For The Birds…and the bees

Nov 9, 2011 by

For once, residents of Mississippi can pat themselves on the back. Last night, voters in the state next door sent Initiative 26 – aka, the “personhood” amendment – packing. Not only would the voters’ approval of such a measure have been disastrous for women in the department of reproductive rights (as well as sparking some more state vs. federal statutes battles over Roe vs. Wade in the court system, no doubt), but it would also raise a bunch of thorny questions related to miscarriages, in-vitro fertilization, and other issues related to considering fertilized ova on the same basis as walking, talking humans living outside their mothers’ wombs. Nearly two-thirds of the voters, who came out in much larger numbers than in the previous state election, decided they didn’t want to have anything to do with such a clusterfuck.

Over and done. If Mississippians can see the errors in such a way, then this must be sending a big message – give full personhood to women and be truly done with it. Right?

Well, not really.

26 was one battle won in an all-out nationwide war on women that has yet to conclude – and it will continue to be fought in polling places in other states such as Florida, California, and Montana, and then the organizers of this backdoor assault on reproductive rights will once again regroup and rephrase the initiatives until a less-informed voter populace someplace tips the scales. It happened with authorizing creationism to be taught alongside evolution in this state, and it will keep happening with personhood, because the Louisiana Science Education Act still serves as a great object lesson in that way. The basic m.o. with these initiatives is both methodical and cynical: throw a whole lot of crap repeatedly at people and they will eventually vote for it because 1) more of them will actually believe said crap is something good and, 2) the ones who don’t agree will vote for it just so they don’t have to deal with it anymore.

News flash: either way, it will not go away.

When you consider the above, then it is even more important that, as voters, we vote as informed, thoughtful lawmakers ourselves, because that’s what we are. If this is the only thing that comes out of the unrest that is filling our current times, then it’s one great beginning. Thing about being an informed voter, though, is the vigilance aspect of it. With this power we as citizens have, we must constantly keep up with its obligations, ask questions, and – most important of all – we must be unafraid to make ourselves heard.

Don’t let the shit stick, America. For once, follow the Mississippians’ lead.


Update, 5:00 PM: I missed this Salon article on how 26 was defeated. What works? It looks like homegrown opposition as well as some organizing assistance from folks out-of-state contributed a great deal.

Then doctors, clergy and average Mississippians started voicing their opposition and even forming their own opposition groups. There were plenty of out-of-state organizers and professional strategists on board, especially in the last few weeks, but no one could call the conservative Mississippi State Medical Association, the Episcopal and Catholic bishops, and a Southern Baptist minister in the Delta tools of Planned Parenthood. The two most visible activists against 26 were rape survivor and mother of three Cristen Hemmins, who put her name to the original ACLU lawsuit and starred in commercials raising concerns about the lack of rape exceptions; and Atlee Breland, who started Parents Against 26 to focus on concerns about Personhood’s effective banning of in vitro fertilization. Women like them made their own signs and YouTube videos, wrote lucid FAQs and argued with their Facebook friends who called them baby killers, in addition to canvassing and phone banking.

Will the emboldened activism that cropped up over 26 continue? Time will tell.

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