Monday, October 31, 2011
I have incorporated my uterus
Just to be on the safe side, I want to announce that I have incorporated my uterus and you can too, assuming you have one, at Incorporate My Uterus.
Not that my uterus will actually make me any money at my age. It’s all symbolic, of course, but the point is, since the fundamentalists in this country do not want government to regulate corporations, but do want it to control every aspect and function of women’s uteruses, incorporation should provide some protection for us women, or at least create a few major dilemmas for the law makers.
If this theory holds any water at all, women in Mississippi should hurry up and incorporate as it now appears, a week before Election Day, that a majority of the voters in Mississippi are going to enact a state constitutional amendment that declares that a fertilized eggs is a person.
Only in Mississippi, one of the poorest, most poorly educated, least healthy and least developed states in the nation on just about every measure, can the voters be pumped up to obsess about an issue like this instead of say, jobs or education or health care or the social safety net.
The amendment reads: The term “person” or “persons” shall include every human being from the moment of fertilization, cloning or the functional equivalent thereof.” (You have to throw in a “thereof” somewhere or it isn’t a legal document.)
This is, of course, yet another run on legal abortion. Its backers hope the law will be challenged all the way up to the U.S. Supreme Court and that the Court, with its 5-4 conservative majority, will uphold it and thus overturn Roe v. Wade. Has anyone ever read Roe v. Wade? Here’s your chance.
The blogger sphere is having a lot of fun with this “fertilized egg as person concept,” some of which I’ll get to in a minute, but personally I doubt the law will ever get to the Supreme Court.
It’s a nice sentiment, I guess, and it may further help prevent legal abortions in Mississippi, where I don’t think any abortions have been occurring for some time thanks to other already passed Draconian state laws. In 2008, according to the Guttmacher Institute, which tracks such statistics, 99 percent of Mississippi counties had no abortion provider and 91 percent of Mississippi women lived in these counties. I’m betting it’s at 100 percent by now.
But I think that the instant Mississippi tries to apply its new personhood amendment, it won’t survive a legal challenge because it is, quite simply, unenforceable. This precedent is well-established throughout all of the courts of the United States: where a law is unenforceable, it is null and void.
Of course it will take some years to fully resolve the matter legally but in the meantime the amendment raises all kinds of absurd questions.
Such as, what if a woman has an ectopic pregnancy? This is a pregnancy that establishes itself in a fallopian tube. The standard medical practice is to remove the tube before it bursts and risks the mother’s life through peritonitis.
But if you do that, you kill another “person”, the fertilized egg. Let’s call it Edgar. And even if you don’t, the mother will perish, which of course means Edgar will perish as well. That, my friends, is a dilemma.
Does it ban most forms of birth control? As an extra added bonus to the most puritanical and sex-hating among us, it certainly will lead to a push to ban just about every kind of birth control except condoms because many kinds of contraceptives – IUDs and morning after pills and perhaps birth control pills as well – interfere with the attachment of a fertilized egg to the uterine wall.
If a fertilized egg is a person, it must be afforded the opportunity to survive, but how will the state enforce that? How will it even know a fertilized egg is struggling to attach? Will it seize the medical records of all women of child-bearing age to determine if they are already using IUDs then force them to go to a hospital to rip their IUDs out? Will it seize pharmacy records to see who is using birth control or who has purchased a morning after pill? Will it arrest doctors who prescribe the pill?
Are miscarriages murder? The amendment seems to make every miscarriage a crime and may require that law enforcement investigate every miscarriage as a potential homicide. How will they gather the evidence for that? Raid doctors’ offices and emergency rooms? Carry off miscarried (also known as spontaneously aborted) fetuses for autopsies? Oh boy, will that ever overload the state’s criminal justice system. DUI suspects will be cheering. Mississippi is very hard on DUIs.
Does it criminalize all risky behaviors practiced by women but not men? Little sexist there, don’t you think? The law may criminalize any dangerous activity that a woman undertakes in the state of Mississippi in the early stages of pregnancy, even before she is even aware of her condition – like drinking, smoking or going skiing. (I don’t think there’s much skiing in Mississippi, but who knows?) Again, how will it enforce that?
Is the amendment retroactive? If so, does that mean all residents can, as of the moment of the law’s passage, legally drink upon attaining the age of 20 years and three months, or can they apply for a learner’s permit at the age of 15 years and three months? Can citizens apply for Social Security at age 65 and three months or Medicare at 64 and three months? Can a woman apply on behalf of her fertilized egg for welfare, Medicaid and food stamps as of the moment she knows she’s pregnant?
When she was interviewed by National Public Radio on the subject in 2008 – when it was on the ballot in Colorado – Jessica Berg, a professor of law and bioethics at Case Western Reserve University, said the amendment could lead to some other bizarre situations — such as counting fertilized eggs in the state census and allowing pregnant drivers to use the carpool lanes.
And, Berg pointed out, it’s not clear that in-state fertility clinics could ever destroy unwanted fertilized eggs, freeze them or implant them in other women without having to put them through the same adoption procedures as people who want to adopt actual children.
The personhood amendment has failed spectacularly twice in Colorado but I don’t think the voters in Mississippi will be so sensible. And other states are watching attentively, such as Ohio and Florida, where similar laws have been introduced.
Of course, the amendment makes no exceptions for eggs fertilized through rape or incest and doesn’t provide any means of determining whether the mother’s life or the egg’s should be saved in a life-threatening situation, or indeed, even how the egg could be saved instead of the mother. Medical science is amazing though and I’m sure they’ll come up with a way.
The bottom line is this, neither side will ever win on the abortion issue because it is just too lucrative to keep it going. We have all 50 states in which to wage this battle, not to mention more than 80 federal trial courts and 13 federal appellate courts, although I do not think the Federal Circuit ever deals with abortion, so call it 12 federal appellate courts.
That’s not to say that some states are not succeeding very well at enacting laws that can be enforced, such as a newly implemented very restrictive anti-abortion law in North Carolina.
But just imagine if the fundamentalists were completely successful in banning abortion (and birth control) throughout the United States. All of that Bible-thumping, sanctimonious “pro-life,” “oh my God, we have to save the unborn babies” money would just dry up. And if abortion survived every onslaught and remained safe and legal, I would stop getting calls and emails from Planned Parenthood and NARAL.
It’s not going to happen.