Wednesday, September 14, 2011

The So-Called Personhood Amendment

MISSISSIPPI FORUM
By Rims Barber

The law of unintended consequences should temper our resolve when tinkering with laws impacting people’s lives. The consequences of adopting Initiative 26 -- the proposed Personhood Amendment to the Mississippi Constitution -- are far-reaching and potentially devastating to women’s health.

In the 33 years since the first in vitro baby was born, hundreds of Mississippi couples were able to have the baby of their dreams through in vitro fertilization (IVF). Since more than one egg is harvested and fertilized to achieve a successful IVF pregnancy, making all the embryos “people” under Mississippi law will make it difficult if not impossible to continue offering IVF treatment in our state.

When embryos are created and frozen as a part of reproductive fertility treatments, these embryos will be legally persons if this initiative passes, and consequently will have all the rights due persons. The problems resulting from this change would be many.

If embryos are people, is the freezing of embryos considered child abuse? If so, what is the role of the Department of Human Services?

Will these embryos be given names (non-birth certificates)?

If one of these embryos “dies” in some part of the in vitro fertilization process, what kind of investigation will be conducted? Could the technician be tried for manslaughter? Are the county coroners equipped to do this task? What kind of death certificate will be issued?

Are the Chancery Courts ready to apply Termination of Parental Rights laws to these embryos? Adoption laws? Home visits as required by adoption law?

Does this Amendment apply only to embryos conceived in the state of Mississippi, or to any embryo entering the state (having been conceived elsewhere)? If they are transported to another state do they lose their personhood? Citizenship?

What are the property rights of these embryos? Inheritance rights? Under state law, there are many places where “person” is referenced.

If more than five unrelated embryos/persons are housed in a single building, will it have to be licensed as a child residential care home?

In Pearl, there is an ordinance limiting occupancy to two persons in a bedroom. If a pregnant woman is two people, can she be in the same bed as her husband?

Moreover, IVF is not the only medical treatment that could be prevented by passage of the Personhood Amendment. Effective treatment of tubal pregnancies, severe preeclampsia, and molar gestation could be prevented. New stem cell treatments for patients with Parkinson’s, Lou Gehrig’s disease, and cancers like leukemia and choriocarcinoma would also be at risk.

If a physician is faced with the choice saving a woman’s life or refusing to harm an embryo/person, could he or she be sued for malpractice no matter what choice was made?

Do Mississippians really want more lawyers interfering in a family’s personal medical decisions?

I have long been convinced that anyone involved in politics should have a good sense of humor. This issue clearly requires one. Let’s not be so focused on our feelings about abortion that we do something ridiculous when voting in November.

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Barber is director of the Mississippi Human Services Agenda.
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Copyright (C) 2011 by the Mississippi Forum 9/11

**This op-ed ran in the Jackson Clarion Ledger. You can read the response to it here.**

1 comments:

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