With the nation and the world’s financial future remaining uncertain; the last thing that we need to be embroiled in, is a fight over something as inane as an amendment to the constitution granting human agency to human zygotes and fetuses.
The recent public outrage that erupted when Representative Todd Akin of Missouri, arguing in support of no abortion even in the case of rape, has fueled a new round of debate about creating the Personhood Amendment. The Personhood Amendment is only the latest tactic rolled out by the extreme religious social conservatives to abolish all legal abortions and birth control.
Until this latest incident, it has been fairly safe for conservative politicians to support the amendment; knowing full well that the chances for it actually coming to a reality, is remote at best. As witnessed in Mississippi’s November 2011 referendum redefining ‘personhood’ to the unborn from fertilization to birth; and even in the highly fundamentalist religious state of Mississippi, the referendum was soundly defeated. However, it has provided the religious social conservatives a litmus test for selecting candidates to support. Savvy politicians know that getting an amendment through congress and three quarters of the states is nearly impossible; thus, it is easy to pass the litmus test.
For society to grant human agency to the unborn, leads to very serious issues that extend far beyond just stopping abortion. To begin with, assigning human agency to the unborn, redefines women. Are women to be redefined as having limited agency over their bodies? Are women to be nothing more than a life support vessel involving a symbiotic relationship between her as the host and the zygote/fetus as the parasite? Do women have full human agency until they become pregnant?
What happens in the case where a woman’s life is at risk and she is forced to carry the unborn to term? In deciding who shall survive and who shall die; whose agency becomes primary, the mother or the unborn? A good example of this is in the case of ectopic pregnancies. The zygote does not attach properly to the uterine wall and attaches to the fallopian tube instead. In this case neither the zygote will survive nor does the mother, if untreated, have a good chance of survival either. Would this mean that boards would have to be set up to determine who would have primal agency; death panels per se.
Of all pregnancies; 1 in 6 of them end in spontaneous miscarriage, ectopic pregnancy or stillbirth. If agency is given to zygotes and fetuses, every miscarriage and stillbirth will have to be investigated to assure that the mother host did not do something that resulted in the pregnancy termination. Beyond the spontaneous miscarriages, if a woman were to ingest something or some physical action that resulted in a miscarriage, would she then be subject to criminal prosecution for homicide? Are we going to establish pregnancy police investigating every miscarriage? Imagine nearly 700,000 investigations performed every year just to determine that a mother didn’t do something that resulted in the miscarriage. Also, think about the additional trauma the mother would endure from the investigation. If people object to huge bureaucracies now, just think how large the bureaucracy would have to be to enforce and investigate all the spontaneous miscarriages.
According to the ‘Personhood Amendment’ many of the common birth control methods would be illegal, since they prevent the zygote from implanting in the uterine wall and are subsequently sloughed off. This will seriously limit family planning options available, as well as placing an unfair burden on women to avoid an unwanted pregnancy. I could see a whole new black market developing to provide birth control drugs to those who want to purchase them. Along with the local drug dealer selling the current menu of illicit drugs, now they can add birth control pills and morning after pills.
What is this extending human agency to zygotes and fetuses really all about? It is quite simply an extreme Christian religious principle, which is not shared by all Christians. It is only one interpretation of many concerning the biblical imperatives surrounding murder. Judaism traditionally has not given agency to the unborn and only extended it after birth. Therefore, the fundamentalist Christian position is not grounded in the traditional principles of the mother religion.
It becomes fairly obvious that unwanted pregnancy and carrying all pregnancies to term is really about fundamental Christianity’s belief about sex. They want to control who can engage in sexual behavior and under what circumstances. The belief promotes that sex should be limited to only married couples who are attempting to procreate. If one violates the sanctions against sex for pleasure, then an unwanted pregnancy is the price to be paid for such behavior.
To enact the Personhood Amendment is a clear violation of the First Amendment’s Establishment Clause. Extending human agency is not based on science but on the religious belief of a minority. Therefore, the Personhood Amendment should not be pursued and granting human agency to the unborn should be abandoned.