Birth by Tarzen

Birth by Tarzen

Oh my.

Two petition signature drives for amendments to the Missouri state constitution have been certified by the Secretary of State. The backers have launched their drive to place two questions on the 2010 ballot, should they get the required number of signatures. The first is a very restrictive abortion funding proposal, that would

make it illegal for the legislature or state or local governments to expend, pay, or grant public funds to hospitals or other institutions for certain research and services, including abortions not medically necessary to save the life of the mother, abortion services, and certain types of stem cell research currently allowed under Missouri law.

As tough as that is, the second is worse. If passed, it would

define the term “person” to be from the beginning of biological development and grant such person constitutional rights and access to courts under the equal protection, due process, and open courts provisions of the Missouri Constitution.

Seventeen states allow for citizen petitions to put questions before the voters to amend the state constitutions, and a group called Personhood USA is trying to get proposals like these on the ballot in each of these states. They were smacked down hard by the voters of Colorado last year (losing 2-1), but they’re back and trying again where ever they can.

Last November, Pam Spaulding posted on the failed Colorado proposal at her place and at Pandagon, and her commenters came up with a number of the more ridiculous possible outcomes of passing the “personhood” proposal, like “Will the highway patrol need to carry pregnancy testing kits to confirm the ability for them to use HOV lanes on the spot? Can airlines charge a woman for two seats since the fertilized egg is a person?” She called this movement “womb control advocacy,” and she’s not exaggerating things in the least.

In Missouri, as in most states, most deaths outside of a hospital must be reported to the local medical examiner or coroner for investigation, especially deaths of children under 18. If this amendment were to pass, every miscarriage would have to be reported.

Think about that for a minute.

Among women who *know* they are pregnant, roughly one in five end up having a miscarriage, according to the NIH. When you include miscarriages that occur before a pregnancy is confirmed, the best estimates put the miscarriage rate at around 50%.

That’s a lot of miscarriages, a lot of reports, and a lot of investigations.

I’ve sat with women who have miscarried, and for most, it is a time of sadness and regret. Many wonder regretfully “is there something I did, that caused this to happen?” According to the NIH, “Most miscarriages are caused by chromosome problems that make it impossible for the baby to develop. Usually, these problems are unrelated to the mother or father’s genes.” The scientific community’s general message is “no, you didn’t do anything,” but even so, these women still ask the question.

Imagine, however, having the pre-birth police coming and asking that very same question, holding the threat of prison over their heads. “Did you take folic acid, as doctors recommend? Did you consume alcohol in excess, as they tell you not to do?” Will women who are over 35, who face a greater risk of miscarriage, also risk criminal sanction, if they get pregnant and fail to carry a pregnancy to term? “You knew the risks go up after age 35, and you got pregnant anyway. . . .”

If you think that no district attorney would ever dream of doing such a thing, let me refer you to Phill Kline and his assistant, Stephen Maxwell, who hounded Dr. George Tiller and his patients, played fast and loose with court orders, and in various other ways tried to bend the law to go after anyone who might possibly be involved with an abortion. Said KS Supreme Court Justice Carol Beier:

“Kline exhibits little, if any, respect for the authority of this court or for his responsibility to it and to the rule of law it husbands,” Beier wrote. “His attitude and behavior are inexcusable, particularly for someone who purports to be a professional prosecutor.

More from Jane here.

I  remember when groups like this tried to legalize discrimination against LGBTs via state constitutional amendments back in the early 90s, and got beaten at the polls. Apparently they’re coming back for more. Let’s hope they get the same greeting from the voters next year.

More than just hoping, though, let’s get ready to work to make that hope a reality. Groups like Personhood USA are already working to legislate government control over women and their wombs, and if no one steps up to stop them . . . it won’t be pretty.



I'm an ordained Lutheran pastor with a passion for language, progressive politics, and the intersection of people's inner sets of ideals and beliefs (aka "faith" to many) and their political actions. I mostly comment around here, but offer a weekly post or two as well. With the role that conservative Christianity plays in the current Republican politics, I believe that progressives ignore the dynamics of religion, religious language, and religiously-inspired actions at our own peril. I am also incensed at what the TheoCons have done to the public impression of Christianity, and don't want their twisted version of it to go unchallenged in the wider world. I'm a midwesterner, now living in the Kansas City area, but also spent ten years living in the SF Bay area. I'm married to a wonderful microbiologist (she's wonderful all the way around, not just at science) and have a great little Kid, for whom I am the primary caretaker these days. I love the discussions around here, especially the combination of humor and seriousness that lets us take on incredibly tough stuff while keeping it all in perspective and treating one another with respect.

And Preview is my friend.