Friday, November 4, 2011

A thought about the legal arguments of the Personhood proponents

Yesterday, Cottonmouth founder John Wesley Leek posted a link to a white paper from the right-wing organization "Mississippi Center for Public Policy" which attempts to ease the fears of those of us in the legal and medical communities regarding the Personhood Amendment (a.k.a. "26"). In that document, the MCPP's legal analyst George Whitten cites numerous statutes that he argues would allow doctors to abort ectopic fetuses or treat pregnant women for cancer if Personhood passes.

I am not swayed. Whitten speaks of statutes. The Personhood Amendment changes our state's constitution. Mississippi statutes must be found to be in accord with the Mississippi Constitution of 1890, or else they are of no effect.

Here's the problem with the argument that a legislatively-created statute could make it OK for a doctor to knowingly or unknowingly end a pregnancy: the Mississippi Constitution's due process clause. Article 3, Section 14 of the Mississippi Constitution of 1890 reads as follows:
No person shall be deprived of life, liberty, or property except by due process of law.
Notice the word "person" in there? And what does the Personhood Amendment do other than alter the definition of a person to the point where all fertilized eggs are persons?

That means that the statutes cited by Whitten, after passage of the Personhood Amendment, would be unconstitutional. Why? Because they run contrary to the Mississippi Constitution's due process clause. The abortion of an ectopic fetus would be the deprivation of a person's life without due process of law. The same would be true for statutes concerning the prescription of medication by physicians seeking to save the life of the mother.

This is a deep and abiding concern for me. Unlike Haley Barbour, I don't vote for things this important with these types of consequences unless I am absolutely certain of the effects. I am pro-life, but I cannot support the Personhood Amendment as it reads.

1 comment:

John Wesley Leek said...

I'm no attorney so I'll leave the prognosticating on legal ramifications to y'all. I did appreciate the linked (in this post) article with some of the back and forth arguments. Being out of state currently most of what I've seen/heard has been on Facebook so I think I've been insulated from much of the argument so I'm not experiencing the same thing you and others are reacting against.