Health Bytes

Abortion debate renewed in Miss.

What defines a human life? We are given the gift of life, but when do we truly receive it? A mother gives life to her child, but when does this transaction occur? When do we first realize that we are indeed alive—human beings capable of thinking and experiencing the world?

As of yet, we have not been able to pin the exact point of the transfer of life, for the hands of this human clock still waver back and forth under the forces of religion, humanity, science, and society. How can we truly and reliably insist that all abortion is murder, a blatant attack on life? We are not smart enough, nor do we have the courage or mettle to establish the exact moment of child’s life; therein lies the conflict. This has come into the public light recently in Mississippi, where voters are likely to pass an initiative that would, without question, change the course of the abortion debate nationwide.

According to the CNN article, Initiative 26, if passed, would define human life or “personhood … from the moment of fertilization, cloning, or the functional equivalent thereof.” This implies that a mere fertilized egg is human and that abortion even at this early stage could be considered murder. The ramifications of the amendment would impact a woman’s right to choose by making it nearly impossible to obtain abortions, as well as certain kinds of contraception, including some birth controls and the morning-after pill. Opponents of Initiative 26 argue that the amendment does not provide victims of rape or incest the option of terminating an unwanted pregnancy. However, pro-life advocates counter by saying that, “A 2005 study by the Guttmacher Institute of New York show[ed] that only 1 percent of women who had an abortion said they had been raped. The study also showed that fewer than 0.5 percent became pregnant because of incest.” Initiative 26 would also pose additional challenges to the scientific and medical communities, for it would make in vitro fertilization more difficult to obtain and threaten the way that physicians are able to offer care to women.

Pro-life America and other supporters of the amendment believe that Mississippi is leading the way in the fight for human rights by giving pregnant mothers a “better way than abortion.” By making abortion inaccessible, mothers would therefore have to take pregnancy and child-rearing much more seriously and even consider the possibility of adoption if necessary. Supporters cite the fact that, “if a woman was attacked and her unborn child was killed, it would be fetal homicide … But on that very same day in the same area, a woman could go and have an abortion and kill her child, and nothing would happen. So we have a contradiction … ”

However, opponents of Initiative 26 do not feel that government should have such a great deal of control over the uterus. Women, even those who became pregnant through no fault of their own, do not have the freedom to make the decision to keep or give up their unborn child. This also brings into consideration the fact that the birth of the child may endanger the life of the mother. Though this would be a late-stage case, it is important to consider the well-being of the mother as well as the child. Whether or not the amendment provides exception for this type of situation is unclear to me; however, to sacrifice the life of the mother seems just as egregious as abortion seems to be for pro-life supporters.

Though this amendment appears to be gaining steam and support from Republicans and Democrats alike, it remains to be seen what the true impact of the decision will have on the nation. What is certain is that Mississippi has fueled the abortion firestorm that will likely continue to rage on the political and societal scene for years to come.

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