Mississippi Initiative 26 Threatens Infertility Treatment for All

Folks, it’s happening again. Conservative legislators have decided that a) women apparently don’t know what’s best for their bodies and b) are threatening access to vital healthcare services and procedures for women.

Allow me to present to you: Mississippi Ballot Initiative #26 (emphasis mine):

“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.”

Let me just go ahead and get this out of the way: embryos are not people.

Let me briefly outline the slippery slope this legislation presents should it pass in Mississippi:

  1. If a human exists at the moment of fertilization, all embryos would be considered people.
  2. If an embryologist discards a low-quality embryo, it would be legally tantamount to murder.
  3. Thus, embryologists would be required to transfer ALL successfully fertilized embryos to the recipient, even though the ASRM and SART agree that the maximum number of transferred embryos should be capped at two for most women (this number jumps to three for women aged 38-40 and five for 41+ years old; source.)
  4. IVF clinics would be forced to pull up shop out of the state of Mississippi as there would then be no legal protection for their practitioners.

If MS Initiative #26 passes, it creates a legal personhood precedent for every other state in the nation. Multiply this slippery slope by 50 and it spells disaster for the infertility patient community.

RESOLVE has come out in force strongly opposing this initiative. Their Policy Statement on Personhood Legislation poses several very real scenarios of legal uncertainty should legislation like MS #26 pass, such as:

  • Would women with fibroids or other uterine abnormalities be forbidden to try to have babies because the problems with their uteruses reduce the chances that an embryo will successfully implant after IVF or an insemination?
  • Not all frozen embryos thaw successfully. Could embryo freezing be prohibited as too risky?
  • What will be the ramifications for fertilized eggs that have been created in the course of fertility treatment but have not been transferred to a woman’s uterus? Who will have legal responsibility for them?
  • If infertility patients in personhood states cannot afford to live in another state during treatment, will they simply have to forego the dream of having a family?

(Source.)

I’ve said this before, and I’ll say it again: this is not about your religion or your politics. No matter where you stand on abortion rights, infertility patients must pay attention to and oppose any legislation that seeks to define human personhood status or limit women’s access to healthcare.

Our access to receive proper and safe infertility treatments: IVF, IUI, ICSI, GIFT and a whole host of other clever acronyms – are at stake. This may sound wildly blown out of proportion, but I assure you, it’s not. Even professionals at IVF clinics are worried.

Just ask John Isaacs, an RE at the Mississippi Fertility Institute:

“…to define a human being as a fertilized egg — that butts heads with the biologic reality that most fertilized eggs don’t result in a live birth… You could easily use this language to regulate what we do in such a way we could no longer freeze embryos,” he says. “That would require us to do one of two things. We could use all the embryos we have and install them, which would mean installing seven, eight eggs instead of one or two. Or we could limit the number of eggs we’re fertilizing to just as many as we plan to implant. Well, that would reduce the pregnancy rate. It’s just a mess.” (Source.)

The YesOn26 group promoting its passing argues that this legislation is pro-life in that it prevents access to abortions. But it’s so much more than that, as About.com infertility columnist Rachel Gurevich points out:

This is very different than outlawing abortion. Outlawing abortion prevents an intentional act of ending an established pregnancy. The Personhood Amendment makes intentional and unintentional pregnancy loss murder. It even makes a woman’s period a suspicious act, given that up to 70% of fertilized eggs fail to implant, leading to unnoticed miscarriages. In these unnoticed miscarriages, most women remain unaware because their period isn’t late and the fertilized egg doesn’t live past a few days.

You can see that Pro-Life and Personhood are quite different. (Source.)

And conservatives wonder why we believe there is a strategic conservative War on Women. When even our own natural menstrual cycles could be painted as criminal acts, at what point do we say “Enough is enough?”

Look, even the Governor of Mississippi is concerned about MS #26:

“I’m pro-life… I believe life begins at conception. Unfortunately, this personhood amendment doesn’t say that. Its says life begins at fertilization… That ambiguity is striking a lot of pro-life people here is concerning. That concerns me, I have to just say it.”

- Governor Haley Barbour on MSNBC, 11/2/11

As citizens, our power lies in our votes. We must stand up and express our opposition to limits on women’s access to healthcare and infertility patients’ access to treatment. We have to act now, as MS #26 is up for vote this Tuesday, November 8th.

What You Can Do to Stop MS #26

Mississippi Residents

  • Vote NO on Ballot Initiative #26 this Tuesday, November 8, 2011.

Non-Mississippi Residents

  • If you have family or friends who live in Mississippi, urge them to vote no on Ballot Initiative #26 this Tuesday, November 8, 2011.
  • Pledge your support to stand with Mississippians to vote NO on 26.
  • Blog about your opposition and spread the word via social media platforms like Twitter and Facebook.

Sample Tweets

  • Mississippi: don’t take away my right to receive infertility treatment. Vote #NoOn26 this Tue, 11/8!
  • Personhood legislation threatens 7.3 million Americans living with infertility. Mississippi: Vote #NoOn26 this Tue, 11/8!
  • Mississippi: Even your Governor thinks MS Initiative 26 is a bad idea. Vote #NoOn26 this Tue, 11/8!

While legislation like this has not been successful in the United States, we must remain vigilant to make sure that this and other pieces of legislation like it do not become law.

And if you think it couldn’t happen, think again.

Yesterday, Representative Joe Pitts (R-PA) actually held a congressional hearing on allowing employers to deny all insurance coverage of birth control. Does Rep. Pitts sound familiar to you? That’s because last month Rep. Pitts introduced HR 358, the “Protect Life Act” into the House. Pitts’ bill sought to grant hospitals that were opposed to abortion but received federal funding to deny women access to abortions at those facilities – and, how I wish I were making this up – to deny those abortions even if the mother might die if she didn’t have one. Congress actually spent time debating this bill on the House floor. Not like we’ve got 9.1% national unemployment rate or anything.

As a taxpayer, I really don’t need my taxpayer money funding the salaries of manipulating misogynists on Capitol Hill and I certainly don’t need my dollars funding legislation that strips away my basic human rights over what to do and not do with my own body.

I urge you to spread the word – share this post, read all the sources I’ve provided, and tell everyone, everywhere: vote no on MS #26 this Tuesday!

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Comments

  1. says

    Another excellent post! I posted a link about the Mississippi amendment on Monday. It’s terrifying, and I tell myself there is no way it can pass, but with politics these days, who knows what craziness can be legislated unfortunately.

    • Keiko says

      I’ve been in a bit of a frenzy posting, tweeting, and talking about it online. I really hope MS pulls through tomorrow.

  2. Cathy says

    2 things. #1: That’s my RE! Yay, Dr. Isaacs! But #2: Gov Barbour still voted YES to Initiative #26, despite any concerns he may/may not have had.