Tomorrow: Mississippi tries to re-define “person”

Tomorrow, November 8, 2011, Mississippians have the chance to vote on an amendment to their state Constitution that might enable them to redefine the term person. They question on the ballot, will read:

“Should the term ‘person’ be defined to include every human being from the moment of fertilization, cloning, or the functional equivalent thereof?”

We’ve covered this story several times in the past few weeks, but this amendment will be voted on tomorrow and I just wanted to share my rage and drum up some feminist rage at this blatant attack on reproductive justice.

Ultimately, the proponents of this amendment plan to use it as a means to overturn Roe v. Wade in the state of Mississippi. They’ll use it in order to persecute women who decide to have abortions. And they’ll use it to target and criminalize doctors that perform them.

This goes even farther, though. For those who decide to carry their pregnancies to term, this could end up criminalizing women who experience miscarriages, stillbirths, or women whose lives are at risk who might chose to terminate a pregnancy to save the life of the women.

What kind of birth control do you use? What was the cause of your miscarriage? These kinds of questions will become par for the course if the fetus is given constitutional rights. EC, birth control, pills, IUDs and of course, abortion, are all under attack – even in cases of rape, incest, and danger to the life of the woman or girl.

And let’s not forget the race/class dynamic at play in this kind of legislation:

Fact: Mississippi has the highest concentration of African-Americans, high poverty rate and low education ranking. Result: This amendment will disproportionately criminalize (low-income) women of color.

Fact: 61% of women who get abortions are mothers, and 84% will become mothers. Result: While purporting to be “pro-life” and “pro-family” this amendment will directly impact and criminalize so many women, especially poor women of color.

Importantly, on the same ballot there will also be a Voter ID exclusion measure, called Initiative 27, which will allow voting restrictions that will directly impact communities of color. This initiative, if passed, will implement measures that are reminiscent of the 1960’s lack of access to the ballot.

In a brilliant intersectional analysis, Loretta Ross, National Coordinator of the Sistersong Women of Color Collective, wrote:

The 2011 Mississippi ballot Initiative 26 on Personhood and Initiative 27 on Voter ID exclusions may be one of the most important opportunities on the ground for the Pro-Choice and Reproductive Justice Movements to work together. In Mississippi, we are witnessing the intersection of race and gender politics in a campaign in which African American voters are probably the most critical constituents when they go to the polls on November 8. It’s a case study on Roe v. Wade intersecting with the Voting Rights Act and the 19th Amendment granting women the right to vote.

So, here’s a perfect storm of intersectionality. We have the chance to link issues and walk the walk. Here are some things you can do to make some noise, from SisterSong‘s Action Alert:

  • First educate yourself on what these Initiatives (26 and 27) really mean and the consequences of their implementation.
  • You can help in this get-out-the-vote effort by voting and urging everyone you know in Mississippi- your friends, family, co-workers, or members of groups you are affiliated with-to Vote No on Initiative 26 and 27 on November 8, 2011.
  • To take direct action, you can donate to various organizations to help the statewide Mississippi coalition campaign buy desperately needed television and radio ads.
  • You can share informative posts on Facebook, Twitter and other social media outlets to dispel any myths and clarify the impact of these Initiatives.

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