Photo by Sara Schreiber
As seen on the road from Tupelo to Oxford, Mississippi
Personhood Amendments, where they've been tried, tend to fail. That's because defining personhood as beginning at fertilization comes with unintended consequences, like outlawing popular forms of birth control and making IVF a lot more complicated. Can embryos in an IVF clinic inherit property? If you crash your bike and miscarry, is that a crime?
Cristen Hemmins was one of two plaintiffs who sued to stop the Personhood Amendment from going to referendum. The Mississippi Supreme Court said last week that the measure can go forward, and so far the campaign to defeat it amounts to a Facebook page. The vote's in November. "It's an uphill battle, and we're not helped by the fact that we've got seven weeks to educate the entire state of Mississippi," says Hemmins. Mississippi remains a place where politics and religion are not always separate ideas.
Hemmins is not officially part of the campaign, Mississippians for Healthy Families, but she's telling her story to anyone who'll listen. Yesterday, she posted an open letter to Lieutenant Phil Bryant, who co-chairs the Yes on 26 campaign. She writes:
"Dear Mr. Bryant--I know I may as well be shouting into the wind, since you are a vocal proponent of Initiative 26, and a religious right Republican in Mississippi. But I felt the need to at least have you tell me to my face (sadly via e-mail) why you would force me to bear a child when I was raped.
"I am working closely with the campaign to educate Mississippians about the Personhood Initiative--Mississippians for Healthy Families (the campaign is not even fully launched yet--the website is almost complete). I was one of the two plaintiffs who sued the state of Mississippi over this amendment, and we only launched the campaign last week after the MS Supreme Court made its ruling.
"I joined the campaign last year because I was abducted, raped and shot twice as a escaped 20 years ago by two young men on a carjacking spree. I was taking a semester at Millsaps in 1991--I graduated from Vanderbilt, but came home to Jackson to be near a boyfriend. They were two teenagers who had crossed the road from Brinkley and hidden under a weeping willow by my dorm. I managed to escape after they had me for a couple of hours, and ran to a gas station nearby; they wheeled around in my car and even fired three times into the station before taking off. They were both caught within a few days, took a plea bargain, and are in Parchman for 25 years without parole (the one in charge actually escaped with a murderer in 1993 and made it to Oklahoma before being re-caught, so he'll probably be in for even longer).
"All this to say, when I heard that Personhood USA was bringing the battle to outlaw birth control and overturn Roe vs. Wade from Colorado to Mississippi, I wanted to do whatever I could to stop them. If Initiative 26 had been in place 20 years ago, and I had gotten pregnant, I would have had no options. I am not sure my body could have withstood a pregnancy--one of the bullets actually went through my uterus, and in and out of my colon several times. I know that I would not have wanted to bear that child.
"Initiative 26 would have a myriad implications and extreme consequences for women and families in Mississippi. Passage of I26 would create a MASSIVE EXPANSION OF THE DEPENDENT, WELFARE STATE--big government and entitlements spiraling out of control. Really, it is so much more than abortion, and I would hope that our Lt. Gov. would be clever enough to see this. It's all political posturing, when it comes down to it. To the detriment of our state.
She says she hasn't heard back from the lieutenant governor yet.