The Personhood Ballot in Mississippi: "Sluts," "Good Girls," and the Increasingly Blurry Line Dividing Them

RH Reality Check, By Amanda Marcotte, November 6

The personhood amendment being voted on in Mississippi this week is important for two major reasons. The first has received lots of coverage here at RH Reality Check and some liberal news sources: because it’s about criminalizing all women of reproductive age, and could do things like ban birth control and open criminal investigations on miscarriages.

The other reason that we should all be paying attention to Mississippi is the results of the election will be an excellent measure of how far right the Christian right has gone when it comes to sex.

The right has always approached the question of reproductive rights as an elaborate game of ”œWho’s the Slut?” Sure, they like to blather on about ”œlife” and ”œpersonal responsibility,” but that’s because coming straight out and saying that they’d like to craft a law where good girls have rights but bad girls don’t isn’t politically popular. Too obvious: you have to wrap that agenda in sentimental talk about the sanctity of life, and hope no one notices that you have no regard for the sanctity of life if people are dying in wars or from lack of health insurance. But if you look past their rhetoric to the actual rules they try to make regarding who gets to have rights under what circumstances, it’s clear they’re trying to sort women into ”œsluts” and ”œnon-slut” categories. The traditional exception for rape victims under abortion restrictions is the most commonly cited example, of course. I’d add that most conservatives—outside of those who make anti-choice activism their main priority—tend to support the use of contraception. In their minds, contraception is something that could be used by good girls. Married women with children use contraception, after all. But when it comes to abortion, most people imagine a young woman having sex outside of marriage with a man who isn’t going to marry her, which puts her in the ”œslut” category and means she should lose her reproductive rights.

A survey by the Public Religion Research Institute demonstrates how much this is about perceived promiscuity and not ”œlife.” Most poll respondents believed women should be allowed to have abortions if raped, or if their health was in danger, or the fetus had a major birth defect. Even if the reason was simply that the pregnant woman was still in high school, the poll respondents were about even in whether or not the abortion should be allowed. But if the reason for the abortion was that the pregnant woman simply didn’t want to marry her impregnator? Nearly 60 percent of people wanted to legally force her to have the child, with the implication being that she deserved what she got for having sex for any other reason but to get married. The issue is decided on the ambiguous grounds of trying to figure out who’s the slut, not on ”œlife.”

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  • every year.

    …..Thousands more are maimed or permanently injured, mainly because the criminalization of abortion forces them into the hands of dangerous backroom practitioners.

    Now, for the first time, a senior United Nations official is openly calling for the decriminalization of abortion. Supporters say it could trigger a long-overdue debate – even though it is unlikely to bring immediate reforms in religiously conservative countries in Africa and Latin America where abortion is illegal.

    The new UN statement is unambiguous. “States must take measures to ensure that legal and safe abortion services are available, accessible, and of good quality,” said Anand Grover, the UN special rapporteur on health, in a report that has galvanized support from women’s groups and health activists.

    “Absolute prohibition under criminal law deprives women of access to what, in some cases, is a life-saving procedure,” he said. “Criminalization of abortion results in women seeking clandestine, and likely unsafe, abortions.”

    About 25 per cent of the world’s population is living under legal regimes that prohibit all abortions, except those following rape or incest, or when necessary to save a woman’s life, Mr. Grover noted. He described how women suffer “enormous anguish” – or even commit suicide – because of the pressures caused by criminalization.

    Human rights and health groups say the UN report is a ground-breaking moment for the abortion issue in the developing world. “This report is the first of its kind in the way that it talks about abortion, because it isn’t constrained by the usual political considerations that are in operation in UN spaces,” said Meghan Doherty, a communications officer at Action Canada for Population and Development, an Ottawa-based advocacy group.

    “Now that these arguments have been made publicly and unapologetically, and the report has the UN logo, it has already pushed the discussion forward.” More

    Sexual inequality is “The Mother of all Inequalities”.
    Liberate female sexuality and you will eliminate racism, homophobia, financial greed, and violence.

  • Mississippi voters evenly split over controversial abortion ballot

    ‘Personhood amendment’ would redefine ‘person’ to begin at the point of conception and would outlaw abortion at a stroke

    The Guardian, By Karen McVeigh, November 7

    Voters in Mississippi are evenly split over a ballot measure which would introduce the toughest anti-abortion restrictions in America by giving all fertilised embryoes the same rights of people.

    The “personhood amendment”, if passed on Tuesday, would redefine the term “person” to begin at the point of conception, which would outlaw abortion at a stroke, as well as restrict infertility treatment that results in the loss of embryos and some forms of birth control.

    With less than 24 hours to go until the vote, the latest poll suggests that the measure has a chance of passing. According to Public Policy Polling, 45% of respondents support the amendment, while 44% are against. There may be some hope for the no campaign, however, as the many of the 11% of undecided voters are from the groups who tend to oppose the measure, women, Democrats and black people.


    The amendment has produced the most closely fought of any of the votes taking place in states across the US on Tuesday.

    Just one paragraph long, it asks voters: “Should the term ‘person’ be defined to include every human being from the moment of fertilisation, cloning, or the equivalent thereof?”

    It was drawn up by Les Riley, an ultraconservative Mississippi anti-abortion activist who first tried to get it on the ballot in 2007. In 2009, he started the state’s personhood group and began collecting signatures to get it on the ballot.

    Before forming the group, Riley was briefly a blogger for a secession movement in South Carolina called Christian Exodus [wikipedia], the website Mother Jones reported in September. The goal of the movement was to form “an independent Christian nation that will survive after the decline and fall of the financially and morally bankrupt American empire”.

  • All women share a little secret – one that they’ve tacitly shared for centuries – one which is really, fundamentally, none of your damn business.

    That secret is that women in circumstances that lead to their decision to abort a fetus have always found some way to accomplish it. Some may seek help from clandestine sources, if they can afford it. Most do not. Instead they’ve thrown themselves off cliffs or down stairs; they’ve stuck sticks or coathangers up through their cervix and jiggled them around; they’ve poured acids into their vaginas; they’ve bound their bellies in ropes or girdles; they’ve shoved live electric cords or garden hoses into their vaginas and turned them on; they’ve drunk potions and herbs and downed poison pills of every description imaginable. Forget about clandestine back alley abortionists willing to exploit the situation, although most certainly they exist. Most often abortions are carried out alone by the woman acting all by herself and completely in secret.

    When they’ve succeeded they’ve been able to avert or entirely avoid the consequences of an unsupportable pregnancy; of rape and incest; of economic insufficiency and of lost potential. Some who abort are little girls as young as 9 years old. Others are 50 somethings already with families. Where their own health is critically compromised, abortions have saved the pregnant woman’s life when otherwise both woman and infant faced death or life long disability. Whatever the reason that compels them to do it, some woman or girl in a war zone; in a prison camp; in the slums of the world; in a refugee camp; in a mental hospital; in the suburbs; in a downtown condo tower; tries to abort every single day. They come from every nation, every strata of society, every religion. They are Everywoman.

    Sometimes the reasons might seem relatively insufficient – a family already struggling to raise their children knows full well that another infant will push them over the edge – a 16 year old whose teenaged boyfriend went too far on prom night. Perhaps these women decide to carry these children to term thereby economically compromising their own futures and that of each member of their existing families. Alternatively they could choose the stigma and lifelong consequences of putting their newborns out for adoption. The vast majority of women and girls facing this dilemma choose the age old solution and secretly deal with the situation entirely on their own.

    If she does not succeed, she will bleed to death or cause severe internal organ damage. If she is extremely lucky there may be proper medical attention available, although even in the “enlightened” US several hospitals are required to refuse emergency treatment to any girl suffering from a botched abortion. If a child survives it may have severe defects arising from the abortion efforts. In some parts of the world, it is expected that a woman who bears a defective child will immediately snuff out its life by drowning or suffocation. As the article mentions some women, unable to face the dilemma, choose to commit suicide.

    Of course the rational answer is to allow pregnant women or mothers of pregnant girls to have completely private access to professional medical care to terminate any unwanted pregnancy. The simple fact is that, in the absence of such care, most women will try every method they can to abort anyway.

    I don’t know why it is that so many chaps feel it necessary to be buttinskys on this subject but it can hardly have escaped notice that these trumpeting right-to-lifers seem almost entirely made up of “Christian” men and their brow-beaten promise keeper wives. Why are they afforded one iota of credibility? Why is their understanding of morality all twisted up with some notion of pregnant girls as “sex fiends”? Why do they feel empowered to wage such viciously reckless warfare on women?

  • Mississippi ‘personhood’ measure: why support waned as Election Day neared

    Reservations by the medical community and even Gov. Haley Barbour ahead of Election Day have made a dent in support for a Mississippi measure that would confer ‘personhood’ on fertilized eggs.

    The Christian Science Monitor, By Patrik Jonsson, November 8

    Atlanta – Support in conservative Mississippi for conferring the legal definition of “personhood” to fertilized eggs dropped dramatically ahead of Tuesday’s ballot question, amid growing uncertainty about the impact of Initiative 26.

    Polls conducted ahead of Election Day showed the yes and no votes essentially tied, with 11 percent of likely voters still undecided. Those results indicated a drop of nearly 20 percentage points in support for the measure, which is seen by many as a direct challenge to the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision that legalized abortion in the United States.

    Probably playing a role in the growing doubts about the measure are concerns raised by popular outgoing Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour (R), as well as the money and manpower being poured into the state from groups like the American Civil Liberties Union and Planned Parenthood. Mississippi is the one US state where many say such a measure is most likely to pass, given the state’s deep religious and conservative values that cut across racial and economic lines.

    But the greatest drag on support for the measure – which asks, “Should the term ‘person’ be defined to include every human being from the moment of fertilization, cloning or the equivalent thereof?” – may be misgivings from the state’s medical community about potential unintended consequences. This includes that lawyers and judges would be making decisions about women’s health.

  • PFAW

    The effort to classify zygotes and fetuses as “persons” completely separate from their mothers and with full legal rights first appeared in Colorado, where voters have consistently voted down a so-called “personhood amendment” to the state constitution. Personhood laws would not only criminalize abortion with no exceptions, but also ban common forms of birth control, stem cell research, and in-vitro fertilization. This year, personhood measures are under serious consideration in Iowa, Mississippi, Florida, North Dakota, and Georgia, and the organization Personhood USA hopes to bring personhood campaigns to states including Texas, Montana, and Wisconsin.

    In Mississippi, a personhood amendment to the state constitution will be on the ballot in 2011. Supporters of the measure include the American Family Association, Liberty Counsel, Lt. Governor and Republican gubernatorial candidate Phil Bryant, U.S. Rep. Alan Nunnelee, and Sen. Roger Wicker, who plans to introduce a bill “identical” to the personhood amendment in the U.S. Senate.

    Les Riley, the architect of the Mississippi personhood amendment and the leader of Personhood Mississippi, is a featured blogger for the group Christian Exodus, which has the “goal of forming an independent Christian nation that will survive after the decline and fall of the financially and morally bankrupt American empire.” Christian Exodus, which has close ties to the separatist and Neo-Confederate League of the South, has attempted to move thousands of supporters to South Carolina in order to “form a biblically inspired government and secede from the United States.” The group also encourages adherents to move to Panama and Idaho in order to build theocratic settlements.

  • Los Angeles Times, By Michael A. Memoli, November 8

    A controversial Mississippi ballot measure that would have defined human life as beginning at fertilization was defeated Tuesday.

    The so-called “personhood” initiative initially was seen as another test of abortion rights, one that supporters hoped might be the vehicle through which the U.S. Supreme Court would revisit the Roe vs. Wade decision.

    But the full wording of the measure as it appeared on the ballot — to define every human being as a person “from the moment of fertilization, cloning or the equivalent thereof” — gave even staunch abortion foes pause.

    The state’s Republican governor, Haley Barbour, told an interviewer last week that “the ambiguity of the wording is striking a lot of pro-life people here as concerning.” He said Tuesday that he ultimately voted for it, but acknowledged it still faced a stiff fight.

    As of 10:40 pm ET, 57% had voted to reject the measure, compared to 43% who supported it.

  • Here’s the current top post:

    Personhood Mississippi would like to thank you all for your hard work and encouragement, and we have some great news! Our lawyers have informed us that they have received permission from the Mississippi medical board to be granted access to patient files when our Amendment 26 passes! We will be able to go back through decades of history and find every woman who has taken a human life either through abortion, miscarriage, or careless ectopic pregnancies, and not only bring them to God’s light, but to legal justice as well! So far we do not know for sure if we will be able to charge them with murder or a lesser charge of negligent homicide, but our lawyers assure us that it will only be a matter of procedure once the law passes! Admittedly this will put a bit of a strain on our courts but this is a necessary sacrifice in order to do the Lord’s work, and we have therefore included a one-time tax increase of 10% in Amendment 26 in order to offset these costs. “‘And blessed be God Most High, who delivered your enemies into your hand.’ Then Abram gave him a tenth of everything.” –Gen 14:20

    The mind boggles.

  • I’d say the time has come for men to start taking equal responsibility for ensuring paternity. Lead by example. Do away with the soul-destroying gender apartheid system – it only creates violence in the world. Nature did not create sluts … it gave men and women the sex drive in equal measure to keep them together, not to tear them apart as the religious fundamentalists are desperately attempting to do.

    Furthermore, exhilarating and responsible sex will reduce unwanted pregnancies more than any abstinence program ever will. Be smart! Liberate female sexuality and you will liberate yourself and the world.

    Sexual inequality is “The Mother of all Inequalities”.
    Liberate female sexuality and you will eliminate racism, homophobia, financial greed, and violence.

  • ADL Condemns Film Likening Holocaust To Abortion

    Right Wing Watch, By Brian Tashman, November 10

    Anti-choice activists have for years equated legal abortion in America to the Holocaust, along with slavery, Jim Crow laws and terrorism. The Holocaust comparison is front and center in the new movie 180, a “documentary” that attempts to change the minds of pro-choice viewers by showing graphic footage from the Holocaust and comparing it to abortion. 180 has been publicized by groups such as Concerned Women for America and Personhood USA, which claimed to have sent the film to 600,000 Mississippi residents just days before the unsuccessful “personhood” referendum.

    The producers of 180 say that “between 180,000 and 200,000 copies of the 33-minute DVD were given out at 100 of America’s top universities” and that they now want high schools to use the film while teaching students about the Holocaust.

    Yesterday, the Anti-Defamation League called 180 “one of the most offensive and outrageous abuses of the memory of the Holocaust we have seen in years”:

    “The film is a perverse attempt to make a case against abortion in America through the cynical abuse of the memory of those killed in the Holocaust,” said Abraham H. Foxman, ADL National Director and a Holocaust survivor. “Not only does the film try to assert a moral equivalency between the Holocaust and abortion, but it also brings Jews and Jewish history into the discussion and then calls on its viewers to repent and accept Jesus as their savior. It is, quite frankly, one of the most offensive and outrageous abuses of the memory of the Holocaust we have seen in years.”



    Ray Comfort [wikipedia], the creator of 180, hit back at the ADL in a statement today, arguing that the group should be “thanking” him, adding that doctors charging for abortions are just like Nazis profiting off the killing of Jews:

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