Larry Ray : Cellular Civil Rights in Mississippi?

Graphic by Larry Ray / The Rag Blog.

Civil rights for diploid cells?
Legal ‘personhood’ in Mississippi

The draconian redefinition of abortion and commonly used methods of contraception as murder would do away with a woman’s right to make her own decisions about childbearing.

By Larry Ray / The Rag Blog / November 1, 2011

GULFPORT, Mississippi — On Tuesday, November 8th, Mississippi voters will either support or defeat a proposition that would give a fertilized human egg the same legal rights and protections under the State’s Constitution that apply to living, breathing people.

Few voters in Mississippi would bother to turn out to support particulars of defining the legal status of the fusion of two haploid gametes. Most folks might think that was a pair of some new deer species and the vote would regulate its hunting season.

But clarification of those biological terms quickly spread in evangelical conservative code for anti-abortion, suddenly making zygotes, diploid cells, and gametes candidates for legal “personhood” among the fervent and zealous.

The Mississippi proposition’s draconian redefinition of abortion and commonly used methods of contraception as murder would do away with a woman’s right to make her own decisions about childbearing. The so-called “personhood” measure seeks to do away with those rights guaranteed under the Supreme Court’s 1973 Roe v. Wade decision.

Such a state constitutional change would not only ban all abortion care but could also outlaw many common forms of birth control, limit medical treatment options for pregnant women, and ban reproductive technologies such as in-vitro fertilization.

This was tried in Colorado twice, in 2008 and 2010, and voters overwhelmingly defeated the ballot measures each time.

But that that was Colorado and this is Mississippi, the state that tops the Gallup poll list of America’s most frequent churchgoers with 63% of the population attending church weekly or almost every week. Vermont, incidentally, has the least churchgoers with only 23% attending regularly, but then they are a bunch of Yankees.

Mississippi’s strong religious voice has long determined what folks can and can’t do in the state. Alcohol was made illegal in 1907, and Mississippi was the last state to repeal Prohibition in 1966. When I moved here to the Gulf Coast in 1980, sale of alcohol was from state-controlled “package stores,” whose signs had to be flat against the building and in letters of a specified size. No neon and no hanging signs like other stores.

I stopped in one my first week here for a bottle of sour mash bourbon and after ringing up the purchase, the nice lady leaned over the counter and asked, sweetly and helpfully, if I “wanted a Baptist Bag.” I must have had a totally puzzled look so she pulled a regular large brown grocery bag from under the counter and mentioned that “lots of customers prefer to carry out their bottles in this kind of bag.” At the time, I found this all rather provincially colorful.

Thirty-one years later you still cannot buy hard liquor on a Sunday even in the “wet” counties, and Mississippi’s provincialism has a much darker hue today that is potentially much more dangerous. Many evangelical and fundamentalist believers now want to impose their narrow, extreme beliefs down to the human cellular level upon all who live in the State of Mississippi.

And with 63% of the population being steady church goers — and voters — both the Republican and Democratic candidates for governor are making it clear that legal human rights for a single fertilized human egg is just peachy with them.

Abortion foes piously proclaiming their belief in the sanctity of life seem to look at that sanctity differently regarding Mississippi’s death penalty. Their opposition to family planning, birth control, and contraception is loud and clear, but there seem to be no voices raised against the biblical evils of fornication. The libidinous Viagra and Cialis commercials still dominate the nightly news.

November the 8th will show if Mississippi’s reckless religious fundamentalists would, as The New York Times noted, “protect zygotes at the expense of all women while creating a legal quagmire — at least until the courts rule it unconstitutional, as they should.”

I have to hope that Mississippi will ultimately not vote to support this attempt by a vocal segment of organized religion to limit the personal and civil rights of the women who live here.

But then again, as far as civil rights are concerned, from the cellular level on up, we have to realize that it was just one year ago that a federal judge ordered the Walthall County School District in Mississippi to halt policies that had allowed some of its district’s schools and classes to become segregated… again. Segregation was outlawed in 1970.

[Retired journalist Larry Ray is a Texas native and former Austin television news anchor who now lives in Gulfport, Mississippi. He also posts at The iHandbill. Read more articles by Larry Ray on The Rag Blog.]

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4 Responses to Larry Ray : Cellular Civil Rights in Mississippi?

  1. Then there’s the not really science and not really legal term Homunculus. A spiritual essence of Man living in sperm.
    Therefore making the woman merely a vessel to incubate the Homunculi and really does nothing to explain why some are born female, other than assuming it’s the sins of Lillith and Eve manifested in an “inferior” child.
    Georgia State Senator Bobby Franklin actually submitted a bill which would give even the Homunculus civil rights.

    Meaning it would be capital murder to use a condom. The legal quagmire doesn’t end there, it put burden of proof that any miscarriage (the actual medical term is spontaneous abortion) was not caused by deliberate Or Negligent actions of the mother, directly on the mother. To enforce that would require pregnancy screening every month because so many fertilized eggs don’t develop past the first month. Apparently more than half.

    Did the mother suffer undue stress that she could have reasonably avoided? Did she walk anywhere, do some heavy work, indulge in alcohol,watch a scary movie, watch the news? If not, then she must PROVE that she did NOT cause the abortion either deliberately or carelessly.

    The good news is that would make war illegal because in aerial bombardments, according to statistics compiled and published by the RAF, The U.S. Air Force and the Luftwaffe, cause a level of stress that more than doubles second and third trimester spontaneous abortion.

    The bad news is that the WarPigs would just decide that it was again the mothers’ faults for living in a city slated for having the living dogshit bombed out of it.

    Instead of indicting say, George W Bush or Dick Cheney or Tony Blair.

  2. Pollyanna46 says:

    So, personhood for fetuses and corporations, slavery for the rest of us…
    How will they get those electronic voting machines inside the womb, I wonder? Nanotechnology? And how will they collect the illegal campaign contributions of the unborn??

  3. Brother Jonah says:

    Yeah, that just brought to mind another pair of conundrums (conundra?) like, the “Invasion in the Womb” immigration issue and the “Donde Nacio?” question being changed to “Where were you conceived?” and then running a tube up the urethra to interview Homunculi on their opinions.

    Then to break the bounds of the word “pair” add in, if a woman doesn’t become pregnant at every available breeding cycle, would a used napkin be evidence of Murder in court?
    I can picture a complete break with science and everybody being in those mobs from the movie “The Omega Man”, under the leadership of Matthias (a 1971 version of Rush Limbaugh with a dumbing down disease having taken hold) burning books, libraries, technology, schools, etc and by the torchlight all of them chanting “Evil! Evil! Evil!”

    Of course in the movie it was a rogue Biological Weapon causing the dementia and here we have our Dear, Esteemed fellow southerners once more VOLUNTARILY taking a leap into a swimming pool filled with Stupid.

    The notion makes me tired.

  4. T.G. Fisher says:

    They get a lot of rain in Mississippi. I know. I spent the summer of 1958 in Biloxi. And yet their is no law that says you must have enough brains to come inside out of a rainstorm before you can be an active member of the state legislature in Mississippi. Go figure.

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