A recent letter to the editor in the Mississippi Sun Herald raised some important questions about so-called “Personhood” amendments like the one that will soon be voted on in Mississippi. In a response, the American Life League dismisses claims that the passage of such an amendment could open the door to unintended consequences.

“Personhood” amendments across the country aim to ban abortion but, as some suggest, their passage could mean that women seeking abortions would be put in jail.

“If abortion is made a crime then certainly the women who have one are criminals!” wrote reader Elizabeth Claggett, in an Aug. 16 letter to the editor. “States that propose punishing only the physician suggest that women who have one are incapable of making their own decisions or they are ‘victims,’ although they in fact initiated the procedure. Such views are a vestige of the past and have long been discredited. Is the message that women are not to be held accountable for their actions or that the pro-life groups refuse to accept the logical? Any proposal to send women to jail would incite Americans to violent objections.”

In a response, Judie Brown — president of the American Life League — writes that Claggett is ”incorrect in her assessment of possible legal fallout” from the passage of the “Personhood” amendment:

Once the state approves the amendment, and it survives a challenge at the Supreme Court level, the state legislature will have to examine how it wants to develop the criminal law that would be put in place to provide legal protections for the child not yet born. Whether or not criminal charges would be assessed for the expectant mother who pays an abortionist for the act itself remains to be seen. However, using the specter of possible criminal penalty to scare Americans into voting against a proposed amendment that would do nothing more than recognize the human rights of persons prior to birth is not only ridiculous but misleading and deceptive.

The voters of Mississippi deserve the facts, not political rhetoric.

A similar amendment has been attempted in Florida but failed to make it on the 2010 ballot, due to a lack of signatures. Some Florida lawmakers and Christian conservative groups have dismissed the amendment, but in recent months, “Personhood” has taken off in Mississippi — which could bode well for Personhood Florida’s next attempts at ballot placement.

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