I haven’t been paying much attention to the vote in Mississippi over whether to amend the state constitution to define personhood at the moment of conception. It failed by a big margin in yesterday’s vote. From the Washington Post:
Opponents say that measure could have criminalized birth control, affected in vitro fertilization practices and even forced doctors to decline to provide pregnant cancer patients with chemotherapy for fear of legal repercussions.
That’s why it failed, seems to me. The personhood amendment forced pro-lifers to follow their (our) convictions to their logical conclusion. If life begins at conception — and I believe it does — then certain forms of birth control (e.g., the morning after pill) should be illegal. I believe they should be. The measure would also, obviously, ban IVF, which produces more fertilized embryos — that is, human persons — than can be used. Again, I think IVF should be banned. I would have balked at the chemotherapy implications, though. Because of this, I don’t know how I would have voted were I a Mississippian.
My sense, though, is that most pro-lifers are inconsistent. We are happy to see abortion banned, not only because we recognize how immoral the procedure is, and because it’s disgusting to visualize. But IVF is the sort of thing middle-class people are inclined to use, and to use for a good end: having a baby. Therefore, many pro-lifers gloss over the fact that according to the principle of life-begins-at-conception, there is no moral difference between IVF and abortion. In fact, IVF could be worse than abortion, because abortion only kills one person; an IVF procedure kills as many persons as there are extra embryos created.
But nice married middle-class women and their husbands don’t see it that way, I’m thinking. And they don’t see birth control, even abortifacient forms, as immoral; they see it as a technology that they use in their everyday lives. I’ll wait to see the analysis, but I’m betting having to face that the life-begins-at-conception position would outlaw IVF is what turned many people against the measure. And if you can’t pass something like this in Mississippi, you can’t pass it anywhere.