Why I’m Voting No on 26
For those not in the know, Mississippi is voting on what is called a “personhood” amendment on November 8. The campaign’s been going on for a while, and it’s starting to gain the attention of the national press. The text of the proposed amendment is very simple, reading “The term ‘person’ or ‘persons’ shall include every human being from the moment of fertilization, cloning or the functional equivalent thereof.”
Reasons for voting for or against this amendment are being hashed out all over the internet, but I feel like so much of the discussion is wrongheaded (or simply wrong). My wife and I have thought a lot about this, and I wanted to post my reasons for all to see. I will go ahead and say that I am a Christian, and I fully believe that life starts at conception. I have a baby on the way, and I believe that it is a person, and was from the get-go. However, this proposed amendment is misguided, and these are the reasons why.
Reason #1: You can’t prove it.
Like I said before, I believe wholeheartedly that life begins at conception. But that’s all it is: a belief. A great post here runs down the reasons why this is a belief and not science. Suffice it to say, conception is not a set point in time, but a biological process.
Whether you believe this is a worthy argument to make goes back to what your vision of America is. If you believe in the David Barton version of a “Christian” America, then you would make the argument that we are founded on Christian principles, and therefore this law fits within that tradition. The problem with this is view is that it’s wrong. I could into more detail about this, but that link lays it out pretty clearly.
If you believe that the United States was founded as a free nation, with freedoms equally applied to all, then you understand why proof is so important. Not everyone believes what you believe. Not everyone agrees that life begins at conception. We may disagree, but they are totally entitled to their point of view. Simultaneously, they are totally entitled to not have our point of view forced upon them. And if we are a free nation, then a personhood law applied to all must prove that personhood begins at birth. And it can’t.
Reason #2: It’s bad legislation.
Some of the attraction to the amendment is how straightforward it is. No fine print, no legalese. But herein lies the problem. People seem to be supporting this because they think it’s a nice thought, and it is. We’re not voting on a nice thought, though; we’re voting on a constitutional amendment. The supreme law of the state.
The funny thing about law is, it has to be interpreted. It has implications. And the less specific a law is, the more implications it has. Think about it. Forget abortion for a second, even though that’s the most obvious effect the law would have. Think about people who can only get pregnant through in-vitro fertilization; that’s out. What about IUDs? Those are out too. We can live without those, you might say, and fine. We could. But take it a step further.
This would not have been a big issue to me unless I knew how often miscarriages occurred: around 25% of pregnancies, if my wife’s doctor is to be believed. So, if life begins at conception, then what is a miscarriage? Did the mother kill it? Did God kill it? How do we know? Are we going to investigate every miscarriage to ensure that the mother did everything right? People say that it won’t come to this, but if it does not, then by the word of the proposed law potential murder is being ignored. At the very least, you would have to obtain a death certificate every time you miscarried. Do you really want to put the power of miscarriage investigation into the legislature’s hands? I would rather they didn’t have that power to begin with.
Or take another example. Say an out-of-state couple is visiting in Mississippi, going to Natchez or seeing a football game. They enjoy a nice dinner and have a romantic night. Sounds great, right? But she has an IUD. So is she guilty of something? Is her husband an accomplice? Do we make sure out-of-state women can’t come here and have sex? It sounds ridiculous, but by the word of the law, if a woman with an IUD came to Mississippi and had sex, she could be just as guilty as someone who came from out-of-state and shot someone. And that’s insane.
The Yes to 26 website dismisses these scenarios as unfounded worrying, but that’s simply not true. Logic, people.
Reason #3: It’s Pharisaical.
My final reason comes straight from my faith and directly addresses Christians in support of this rule.
A common target for Jesus’ scorn was the Pharisees. This sect of people is portrayed throughout the Gospels as those on the side of the law, as opposed to Jesus on the side of love. They were constantly busying themselves with making sure that every Jew followed the law to the letter, lest they invite the wrath of God. Meanwhile, Jesus rebuked them, teaching the Golden Rule and persuading people with parables that illustrated His teachings. He knew that no man could keep every rule perfectly.
Jesus’ example of teaching and reason, I feel, has gone by the wayside with this movement. The Christians behind it have traded the model of Jesus for the model of the Pharisees, choosing law over love. They have come to the conclusion that a law is necessary to change culture, even though this is almost never the case (Prohibition, anyone?). Laws don’t change culture. People change culture. (For a great post on this topic, go here.)
By deciding that a law is necessary to change behavior, these people have decided that the God they so fervently follow is not enough. They have decided that the power they proclaim to so strongly believe in is not quite strong enough. Those so quick to criticize government action in any other arena suddenly think that the government is the only solution on this issue. They apparently reason that God can’t break the hardened heart of all these sinners, so we need make a law instead. “They won’t do what’s right, so we’ll force them!” they say.
I would argue that this movement is fervently misguided. They are promulgating lies that ignore medical practice and science, ignore the study of law, and ignore their supposed beliefs. If we are Christians, we should be known by our love, not our law. This movement is emblematic of the state of the church today, and it’s saddening.
Remember what I said about rules and implications earlier? I would encourage everyone to think about the implication of this Rule and how you would apply it in regards to Amendment 26:
“Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul. Love him with all your strength and with all your mind. And love your neighbor as yourself.”