By Justin Grant
A notable furor subsided on Election Day as Amendment 26,Mississippi’s proposed constitutional amendment to redefine the definition of life, failed to pass on the ballot. But what was the uproar about? Was it really worth the national attention?
The text of the proposed amendment alone is not terribly insightful:
Be it Enacted by the People of the State of Mississippi:
SECTION 1. Article III of the constitution of the state of Mississippi is hereby amended BY THE ADDITION OF A NEW SECTION TO READ: Section 33. Person defined. As used in this Article III of the state constitution, “The term ‘person’ or ‘persons’ shall include every human being from the moment of fertilization, cloning or the functional equivalent thereof.” This initiative shall not require any additional revenue for implementation. 
This is a minor change to the Mississippi constitution. “Person” would simply be redefined to include fertilized fetuses (and clones, but that is a side issue). Without context, this does not seem like it is even all that important.
This was a carefully crafted piece of legislation, however, and the way the supporters of the amendment framed the issue is a fascinating look into the psychology of opponents to abortion. Below are goals cited on the Vote Yes on 26 website that passage of Amendment 26 would have accomplished:
- To ensure “all human beings . . . equal rights in our state & protection under law – regardless of their size, location or developmental stage.” 
To someone who is pro-choice and pro-women’s rights, this statement seems like a complete non sequitur, but framed in the mind of someone who morally opposes abortion, it makes sense. Reason and science tell us that at the moment of conception, one cell contains two pronuclei that have united 46 chromosomes. Morality and politics tell us that this one cell measuring about 100 microns  (or 0.0039 inches), should have “equal rights in our state.”
- “Abortion will be outlawed. Unborn children will no longer be killed ‘legally.’ Mothers in crisis will be protected from a harmful medical procedure.” 
The first two sentences of this statement are old hat to those that have followed the abortion debate, but the final one is shocking. Each day, over 1,500 women around the world die due to problems developed during pregnancy or occurring in childbirth.  Women—actual women—die, not 100 micron zygotes. 13% of these deaths are caused by so-called “unsafe abortions”—abortions performed where the procedure is outlawed, presumably with inadequate precautions and technology.  A lack of access to abortion causes the death of actual human beings, and women who are actually in crisis—who would die without an abortive procedure being performed—remain protected in Mississippi because Amendment 26 did not pass.
The cognitive dissonance necessary to maintain that abortion is overall harmful in the face of the available statistics seems almost mystical. But again—this is a debate with reason and science on one side, and politically-motivated morality—mostly religious—on the other. If a zygote is a person, then yes, destroying that zygote is just as bad as allowing a pregnant woman with medical complications to die.
But even in a reason vs. emotion debate, one would think that some facts would be too strong to ignore, especially when the proposed legal impact of Amendment 26 is taken to its absurd conclusion.
The National Institute of Health states that likely half of all fertilized ova simply spontaneously abort before pregnancy is even apparent, and 15-20% of women who know they are pregnant also miscarry.  That’s 57½-60% of pregnancies! Should the act of unprotected sex be recategorized as reckless endangerment due to the substantial risk to “human life” associated with becoming pregnant?
This is not to say that the anti-abortion side of the debate ignores science entirely, but its methodology is flawed. It chooses what bits it can find to support its position rather than taking the evidence as a whole. For years, opponents to abortion have pointed to obscure studies with poor experimental controls that indicate a link between abortion and an increased risk of later complications, including breast cancer and pregnancy problems, even claiming that their interest is in protecting women.  They generally ignore studies that indicate no link.
- “A legal challenge will be set up to the unconstitutional court ruling ‘Roe-v-Wade’ [sic] that allegedly ‘legalized’ abortion. Court decisions do not make law because courts are not given the authority to make law. However, when court rulings are treated like law they have the effect of law. When a court makes a horribly unjust, immoral, and unconstitutional ruling, it should not be allowed to stand in perpetuity – if so, we would still be treating some African Americans as property because of Dred Scott. No, wrong court decisions should be challenged until they are overturned. The Personhood Amendment does just that – challenge Roe-v-Wade [sic] at it’s [sic] very core.” 
This entire paragraph would appear to be an academic exercise in outrageous statements. First: Court decisions do make law and have for hundreds of years; this is called the common law, and is a fundamental part of our legal system. Accordingly, court rulings should be treated like law because they are law.
Second: Certainly, if citizens feel that a ruling by any court is unjust, they have the right to challenge it through legislation, but the comparison to Dred Scott  is absurd. Dred Scott’s influence effectively ended due to the Civil War and the 14th and 15th amendments to the federal Constitution. Recently there has been an attitude developing that federal law does not have primacy and that the states are free to do whatever they want to flout it. Former Arizona Senate President Russell Pearce’s Senate Bill 1433, the so-called “Nullification Bill,” which was intended to cancel the effect of any federal law that the Arizona legislature felt was unconstitutional, also comes to mind.  Amendment 26 would have been one such example, and the authors of the bill bear this fact with pride. They spin the issue by reframing judicial decisions as “not law,” but again, facts win out: Federal law has primacy, and that includes law in the form of Supreme Court decisions—or those of any federal court. Amendment 26 would not have been a challenge to Roe v. Wade; it would have been a violation of that case’s force of law.
The abortion debate is far from over. As long as reason is ignored and science continues to be treated as a cog in the political game, rather than as a free-standing, good faith effort at non-partisan conclusions based on the available, objective evidence, that debate will continue. While there are arguments to be made as to when someone has truly become human and deserves protections as such, it is clear that calling a single cell a fully human being has neither a basis in law, nor in reality.