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The All-Fronts War on Reproductive Freedom


Irin Carmon has an excellent piece about the “Personhood Amendment” being proposed in Mississippi, which should be read in its entirety. The key issues under discussion:

That’s partly because the Personhood movement hopes to do nothing less than reclassify everyday, routine birth control as abortion. The medical definition of pregnancy is when a fertilized egg successfully implants in the uterine wall. If this initiative passes, and fertilized eggs on their own have full legal rights, anything that could potentially block that implantation – something a woman’s body does naturally all the time – could be considered murder. Scientists say hormonal birth-control pills and the morning-after pill work primarily by preventing fertilization in the first place, but the outside possibility, never documented, that an egg could be fertilized anyway and blocked is enough for some pro-lifers.


Personhood represents an unapologetic and arguably more ideologically consistent form of the anti-choice movement. It aims squarely for Roe v. Wade by seizing on language from former Supreme Court Justice Harry Blackmun – the author of the Roe decision — during the hearings that the case would “collapse” if “this suggestion of personhood is established … for the fetus.”

The strategy of Mississippi anti-choicers, first of all, is yet another reminder that attempting to reach common ground on reducing unwanted pregnancies is unlikely to work. Second, I agree with Carmon that the strategy probably represents overreaching. Abortion criminalization is a minority position, but has enough support to win in conservative states. But opposition to birth control is extremely unpopular, and the shift in poll numbers against the initiative that has occurred as the opposition has made the anti-birth control implications clear is striking. If it’s a political loser in Mississippi, it will be a loser anywhere.

Unfortunately, even if this amendment fails Mississippi anti-choicers have very successfully used Casey-approved regulations to make abortion inaccessible. Raney Aronson-Rath’s documentary on the subject is essential viewing on the subject.

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