Families. The grassroots efforts of many courageous Mississippi activists demonstrated that over-reaching zealots who do not care about women’s lives could be rebuffed even in the reddest, most religious, conservative state in the South. The professional campaign strategists were right – targeting their efforts at conservatives and independents by magnifying the anti-government sentiments in the state that are a holdover from the Civil Rights movement and the more recent stoking by the Tea Party. Read the rest of this entry →

Mississippi Egg-As-Person Amendment Defeated 57 to 43 Percent; Voter ID Law Appears to Have Passed

2:13 pm in Uncategorized by RH Reality Check

Written by Editor-in-Chief Jodi Jacobson for RH Reality Check. This diary is cross-posted; commenters wishing to engage directly with the author should do so at the original post.

See all our coverage of the Mississippi Egg-As-Person Defeat here, our coverage of Mississippi Initiative (Prop) 26 here, and our coverage of egg-as-person initiatives here.

In a decisive and resounding victory in one of the most conservative states in the country, Mississippi voters defeated–by a margin of 57 percent to 43 percent as of this writing–the dangerous Initiative 26, which would have defined a fertilized egg as a person with full human rights.  Had it passed, Initiative 26 would have outlawed all forms of abortion and many forms of birth control. The law would have made illegal many forms of fertility treatment and would potentially have criminalized miscarriage.  It would also have endangered pregnant women by making their rights to health, to health care and to bodily integrity subservient to blastocysts, embryos, and fetuses no matter how dire the woman’s condition might be or what her situation. 

See all our coverage of this issue here.

At the same time, however, the outcome of 26 is bittersweet, given that as of this writing Mississippi voters also appear to have passed Initiative 27, a voter ID law that will disenfranchise many of the minority voters who already suffer discrimination in a state with a history of denying African Americans their right to vote.

The Personhood Ballot in Mississippi: “Sluts,” “Good Girls,” and the Increasingly Blurry Line Dividing Them

11:52 am in Uncategorized by RH Reality Check

MS State Capitol - what will the law be after the vote today? (Photo: Ken Lund, flickr)

MS State Capitol - what will the law be after the vote today? (Photo: Ken Lund, flickr)

Written by Amanda Marcotte for RH Reality Check. This diary is cross-posted; commenters wishing to engage directly with the author should do so at the original post.

See all our coverage of Mississippi Initiative (Prop) 26 here.

The personhood amendment being voted on in Mississippi this week is important for two major reasons. The first has received lots of coverage here at RH Reality Check and some liberal news sources: because it’s about criminalizing all women of reproductive age, and could do things like ban birth control and open criminal investigations on miscarriages.

The other reason that we should all be paying attention to Mississippi is the results of the election will be an excellent measure of how far right the Christian right has gone when it comes to sex.

The right has always approached the question of reproductive rights as an elaborate game of “Who’s the Slut?” Sure, they like to blather on about “life” and “personal responsibility,” but that’s because coming straight out and saying that they’d like to craft a law where good girls have rights but bad girls don’t isn’t politically popular. Too obvious: you have to wrap that agenda in sentimental talk about the sanctity of life, and hope no one notices that you have no regard for the sanctity of life if people are dying in wars or from lack of health insurance. But if you look past their rhetoric to the actual rules they try to make regarding who gets to have rights under what circumstances, it’s clear they’re trying to sort women into “sluts” and “non-slut” categories. The traditional exception for rape victims under abortion restrictions is the most commonly cited example, of course. I’d add that most conservatives—outside of those who make anti-choice activism their main priority—tend to support the use of contraception. In their minds, contraception is something that could be used by good girls. Married women with children use contraception, after all. But when it comes to abortion, most people imagine a young woman having sex outside of marriage with a man who isn’t going to marry her, which puts her in the “slut” category and means she should lose her reproductive rights. Read the rest of this entry →

Did I Kill My Baby Boy? And If I Had Been in MIssissippi, Would I Be Facing Prison?

12:51 pm in Uncategorized by RH Reality Check

Written by Lorraine Berry for RH Reality Check. This diary is cross-posted; commenters wishing to engage directly with the author should do so at the original post.

See all our coverage on Mississippi Initiative 26 here.

In 1996, I suffered a second-trimester spontaneous abortion, (miscarriage). It ranks as one of the worst experiences of my life, losing a fetus that was hoped for, longed for, and for whom a future had been imagined.

Next week, Mississippi votes on a “personhood” amendment that would define personhood as occurring when the egg is fertilized (not implanted, prior to this, fertilization).

If I had been experiencing the pains and bleeding that I knew signaled the end of my pregnancy, would I have gone to that hospital emergency room? If I hadn’t gone, and had passed that fetus alone, would I have known that I had not entirely expelled the contents of my uterus and was now vulnerable to a deadly infection? Would I have died from fear of being prosecuted for losing my baby?

Friday morning. June 7, 1996, I was attending a conference at a university. I ate some breakfast, and went downstairs. I was having pain in my back and in my groin. I felt the familiar tingle of fear go up my backbone. My hands began to shake. I went into the bathroom, and I felt something pass out of me. I looked at it in the toilet. An unrecognizable blob of something that looked like something an old man would hock out of his lungs floated in the water.  But there was no blood. Still, I knew something was wrong.

I approached the student union information booth. A bored, young woman stood behind the desk, and calmly, I told her I thought I might be having a miscarriage and I thought I needed some help. Her compassion shown through immediately: She called 911. And she escorted me over to a couch, made me lie down.

First, the firefighters arrived. They seemed weighed down in their heavy rubber boots, their fireproof pants with the suspenders that crossed over navy blue shirts. One of them asked me how I felt. When I told him what had happened, that something I thought “the size of a golf ball” had come out of me, he said, “A golf ball?” And then he said, “I don’t think that’s a miscarriage. I think, given how far along you are, it would have been bigger.” I suddenly felt embarrassed, like I had brought everyone out for nothing. I was relieved, yes, because maybe it meant that this thing wasn’t happening to me, but the casual dismissal of my experience left me as flustered as someone caught in a lie.

Two EMTs showed up. I explained to them that I thought I might be having a miscarriage. Explained what I was feeling. I was scared, and I’m sure my fear showed in everything about me. They loaded me onto a gurney, put me in the back of an ambulance, and drove me to the university hospital. I chatted with the EMT who rode in the back of the ambulance. He monitored my blood pressure, my heart rate. He and I talked about why I was in Chapel Hill. It could have been a conversation in a grocery store line, the kind of chat provoked by the need to kill time while you wait for the cashier to get a price check on frozen pizza.

I was examined by a nurse, and then the ER doctor. He checked me for bleeding, and there was none. But, in the time it took for the OB-GYN resident to come to the ER, there was bleeding. Crimson spots. Crimson, like death. I called the nurse back into the room, convinced that all was at an end. “It’s not too much blood, honey,” she said, and she tut-tutted over me as if I was one of her grandchildren who had come to her with a skinned knee.

The doctor came back into the room. He passed the ultrasound wand over my stomach. My baby was in there. “See?” He pointed him out. “Everything looks fine. It’s just a little spotting.”

But the baby’s heartbeat was almost 190. And some voice inside me told me that wasn’t right. But the doctor was reassuring. “I think you’re going to be just fine,” he said. “I think you have about a 90 percent chance of carrying this baby to term. I’m going to release you. Go back to the dorm room. Put your feet up. You’ll be fine.”

I left the hospital. The conference staff had sent a car over to get me, and I happily reassured the worried staffer that I was fine. False alarm. Sorry to have gotten everybody so concerned.

He dropped me at the entrance to the central conference area. I remember I was wearing a pale pink dress. It was loose, and I had purchased it just the week before to serve as a maternity dress that I could wear for the conference. At one pm, an acquaintance of mine was giving a paper in a panel. The room was crowded, and I managed to nab a chair right near the door.

The room filled. There were people sitting on the floor. It was crowded, and I looked around, was thrilled to recognize another rockstar professor whose books had changed my whole way of looking at things. I was thinking about some way that I might be able to talk to her after the session, but I brought my mind back to the panel, which was just about to be introduced. I settled onto the hard wooden chair and then something happened. Something let go inside of me, and I felt a flood into my underpants.

I just jumped up, said, “Oh my God,” and ran from the room. I heard someone sigh behind me, as if I had greatly inconvenienced them, and once again, I felt embarrassed. The women’s restroom was next door. I went in there. It was empty, the tile white, the mirrors everywhere. I went into a stall. I pulled down my underpants and sat down. I hurt. My back hurt. My pelvis hurt. And something passed through me. Something big, like a softball. I heard the plop as it hit the water in the bowl.

I didn’t want to look. I couldn’t look. If I looked, my life was going to end. I stopped thinking. I flushed the toilet without looking behind me. I pulled up my pants. Calm overtook me; Eirene, or perhaps it was Morpheus, laid their hands on me, and I became a sleepwalker. But I was a sleepwalker in the midst of a troubling dream; still, the blank was winning.

I washed my hands. I could feel fluid pouring down onto my legs. I didn’t want to look. I knew that my dress was going to be covered soon. I didn’t want to look. I grabbed my briefcase and walked down a long staircase, into the conference organizers’ room. I walked up to the first person I saw behind a table. “Excuse me,” I said. “I seem to be hemorrhaging. I think I need some help.”

I had to repeat myself. I don’t think she believed me the first time. Someone helped me over to a couch. I lay down. I began to cry. Now that I was not alone, I could allow myself a moment to fall apart. Even still, they were not the great wails of the banshee; my sobs were quiet, reserved, controlled. Tears dripped into my hair, as my uterus emptied out onto my legs. Someone stroked my hair, shushed me. I told them I thought I was bleeding all over the couch. “Do you want me to look?” she said. I nodded. She looked. “It doesn’t look like blood,” she said.

The EMTs arrived. It was the same EMTs from the morning. “Oh God,” I cried to the young one. “I think I lost my baby.”

“Where were you?” he asked.

“In the bathroom. Oh God, I think I flushed my baby down the toilet.” I began to sob. How could someone flush her baby down a toilet? My stomach scrambled; it reminded me of the clatter of a dog’s paws on a wooden floor when the dog is panicked. Panic fought with the need for distance, and the wave of anxiety passed.

He started an IV. I was out of it, alone in a world of pain where my pelvis ached and my brain was actively closing off anything that looked like knowledge of loss. His partner came over, whispered something in his ear.

Again, they loaded me on the gurney. This time, the lights were flashing. I was in shock. I needed attention. We arrived at the ER. The same nurse. She came to me, and I remember saying to her “The baby’s gone.” And she stroked my hair, gave me a hug. I looked up, and the same ER doctor from just a few hours ago was there, too.

Someone from the conference, I never knew her name, had ridden with me in the ambulance. She kept holding my hand. I needed someone to call my husband. He was at work in Syracuse. He needed to know what I had done. I had killed my baby. I knew that. Even as I was transferred from the gurney to an ER cot, that thought imprinted itself on my brain. I had killed my baby. And now I had to pay a price.  Someone in the ER called him. They told me that he had said he would be on the next flight he could get out on. I held onto the hand of a woman I didn’t know.

No one had confirmed that I had lost the baby at this point. I was being treated, but no one had yet told me that the baby was gone. I had somehow convinced myself in the ambulance that the baby was still there, inside of me. At the same time that I was beating myself up for killing my baby, I still thought that perhaps, as it had been earlier in the day, this was simply a false alarm. A second heartbeat still throbbed within me.

The ER doctor came in. “We have the fetus.” he said.

“I don’t understand,” I said. It turned out that the second EMT had retrieved the fetus from the toilet. I had not flushed it down. Even now, my mind cannot go where this image leads.

I remember when I was a child, our dog had puppies. When the first puppy came, the dog was so startled that she ran away from what had dropped out of her body. I had had the same reaction. Pure instinct. To move away from it. To not see it.

The ER doctor told me I was going to be okay. “My wife lost our baby six weeks ago,” he said. “I know this is hard, but you’ll get through this. I promise.”

A second OB-GYN resident came in. The first one, the one who had promised me my baby would live, obviously didn’t want to face me. It was okay. I forgave him. He had tried to make me feel better. It was a lesson in being a doctor. Don’t promise the things you have no control over. I even said that to the new doctor who was examining me. “Tell him this wasn’t his fault,” I said, or something similar. I absolved him of blame. I knew who had really killed her baby.

“I need to do an ultrasound,” he said. “I’m going to turn the machine away from you, so you don’t see the screen. I know you saw a baby there this morning. I don’t want you to see the empty uterus.”

I was so grateful. Such a kindness. I don’t think I could have borne looking where just a few hours ago, a fetus had lived. As it turned out, there was a mess in there. I needed an emergency D&C. I was given an anesthetic, and something to calm me. But as the doctor placed the speculum inside of me, I began to shake, grow cold. “I’m scared,” I said. The nurse squeezed my hand, and more medicine was added to the drip. I zoned out. I was there but not there. I felt the instruments. I knew what was happening. But I was somewhere else. Something inside of me shut off. Completely.

Without the follow-up care I received at the hospital, I would have died of a massive infection. If I thought that what I had done might be perceived as a crime, would I have gone to the hospital when the pain began? When the fever started? Or would I die, as so many millions of women have died, for lack of concern about women in this world.

Jesus. I want to weep.

Race, Class, and Rights in Mississippi: How A Reproductive Justice Campaign Can Save the Pill and Save the Vote

9:40 am in Uncategorized by RH Reality Check

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Written by Loretta Ross for RH Reality Check. This diary is cross-posted; commenters wishing to engage directly with the author should do so at the original post.

The 2011 Mississippi ballot Initiative 26 on Personhood and Initiative 27 on Voter ID exclusions may be one of the most important opportunities on the ground for the Pro-Choice and Reproductive Justice Movements to work together. In Mississippi, we are witnessing the intersection of race and gender politics in a campaign in which African American voters are probably the most critical constituents when they go to the polls on November 8. It’s a case study on Roe v. Wade intersecting with the Voting Rights Act and the 19th Amendment granting women the right to vote.

For the Reproductive Justice movement, this is an example of theory meeting practice in which we have an opportunity to link our human rights struggles in a statewide campaign. The best spokespeople are readily talking about both ballot initiatives consistently by bringing together women, families, race, and poverty. By co-joining race (Voter ID-27) with gender (Personhood-26), we have an excellent opportunity to experience an example of intersectionality in practice in an electoral campaign in which black women may be the very voters we need to move the needle against our opponents’ long-term manipulation of the African American electorate.

We have to strengthen the common ground between the Reproductive Justice and Pro-Choice movements based on linking human rights issues together. Reproductive Justice is our best opportunity to join middle-class women with poor women so that we can win for all women. Read the rest of this entry →

Grassroots Opposition Grows to Mississippi’s Prop 26, the Egg-as-Person Initiative

1:27 pm in Uncategorized by RH Reality Check

Written by Allison Korn for RH Reality Check. This diary is cross-posted; commenters wishing to engage directly with the author should do so at the original post.

On November 8th, 2011, Mississippians will vote on Proposition 26, a ballot measure that, if passed, would alter the state constitution, redefining the word “person” to include every human being from the moment of fertilization, cloning, or the functional equivalent thereof. While a similar measure was defeated in Colorado by wide margins, in 2008 and again in 2010, many people fear that such a measure could easily pass in Mississippi. What few—in Mississippi or beyond—anticipated was the strong grassroots opposition that has emerged against the measure.

I’m Southern by birth and by education. I am a native Memphian, born and bred in Memphis, TN. I’m also a proud alumnus of the University of Mississippi School of Law. Now, working as a legal advocate in the South, I am both a witness to and a participant in a rising grassroots movement throughout Mississippi.

I can report that unlikely allies from both sides of the traditional “abortion” debate have come together in opposition of Prop 26: mothers of several children born from IVF and women who underwent treatment for ectopic pregnancies; neonatal nurses and bioethics professors; evangelical Christians and clergy; multi-generation Mississippians well into their seventies and student transplants from all over. Representatives from all of these groups have joined together in opposition to Proposition 26.

For example, Atlee Breland, a lifelong Mississippian and Christian mother started the blog, “Parents Against MS 26.” Although she has never considered herself a “pro-choice activist,” she feels strongly about the potential impact of the measure beyond the abortion issue. Ms. Breland herself sought infertility treatment to have her three children, and she is worried about Prop 26’s impact on IVF and similar infertility treatments. Ms. Breland also distinguishes between recognizing and valuing unborn life and granting that life full legal personhood. Her blog helped inspire and create the poignant, now-viral video that moves the debate about Proposition 26 far beyond the issue of abortion.

Another blog entitled “Deep-Fried Freethinkers” has devoted itself to answering tough questions about Prop 26, fact-checking claims made about Prop 26, and investigating the past actions and statements of some of Prop 26’s leading supporters and editorialists.

There are also new Facebook groups whose memberships are growing by the day. One organization out of Jackson, MS, called “Mississippians for Healthy Families,” uses its FB page to generate volunteers for phone banks they are holding at sites across the state, making cold calls to provide information about Proposition 26. These FB groups also provide links to news related to Proposition 26, post information about statewide events, and encourage their members to write comments about editorials, draft letters to the editors of local newspapers, and talk to their communities about the amendment.

Activism in Mississippi, however, is not only taking place on-line, but also in the streets. Rallies opposing Proposition 26 are popping up throughout the state, from Oxford and Starkville to Hattiesburg and Jackson, with more planned as election day approaches. For example, after a successful October 13th rally in Starkville, Mississippi State students will hold a day-long “Dance-In” on November 1, to continue raising awareness about the dangerous implications of Proposition 26.

In Oxford, MS, home to the University of Mississippi, the North Mississippi Women for Progress hosted a “Save the Pill” rally on October 19th on the town square, focusing on how Prop 26 could be used to make a popular form of birth control illegal. A group called “Hell No! on Mississippi 26 and 27” will host a rally at the Mississippi State Capitol Building on Saturday, November 5. This is part of their broader progressive grassroots effort to help defeat Proposition 26 as well as Prop. 27 that would require voters to show government-issued photo identification at the polling place.

Because opposition to Prop 26 is home-grown, organizers know where Mississippians gather and celebrate, and are using these events to pass out pamphlets and stickers urging a “No” vote on the measure. So, activists attended the Mississippi State Fair in Jackson armed with information, and they are planning to do the same at the Peter Anderson Festival in Ocean Springs. And on the weekends, tailgate parties and homecoming games have featured volunteers distributing fact sheets exposing what Proposition 26 is really all about.

In the media, a diverse group of Mississippians are speaking out against Proposition 26. Individuals and organizations from university professors and local feminists, to the Mississippi Medical Association and the Mississippi Nurse’s Association, to the Bishop of Mississippi’s Episcopal Diocese have written commentaries and released statements opposing Proposition 26. Billboards opposing Proposition 26 have gone up along Mississippi’s highways and, even more recently, a concerned Mississippi man, Charles Meyer, took out a quarter-page ad in the Clarion-Ledger newspaper asking the Attorney General to “help save us from ourselves. Anti-abortion legislation should not cost the lives of thousands of innocent Mississippi women.”

In response to growing questions and concerns about Prop 26 University departments, student organizations, and women’s groups have organized a series of Town Hall Discussions to take place across Mississippi, from Oxford to Cleveland to Jackson to Biloxi.

I myself have now had many opportunities to speak with Mississippians all over the state about Proposition 26. I have spoken to students at the University of Mississippi School of Law, met with members of North Mississippi Women for Progress, presented at the International Center for Traditional Childbearing’s Southeast Black Midwives and Healers Summit held in D’lberville, MS, and helped facilitate a panel conversation about Proposition 26 at Delta State University in Cleveland, MS, located in an area of Mississippi famously known as “The Mississippi Delta.” Everywhere I go, I meet people who are hungry to learn more about Proposition 26 and who, regardless of their views on abortion, welcome truthful information and reflective discussion about how this measure could hurt all pregnant women – including those going to term. My commentary summarizing much of these talks was published by the Hattiesburg American last weekend and I expect that a new video about how Prop 26 could hurt all pregnant women will get significant play across the state.

Too often, those unfamiliar with the South assume, based on stigma and prejudice, that there are few, if any, thoughtful, progressive activists in states like Mississippi. In fact, some national comments from people outside of Mississippi and in response to initiatives like Proposition 26 express sentiments similar to those expressed after Hurricane Katrina. They suggested that the solution was for people to leave the state. Similar comments written in response to stories about Proposition 26 say such things as “Women should move out of Mississippi” and “Move to a state that supports individual rights.” But Mississippians are staying and fighting back.

As both a Southerner and a sometime-Mississippian I am actually not at all surprised by the activism that has emerged in response to Proposition 26. I saw a similar emergence after Hurricane Katrina, when individuals and communities across the Gulf Coast stood in solidarity with one another in a commitment to rebuild and renew.

No matter what happens on November 8, it is important to recognize the growing grassroots movement in opposition to Proposition 26. These Southern, home-grown leaders and activists will still be in Mississippi beyond election day, and we must not only recognize them but also encourage and support them if we ever hope to win the long-term struggle for reproductive justice.

Fertilized Eggs Are NOT People!

11:04 am in Uncategorized by RH Reality Check

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Written by Ann Rose for RH Reality Check. This diary is cross-posted; commenters wishing to engage directly with the author should do so at the original post.

Originally posted at DailyKos.

On November 8th, the voters of Mississippi will be considering a “Personhood Amendment” (Amendment #26) which would give a fertilized egg more rights than a live born woman, and would outlaw abortion and birth control.  The threatening part about this amendment (and others like it proposed in all the other States) is that it could be a vehicle to be used in the Supreme Court to overturn Roe v. Wade and thus make abortion and birth control illegal throughout the country.  This High Tech Uterine Occupation should scare every progressive and every woman.  But, the Democratic Party is not working to organize against this dangerous amendment.  The word hasn’t gotten out about how to help fight this.

Eggs Are NOT People.

But, time is running out to fight this, and I’m confident The Great Orange can help reverse the cone of silence around Amendment 26. Mississippi has an unemployment rate of 10.3 percent (9th worse in the nation), consistently ranks in the lowest in education, 17.6 percent of Mississippians have no health insurance, and 21.8 percent of its citizens live below the poverty level.  Yet, these yahoos think it’s important to focus on further degrading women by making it impossible to get an abortion instead of taking real action to improve the living conditions in their state.  This is also the state that has the strictest abortion TRAP laws of any state.  And, this is the state that has only one remaining abortion clinic, the Jackson Women’s Health Organization.

The text of Amendment 26, The Personhood Amendment,  is as follows:

“Be it Enacted by the People of the State of Mississippi: SECTION 1. Article III of the constitution of the state of Mississippi is hereby amended BY THE ADDITION OF A NEW SECTION TO READ: Section 33. Person defined. As used in this Article III of the state constitution, “The term ‘person’ or ‘persons’ shall include every human being from the moment of fertilization, cloning or the functional equivalent thereof.” This initiative shall not require any additional revenue for implementation.”

This proposed Amendment 26 – The Mississippi Personhood Amendment – will be up for  vote on November 8th.  If this passes, AND IT IS EXPECTED TO PASS, it will be a disaster for women in Mississippi.

In the years ahead, the disaster will spread across the country.  Here’s why: The idea of “personhood” sounds so warm and fuzzy and even reasonable, it’s hard for most people to believe that there might be something nefarious to this campaign. One doesn’t have to do much digging to see that this is an all-out assault on abortion rights.  As Personhood USA says loudly and proudly on their website: “personhood is the key to defeating Roe v. Wade.”  On the first page of their website, they brag that they have “personhood petitions now active in all 50 states.”

This week, the clinic put up a website

and sent out the following plea for support:

Dear Friends,

This is an URGENT MESSAGE FROM MISSISSIPPI!!!!     I am writing to you from the true FRONTLINES of the ABORTION BATTLE!!!  Jackson Women’s Health Organization is the last and only refuge for Mississippi Women seeking abortion.  After the tragic loss of Susan Hill, we scrambled to ensure that the work of this facility did not lapse.  I want to thank you for all your support over the last several years in protecting Jackson Women’s Health Organization.  Mississippi Legislators and anti choice zealots continue every year with their assaults on reproductive healthcare making MS abortion laws the most restrictive in the land.  AND…We are still standing STRONG!  However, on November 8th, the MS ballot will include the Personhood Amendment which will end abortion in MS and will more than likely take Roe-v-Wade to the Supreme Court.  WE CANNOT ALLOW THIS TO HAPPEN!  And neither can you…

The extremist group – Personhood USA – openly states on their website that “personhood” is the key to overturning Roe V. Wade.  On the front page of their website they brag that they have petitions for similar amendments in ALL 50 STATES!

MS Amendment #26 actually states that a zygote is a person even before it attaches to the uterus!  If passed, Personhood Amendment #26 will not only ban abortion BUT ALSO ban most (if not all) forms of birth control, end in-vitro fertilization, and make stem cell research illegal.  In addition, women who miscarry will be subject to criminal investigation!  THIS MEASURE GOES TOO FAR AND IS A THREAT TO – NOT ONLY WOMEN IN MISSISSIPPI – BUT THE ENTIRE COUNTRY!

If you are thinking to yourself that this amendment is too radical to pass, think again.  The original petition to place this on the ballot had 30,000 MORE SIGNATURES than necessary.  The Democratic candidate for Governor openly supports this amendment as does the current Attorney General, ALSO A DEMOCRAT!

Jackson Women’s Health Organization is working with grassroots women and men throughout the state to defeat this measure.  Although Planned Parenthood offers some family planning services in Mississippi, they do not offer abortion services and therefore do not endure the harassment our doctors, staff, and patients deal with daily.
We are the only ones left in the fight and on the ground!

We are creating home-made signs and leaflets to distribute everywhere/ anywhere we go.  Mississippi Pro-Choice Activists are popping up in towns across the state and asking for resources to spread the word on this dangerous Amendment.  We have never seen anything like it before!  We need your help!  We must expand our outreach immediately to radio, billboards, and TV.  Please send a donation to support this “on the ground” movement to protect the rights of Mississippi Women.  We must thwart this MIS-INFORMATION campaign that Personhood USA is spreading and educate our voters about the dangers of Amendment #26!

We ask you to put your money where the real battle is being fought…not in a corporate board room, but in the halls of the clinics and the houses of the organizers who are volunteering their time and efforts.  We don’t have time for polling or committee or subcommittee meetings with less than a month left before the vote.  http://www.WakeUpMississippi.org/ is already on the ground running.  We don’t have the luxury of a built in donor list and the name recognition of the abortion corporations.  PLEASE SPREAD THE WORD.  Please put your money where it will do the most good: on the front lines in Mississippi.

Please support this organic movement and show that America cares about Mississippi Women and their Families!  Your response is required immediately!

Sincerely,

Diane Derzis
Owner and Reproductive Freedom Fighter
Jackson Women’s Health Organization
Jackson, MS

PS  Please send whatever you can NOW to stop Amendment #26 in Mississippi!  Use this link to our organization for Paypal payments:

http://www.WakeUpMississippi.org/

Or mail checks to:
WakeUpMississippi.org
2903 North State Street
Jackson, MS 39216

Thus, this initiative is the first step in a plan by Personhood USA to overturn Roe V Wade and end all abortion in this country.  The impact goes further than shutting down clinics. This amendment could literally imprison women in addition to imprisoning women in their own bodies.

Here are some examples that come to mind of the possible impacts this amendment would have.  Add your own insane scenarios in the comments section:

1.  A pregnant woman who goes out to dinner with family and friends and accidentally picks up the wrong glass and has a swig of rum and coke can be charged for child abuse.

2.  What about pregnant illegal immigrants?  The right wing is pretty hot on getting them out of the country as fast as possible. Well, this is going to be a big problem when the pregnant immigrant is actually two people…one who is legal (the fertilized egg) and the other who is not (the living, breathing woman).  I guess at this point most folks trying to avoid deportation should get pregnant and move to Mississippi and have their “legal” zygote/fetus/child apply for welfare and medicaid.

3.  Women who are found to have birth control pills could be prosecuted for attempted murder.

4.  If a pregnant woman wearing 2″ heels trips and falls, subsequently having a miscarriage, she could be prosecuted for manslaughter.

5.  When a woman has a life threatening ectopic pregnancy, who decides which “person” gets to live and which “person” gets to die?

6.  Will an ultrasound picture be an acceptable form of ID for the fetus/person to be able to travel out of the country?  Will “don’t know yet” be acceptable as a category for gender?

7. How will any future candidate for President prove that they were conceived/born in the United States?

It’s almost a relief to think about how idiotic this amendment is.  Most rational people think that it is SO crazy that there is no way it can stand legally.

But, before those of you who are not from Mississippi try to make yourselves feel safe by thinking that these folks are from a different world and that nothing like this could ever happen in the state YOU live in, take a look at what CNN recently reported:

“Mississippi is the only state with a “personhood” initiative on the ballot this year. Similar measures are being planned for next year in Florida, Montana and Ohio, say supporters. Efforts in at least five other states are in the planning stages.”

Don’t think for a second that this amendment will not pass.  It will.  Even the Democrats of Mississippi have jumped on board the “personhood” bandwagon.  Laura Bassett of HuffingtonPost.com says:

“The personhood measure actually has a fair amount of support from Mississippi Democrats. Jim Hood, the Democratic Attorney General, endorsed the amendment in a statement and said he would defend it if it were challenged. A spokesperson for Hattiesburg Mayor Johnny DuPree, the Democratic candidate for governor, told HuffPost that that he supports the amendment as well, despite his ‘concerns about some of the ramifications’.”

Sid Salter, columnist for The Mississippi Press and journalist-in-residence at Mississippi State University, writes that this amendment is expected to pass with overwhelming support in November.

“Conservatives expect a nearly uncontested passage of the “personhood” amendment in Mississippi…….Regardless of the legal challenges, expect Mississippi voters to pass the personhood amendment with strong backing from many of the state’s churches.”

Nancy Kohsin-Kintigh, Programs Director of ACLU of Mississippi writes:

”Mississippi extremists want to take away the right to abortion and birth control by passing the “so called” Personhood Ballot Initiative #26.  It is dangerous and is an all-out assault on women and their families. If passed, this amendment would not only ban abortion but also birth control and many assisted reproductive healthcare procedures which include in-vitro fertilization.  The initiative will insert government control over our wombs, our ability to choose when and how many children we have, and we will be criminally investigated when we have a miscarriage.”

If you haven’t heard very much or even anything about this amendment, don’t feel bad.  It’s not your fault.  There has been a total lack of publicity, education, and action from notable groups who are dedicated defenders of choice.

This of course results in a total lack of coverage from the nation’s media outlets.  This is because the unspoken word is that Mississippi has always been “a hopeless case” in our country when it comes to abortion rights. The women and families of Mississippi have had to suffer the injustice of being undefended because of the need to focus where progress can be made.

This won’t work anymore.

All it takes is for one “personhood” amendment from one state to reach the Supreme Court of the United States and be upheld to end abortion and birth control access in this country.

We can’t let this happen.  Our opposition is determined, invigorated, well organized, and well funded.

Mike Huckabee recently spoke at a fundraiser banquet for “Personhood Mississippi.”  In his speech, he warned the audience that they had “no idea how many millions of dollars are likely to be poured into your state” to fight Amendment 26.

Sadly and shamefully, this is not the case.  While the right wing is holding fundraisers and bringing in right-wing brand names, there’s not a single billboard in the state of Mississippi warning of the impact of this amendment.  There hasn’t been a public rally or outcry of any kind.  And the clock is ticking.

Here’s our to do list:

  • Contact the Democratic National Committee at their website, or call them at 202-863-8000. Since Mississippi’s Democrats aren’t speaking out against Amendment 26, the National Democrats must do so.
  • The focal point of this effort is WakeUpMississippi.org. Organizers there say they are trying to organize demonstrations and rallies and educate the people of Mississippi on the dangers of this amendment.  To make a donation or to get involved go to http://www.wakeupmississippi.org.
  • LIKE the WakeUpMississippi FaceBook Page and spread the word throughout your network.
  • Send E-Mails about this effort to your family and friends.

The Facts About Amendment 26

Remember:

“Fertilized Eggs Are NOT People”


Report: States Pass Staggering Array of Anti-Choice Laws, Policies and Ballot Measures

6:43 am in Uncategorized by RH Reality Check

Written by Amie Newman for RHRealityCheck.org – News, commentary and community for reproductive health and justice.

Live in Tennessee, Mississippi, Arizona, Missouri or Louisiana? The Center for Reproductive Rights (CRR) wants you to know that, with the implementation of health care reform in 2014, you will not have access to abortion coverage in your state’s health exchanges. These states have enacted insurance bans on abortion coverage. Five other states considered the bans and the CRR expects more to do so in 2011. But this is only the tip of the iceberg. The 2010 state legislative session has seen legislation forcing women to undergo "biased counseling" (and compelling health care providers to provide said counseling) which may contain medically inaccurate and misleading information, as well as mandatory ultrasound requirements. Some states have pushed anti-provider bills which seek to bar physicians who provide abortion care from a state’s malpractice compensation fund, and bills which force women to return at least twice to a provider before being deemed acceptable to have a legal abortion. States have sought to define zygotes and fertilized eggs as people; and punish women by barring any insurance coverage for abortion – even if the woman became pregnant as a result of rape.

The Center for Reproductive Rights (CRR) recently released its summary on the "major trends in anti-abortion legislation that emerged this year and of the onerous abortion restrictions enacted," according to a statement from the organization.  "A First Look Back at the 2010 State Legislative Session," (PDF) details alarming trends among the states to severely restrict access to legal abortion care.

Of particular consequence this past year has been the Nelson Amendment to the health care reform bill, which is responsible for the ban on abortion coverage in the health exchanges. As mentioned above, in response to the provision, five states have already passed similar state bans with more expected. CRR notes that anti-choice proponents’ argument over abortion access in federal health care reform efforts focused on outright false information about the importance of abortion access, as health care, for women in this country.  . . . Read the rest of this entry →

Caution: Pregnancy May Be Hazardous to Your Liberty

6:25 am in Uncategorized by RH Reality Check

Written by Lynn Paltrow and Farah Diaz-Tello for RHRealityCheck.org – News, commentary and community for reproductive health and justice.

While our country stands at a deadlock over legislation to ensure that millions of uninsured people have health care coverage, we can at least feel confident that some state legislators are hard at work, making it more difficult for women to access health care and much easier for states to put them, and the people who help them, in jail.

In Mississippi, legislators proposed a law, HB 695, which would make many forms of midwifery a crime.  That is clearly bad for pregnant women and for babies for at least one very simple reason. As the White Ribbon Alliance for Safe Motherhood pointed out after Hurricane Katrina, when hospitals shut down as a result of a disaster, midwives are among the few who know how to deliver babies without electronic fetal monitors, surgical theatres or epidurals. For this reason, the Alliance highlighted the need to protect (not criminalize) midwives who have the skills needed under such circumstances.

When disasters hit, however, it is not only the women who are going to term who are in trouble. As the National Network of Abortion Funds found out after Hurricane Katrina forced abortion providers to close their doors, many women were also left without access to urgently needed abortion services.

If Utah lawmakers have their way, a woman under similar circumstances who attempts to take matters into her own hands could be charged with murder under House Bill 12, the state’s effort to outlaw “self-abortions.”

Right-to-life organizations have long maintained that if abortion were outlawed, only doctors who performed the abortions would go to jail.  But Utah’s proposed law ensures that women themselves, and not just those who help them, will be incarcerated for a minimum of 15 years. (Since 61 percent of women who have abortions are already mothers, a woman convicted under this law would, with any luck, be out of jail in time to see her son or daughter graduate from high school.)

Even without such a law, police officers in Iowa recently arrested a woman in her second trimester of pregnancy for the crime of attempted feticide after she tripped and fell down a flight of stairs. The county attorney’s office dropped the case only after they decided that their unprecedented interpretation of the feticide law should only be applied to pregnant women in their third trimester. But in Utah, the law would expressly apply to pregnant women at all stages of pregnancy. So, if you are pregnant and clumsy in Utah, you could be charged with attempted murder, even in the first trimester.

As a sign-on petition opposing the Utah bill points out, pretty much any woman who suffers a miscarriage or stillbirth and is engaged in an activity that she “should have reason to know” would endanger her fetus can now be charged with murder or attempted murder.

Suffer a pregnancy loss after a car accident you may have caused?  Murder.  Follow your doctor’s advice to treat your cancer despite the risks it might pose to your unborn child? Attempted murder.

Bizarrely, the Utah law has an exemption that protects women who “fail to follow medical advice,” but nothing in the law protects women who do follow medical advice. Thus women who disagree with a doctor’s advice to have cesarean surgery can’t be prosecuted, but a woman who takes prescription medications that may risk harm to an unborn child could end up behind bars.

Meanwhile, in Kentucky, House Bill 136 would create a new crime just for pregnant women. According to this law, “[a] woman is guilty of substance endangerment of a child prior to birth when, knowing she is pregnant, she causes her child to be born” with controlled substances or alcohol in the child’s bodily fluids. What that means is that, if this law is passed, it would literally be a crime for a pregnant woman to give birth if the child she gives birth to has any amount of a controlled substance or alcohol in its body.

It is well known that laws which threaten to punish women who carry their pregnancies to term in spite of a drug or alcohol problem place substantial pressure on women to have unwanted abortions. This is because it is hard for people to overcome an addiction quickly (just ask Rush Limbaugh). For pregnant women who face many barriers to treatment, there is no guarantee that they will be cured quickly enough to be sure they won’t be arrested if they go to term. Such laws are also known to deter women from care, increasing the risks to maternal, fetal and child health. It would be nice to think that Kentucky legislators did not mean to make it a crime for some woman to cause their children “to be born,” but the fact that this law has been proposed over the objections of every leading health group makes us wonder.

And finally, we wonder about Nebraska’s commitment to protecting fetuses from pain. Nebraska House Bill 1103 would protect some fetuses from pain by banning virtually all women from obtaining abortions after the 20th week of pregnancy.  Although abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy are extremely rare (constituting only 1.5 percent of all abortions), and the doctors who perform them are heroes to the women who need such procedures, this law would make those doctors criminals.

The Nebraska legislators who support this bill claim that after 20 weeks of pregnancy an unborn child is capable of experiencing substantial pain. Certainly, if this is true, then fetuses must also suffer pain from forceps deliveries, internal electronic fetal monitoring (requiring the insertion of sharp metal wires into the delicate fetal scalp) and from chemically induced labor in which the fetus is subjected to repeated, violent maternal uterine contractions and then forced through the narrow vaginal canal. If Nebraska legislators were truly committed to preventing fetal pain, then they should also ban pitocin-induced vaginal births and other fetal-pain inducing delivery techniques and arrest the doctors who carry them out.

The lawmakers supporting these bills claim that they are trying to bar bad things from happening to pregnant women and the unborn. But whatever their stated good intentions, make no mistake, these bills are really about putting pregnant women and the people who support them behind bars.