In September, Mississippi’s Supreme Court ruled that a ballot initiative to amend the state’s constitution to define embryos as persons could go forward in November, sending Mississippi women with fertility problems into a state of perpetual anxiety.
Ever since news of the ballot initiative broke, Dr. Randall Hines, one of the four physicians in the state who performs in vitro fertilization, said he has been fielding calls from frantic patients.
The personhood movement, which is aiming to put initiatives like the one in Miss. on the ballot in nine other states in the next year, represents a radical anti-abortion legal strategy.
Its tenuous argument clings to a few lines in Roe v. Wade that consider the question of whether a fetus is a person or not under the 14th Amendment.
“If this suggestion of personhood is established, the appellant’s case, of course, collapses, for the fetus’ right to life would then be guaranteed specifically by the Amendment,” wrote Justice Harry Blackman, before concluding that a fetus is not in fact a person.
Proponents of the personhood argument believe “that by legally changing the definition of what a person is, it can undermine Roe v. Wade and outlaw abortion. But should any state actually pass a personhood amendment, it would impact IVF as well. That is not accidental.”
Should the initiative pass, “it would ban some current practices of IVF,” conceded Keith Mason, the 30-year-old leader of the personhood initiative. Mason fails to mention, however, that the measures it would make illegal, such as the freezing of unused embryos, would make IVF a more difficult and dangerous procedure.
Hines explained that if doctors are only allowed to attempt to fertilize the number of eggs they are willing to implant that, “We would find lower pregnancy rates overall, but potentially higher multiple pregnancy rates in certain patient groups.”
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