News24

US state - is fertilised egg a person?

2011-11-05 21:15

Jackson - The state of Mississippi on Tuesday could be the first in the US to define a fertilised egg as a person, a controversial concept aimed at outlawing abortion, some types of birth control and infertility methods that result in the loss of embryos.

The so-called personhood amendment to the state constitution represents a twist in strategy for anti-abortion rights efforts, which have notched great success across the country this year with dozens of new legal restrictions.

Proponents of the Mississippi ballot initiative said a win on Tuesday would bolster similar efforts geared for next year’s elections in states including Florida, Ohio and Colorado. They said it would help their ultimate goal of overturning Roe v Wade, the 1973 US Supreme Court decision making abortion legal.

“Mississippi is one step in a lengthy process,” said Jennifer Mason, spokesperson for the Colorado-based Personhood USA organisation.

“We’re looking at a co-ordinated effort from many states in order to see real change in the United States.”

Critics of the Mississippi measure say defining a person as “every human being from the moment of fertilisation, cloning or the functional equivalent thereof” amounts to an extreme government intrusion that could effectively criminalise routine medical care and endanger women’s lives.

Opponents, including the state’s medical and nurses associations, have stepped up their criticism in recent weeks, leading to duelling news conferences and fact sheets presenting each side’s version of the likely effects of the action.

All agree the proposed amendment would ban abortion without exceptions for rape or incest victims and also outlaw some forms of hormonal contraceptives, though there is dispute over which ones.

Advocates say the initiative would not bar in-vitro fertilisation but would prevent unused embryos from being destroyed.

Past ‘personhood’ votes failed

They argue critics have resorted to “scare tactics” in claiming doctors would be kept from performing life-saving treatments for women with medically complex pregnancies.

“It’s not really scare tactics. We’re really scared,” said Dr Randall Hines, an infertility specialist in the Jackson, Mississippi, area. “This amendment represents the greatest moment of government interference in the delivery of health care that we’ve ever seen.”

The two previous attempts to get voters to declare a fertilised egg a legal person were in Colorado in 2008 and 2010, and both efforts failed to pass by wide margins.

But the political climate has been friendly toward tightening abortion laws this year.

Eighty-four new restrictions became law, the most ever in such a short stretch, said Elizabeth Nash, public policy associate at the Guttmacher Institute, which studies reproductive health issues.

In Mississippi, a conservative and religious state with a single abortion clinic, backers of the personhood amendment collected more than 100 000 signatures from registered voters to get the initiative on the ballot.

The Republican and Democratic gubernatorial candidates each have pledged support for the amendment.

The initiative will probably pass but likely not withstand the anticipated legal challenges, said Marty Wiseman, director of the John C Stennis Institute of Government at Mississippi State University.

“Mississippi can’t negate Roe v Wade, which this would do,” he told Reuters. But “who knows the twists and turns it is going to take before it is shot down by the Supreme Court.”

Culture of life

Though many faith leaders favour the amendment, the solidly anti-abortion rights Catholic Diocese of Jackson and other religious leaders have spoken out against it as an ill-advised approach that will either get struck down by federal courts or lead to a judicial reaffirmation of abortion rights.

“The unintended effect would very likely jeopardise current protections in state law and cause a loss of momentum in the ultimate goal of establishing full legal protection of the unborn from the moment of conception,” the diocese said in a statement.

Dr Freda Bush, a Jackson obstetrician gynaecologist who has been a vocal proponent of the ballot initiative, said she hoped voters recognized that the measure would not disrupt the sound practice of medicine but instead would re-establish “a culture of life” in Mississippi.

“If we’re going to value life and protect life after it’s born, why not start at the beginning?” she said.

Comments
  • Elaine - 2011-11-06 21:46

    “Mississippi can’t negate Roe v Wade, which this would do,” The funny thing about this is that woman called Roe has become a pro-lifer and has committed her life to negating the Roe v. Wade law. Google 'Roe no More'

      John - 2011-11-06 22:14

      Abortion is not delivery of health care! It is genocide! What kind of mentality saves people in hospital, and in another room kills babies? A babies heart can be heard beating at 3 weeks, for Life's sake!

      Eileen - 2011-11-07 02:35

      It is simply bringing the constitution in line with what science already recognizes: "By all the criteria of modern molecular biology, life is present from the moment of conception." Dr. Hymie Gordon, Chairman, Department of Genetics at the Mayo Clinic "The only times we even question whether human beings are persons (or “truly” human) are during exploitation and injustice. During the Holocaust, in support of slavery, and to spread eugenics, for example, we have questioned whether the people exploited or abused are really, truly human. To me, that’s powerful." Ana Banderas http://liveaction.org/blog/is-it-a-person/ AIN’T I A WOMAN? This is what Sojourner Truth asked when she gave her famous speech about the rights of black women. WELL, AIN’T I A PERSON? Ryan Bomberger answers this question in this beautiful music video written by a man who was conceived by an act of rape: http://www.theradiancefoundation.org/portfolio-item/unwanted-a-story-about-choice/ How fortunate his mother recognized his “personhood”!

      Lanfear - 2011-11-07 09:46

      And your point is? Just as well to point out that Joseph Cinqué who was a captured slave [as portrayed in the movie "Amistad"], took his freedom, went back to Africa and became a notorious slave trader himself. What? Because Roe became pro-"life", it now makes rulings like the above suddenly *more* right? People change and going through tough times doesn't necessarily make them better, or worse for that matter. @ Eileen - hmm, interesting that you mention eugenics. The type of eugenics you note are properly called "nazi" eugenics, which wasn't the true study of eugencis at all.

  • PropheticRHYME - 2011-11-06 21:48

    not a simple matter this one

      Oneant - 2011-11-07 06:14

      what about pluripotent stem cells? are they considered people? what about a cloned stem cell? and since any cell can be regressed to pluripotency with modern biochemistry, are my skin cells an individual? What about a drop of my blood... cant throw that away... just now i'll be charged with murder.

  • Marius - 2011-11-06 21:48

    Oh, we, the human race just can't accept that we are not that special. We are after all worse than animals.

      Oneant - 2011-11-07 06:16

      We are parasites. Consuming resources and moving on, until, eventually, our host (planet) is so sick it cannot support us anymore. There is no difference between a severe malaria infection and human civilization.

      Sattva - 2011-11-08 08:00

      hear hear !

  • Shumba - 2011-11-06 22:25

    I personally feel that if you want to have an abortion, that is entirely your own decision and I think it is a gross violation of that person's rights to deny them that. An unborn child is exactly that, unborn; and so to say that he/she/(it) should have equal rights to the mother is ludicrous. What really grinds my gears about anti-abortionists is that it has absolutely no impact on them whether or not someone has an abortion. But it has a huge impact on the mother. It really is none of their business.

      Ricky - 2011-11-06 22:51

      Well said, but try telling that to people who feel they need to protect everyone from themselves. The same kind of person who bought People magazine to drool over Kim Kardashian's wedding (that lasted 72 days) but firmly believes that two blokes tying the knot will ruin the sacred institution of marriage. Go figure! Also interesting to note that the death sentence is still actively being used in Mississippi (5 prisoners have been executed in the last 18 months alone) - and I don't see these fine folk campaigning to change that. There goes the "every life is sacred" argument right out the window. They need to ask themselves what the real reasons are that they feel entitled enough to have jurisdiction over another person's body and mental and physical health - because it's clearly not because of a respect for all life.

      Shumba - 2011-11-07 07:21

      @ricky, agreed. The pro-life argument falls flat on its face when you consider that if an abortion is denying a potential life, then so is all forms of contraception. It could even be extended further back; every time two fertile human beings choose to abstain from intercourse is denying a potential life.

      mbossenger - 2011-11-07 09:19

      Well said, Shumba. The woman's right to choose should be paramount in this, which it doesn't seem to be.

      VaalDonkie - 2011-11-07 12:40

      1. A "fertilised" egg is considered a person. 2. "fertilisation" takes place when a sperm penetrates the egg. 3. It is obvious how contraception like a condom or spermicide would not form part of the objection raised. on another note: if having an abortion is entirely your choice, then the same should apply to killing an infant who can't yet make his own food. So, I would suggest that under your reasoning, abortion should be legal up until the baby is around 1 year old. Until that point, it is still entirely dependent on the mother.

      Grant - 2011-11-08 20:20

      //1. A "fertilised" egg is considered a person.// No it isn't, thats why its called an embryo and doesn't get a birth certificate. //2. "fertilisation" takes place when a sperm penetrates the egg. // Yes, "a person" doesn't take place //on another note: if having an abortion is entirely your choice, then the same should apply to killing an infant who can't yet make his own food. So, I would suggest that under your reasoning, abortion should be legal up until the baby is around 1 year old. Until that point, it is still entirely dependent on the mother.// Er so a 2 year old can support itself? Rubbish. Embryo's are aborted, humans are killed. This isn't a difficult concept.

  • Du - 2011-11-06 22:54

    Mississippi julle het my volle ondersteuning in hierdie verband - moord is moord is moord is moord. Ek steun die onvoorwaardelike reg op lewe. God gee lewe en is die Lewe.

      Dan - 2011-11-07 00:20

      en jy is DU ou DU!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

      Oneant - 2011-11-07 07:49

      i prefer the works of contemporary philosophers.

      VaalDonkie - 2011-11-08 09:02

      Me too. Especially Lewis, Plantinga and Craig.

  • James - 2011-11-07 00:16

    Abortion, a choice? for whom? I can chose to shot anyone its a choice but still wrong, what makes us different is those that understand we have an moral obligation to value people and all life. Are we responsible or not! Do to others as you would have them do to you! This is important article, for those unborn and when those survive an abortion they will thank us for choosing to be responsible. If you are for abortion than than you you just don't care! Lets let the children decide if they want to be killed, some how I think they will chose life, wouldn't you! James

      Travis - 2011-11-07 12:08

      I say the quality of life the child will have when born determines the morality of the choice to abort or not, not our belief that all life should live regardless of the quality of life.

      Grant - 2011-11-07 18:46

      //Abortion, a choice? for whom?// For women who decide not to bring a child into the world. If you don't like abortions don't have one and leave those alone who would. //Do to others as you would have them do to you! This is important article, for those unborn and when those survive an abortion they will thank us for choosing to be responsible// 16 thousand children will die today from starvation alone. Suppose they can thank you too? Do unto others? Since I was raised in a home that was prepared and able to support me I would think this would extend to everyone else. Again the default religious position is to rage against abortion without any involvement thereafter. You going to be pulling out the loaves and fishes every time that child goes hungry? And no, praying for them doesn't help, one single bit.

  • Patsi - 2011-11-07 00:51

    So this chap wants to make all women 2nd class citizens again! He wants the human population to grow & consume resources at voracious rates and the rate of crime to increase, and the people can start staving to death because there is nothing more to eat & drink. Is this the life he wants the people to look forward to? I don't think so! He only wants votes for now; he does not care about the future of mankind! Even for married women there is no birth control that is 100% effective, in either case it is the woman's body and only she can decide ether to abort or to carry the fetus full term.

      VaalDonkie - 2011-11-07 13:21

      No one is stopping you from offing yourself if you believe you are a burden on this planet. Go ahead, do it. It's for the good of the whole planet.

      Ricky - 2011-11-07 13:59

      VaalDonkie: Actually, they are stopping people from offing themselves. Assisted suicide is a criminal offense in the states, even for terminally ill patients on their last legs. There have been cases where family members who traveled abroad for these procedures with dying love ones have been prosecuted when they've returned. It just irks me that fundamentalists would rather have someone blow their brains out than allow someone who's in pain a dignified death when they've run out of time. The same goes for abortion. In a perfect world giving birth would automatically make someone a mother, but we all know that's not the case. Look at what's happening to kids on the fringes of society all around the world. To argue over personal and religious convictions from our comfy homes becomes self righteous and sanctimonious when faced with the reality of unwanted kids being pulled through the ringer in the system every hour of every day.

      VaalDonkie - 2011-11-07 16:06

      Taking your own life != assisted suicide. Go ahead, do it for the children.

      Ricky - 2011-11-07 16:17

      You see, I've always suspected that fundamentalist opposition towards abortion has very little, if not nothing, to do with whether it's murder or not. My personal opinion is that it stems from the fact that fundamentalism beliefs are (albeit subconsciously) that "bad" or "loose" girls get themselves into situations where they become pregnant - and that they need to be punished for those sins and "taught a lesson" by being forced to carry the baby. This ties in with capital punishment. Some wrong has been done, so someone needs to pay. It comes across as an act of vengeance and authority towards the mother, rather than of mercy towards the embryo. Unfortunately it's usually the kids who end up getting the short end of the stick after birth.

      VaalDonkie - 2011-11-08 09:01

      Do you have any data to back up your position?

      Ricky - 2011-11-08 09:46

      Yes, common sense. How else can the same faction of people oppose abortion, but support the death penalty? These two ideas are totally contradictory. The fact that they're in favor of the latter makes their concerns over the former moot. If ALL life is sacred and God given, then surely noone (including the courts) should have the right to take it away. It really is that simple.

      VaalDonkie - 2011-11-08 11:17

      One party is guilty, the other innocent. It pays to think for yourself and not just parrot the points you read on the internet. Also, common sense != data.

      Ricky - 2011-11-08 13:46

      If you bothered to read my post properly, you'd notice that I said these are my personal opinions. They were formed by years of observing fundamentalists operate relating to a variety of issues, including abortion. I don't think one needs any more "data" than actually seeing these guys rant and rave. The old saying "show me, don't tell me" applies. You say "One party is guilty, the other innocent" So by your own admittance, we are entitled to take the lives of "sinners" away but not the lives of innocents. If we adhere to that view, ALL God given life isn't sacred then, is it? Sounds a lot like vengeance to me.

      VaalDonkie - 2011-11-08 15:37

      If you can't back up your opinion with data, then you should probably reconsider.

      Ricky - 2011-11-08 16:57

      Well, let's (once again) look at the facts, and you can see if you can extract the "data" you require from that... - Anti Abortionists claim that all life is sacred. Abortion is the murder of a person, and therefore wrong. - Anti Abortionists (especially stateside) are often conservatives who support the death penalty. This proves that they do NOT believe that all life is sacred. They believe that they should have the power to deem a life sacred, or not. Surely you can understand the problem (and self righteousness) in this contradictory train of thought relating to their core (and only) argument against the procedures. - Anti Abortionists have been known to murder doctors who have been operating within the laws of their regions by performing abortions. Murder is murder. If you can murder numerous grown people over an extended period of time as part of your anti abortion campaign, then who are you to lobby against the "murder of babies"? It's the pot calling the kettle black. Those are the facts. These cases have been well documented and are too extensive to even try and list here. Make of them what you will. A parting thought - telling someone to kill themselves because they have a different view to yours isn't exactly the most intellectual way to enter a debate. I doubt you'll find any "data" to back up that sort of opinion. Peace to you.

      Grant - 2011-11-08 20:38

      @Vaaldonkie //One party is guilty, the other innocent.// Innocent? Well taking your babble as the moral code, if the woman is accused of adultery god will abort the baby for her (Numbers 5:11-21) Or if the babby has the misfortune of being a child of Samaria, god will send people to (and I quote) "their infants shall be dashed in pieces, and their women with child shall be ripped up" (Hosea 13:16 ) Oo or even if they were unlucky enough to be born in Tiphsah and did not automatically surrender to King Menahem (because surrender to a marauding tyrant is always noble): "and all the women therein that were with child he ripped up." (2 Kings 15:16) Honestly I don't understand what your problem is with chemically aborting a collection of cells when your god avdocates such savage cruelty to mother and child for the most bizarre reasons imaginable? the babble != moral guidance, or any guidance at all. In before "out of context" and/or "those were different times"

  • ludlowdj - 2011-11-08 10:07

    Any policy or religion that ignores the laws of nature is a false teaching.

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