The Duggar Family is renown for one conspicuous feature: being the stars of the popular TV show “19 and Counting.” The show stars a mother, father and 19 children. This week, the Duggars announced we will have to count one more as the already mega-sized family is ready to another to its ranks.
However, the Duggars weren’t the only ones with new life news. Last Tuesday, Mississippi’s Personhood Amendment failed passage by a 59 percent to 21 percent margin. The measure, technically called Constitutional Initiative 26, would have, as the Washington Post of Nov. 9, 2011 reports, edited the Mississippi Constitution to define a fertilized egg as a person in order to defend the sanctity of life.
We should be indisputably happy the Personhood Amendment was killed.
Clearly, the measure was largely an anti-abortion move, but our happiness at the measure’s failure is not to suggest the abortion debate is easy to resolve. Quite the contrary, and as a result of the ongoing argument, we will inevitably see more proposals like Initiative 26 pop up all over the country.
However, from practical and ethical perspectives, this legislation is simply ridiculous. The LA Times of Nov. 10, 2011 argues, “If it had passed and been enacted, abortion would have become illegal in all cases.
Legal experts and others have pointed out that such a law could ban some forms of birth control and potentially make it a crime to destroy embryos that have been frozen following retrievals for in vitro fertilization.”
Suppose a woman accidentally has a miscarriage, is that the equivalent of manslaughter? Or more pressingly, what does this law say of a woman pregnant with a fetus that will have severe, life –long defects?
Needless to say, how we would even enforce these distinctions remains unclear at best. Big Brother would take on a whole new meaning: defending pregnant little sisters everywhere from abortionists.
Granted, this slippery slope style of analysis often leads straight to nonsense like the belief gay marriage will spawn men marrying their pets. Nonetheless, the implications of granting a fertilized egg personhood status are too impactful to pass such a vague law.
If nothing else, we should be ecstatic this law failed because it trivializes complex moral concerns.
Answers to questions concerning the status of a fetus, what constitutes a person and the role of practical enforcement in these sorts of laws are not easy to muster up. Yet the Personhood Amendment broadly and unabashedly acts as those answers.
What I find most ominous about the backers of the Personhood Amendment is their insistence on pushing their moral agenda. The principal force behind the legislation was Personhood USA, a non-profit Christian ministry. As the Nov. 9, 2011 Huffington Post said the organization “views the fight for the rights of zygotes as a historically significant civil rights struggle on par with the fight against slavery.”
Yet, if Personhood USA is so concerned with the preservation of human life, why not direct their mass of effort, manpower and, of course, money, toward guaranteed methods of life-saving? There are millions of children worldwide who could use a meal and clean water. We should question the moral compass of an organization that swears upon the sanctity of human life, while expending resources on anti-abortion advertisements.
Doctors are concerned for the safety of the mother of the 19 Duggar children. If she decides to go on with her twentieth pregnancy, she could risk serious complications. However, if she were to live under the Personhood Amendment, she would have no choice but to deliver the child – or at least try.
The doctors warn the delivery of the child could well kill the mother but, alas, let us not forget the sanctity of life. Oh, the irony.