I’ve had several pro-26 commenters suggest to me that Initiative 26 is about deciding whether human life begins at conception, or about whether an embryo is a person. This is not correct, because those are scientific and religious questions that cannot be answered by popular vote.
The question at hand, as Genie Leslie points out, is whether even a one-celled fertilized egg ought to possess all the rights enumerated in Article III of the Mississippi Constitution. It may sound like a minor distinction, but it’s a very important one. It’s also a point where the arguments of the pro-26 supporters are logically inconsistent.
If it’s acceptable to terminate a pregnancy to save the mother’s life in the utmost extreme, you are implicitly conceding that the mother’s right to life is somewhat more important than the embryo’s. When we are talking about people, it’s never acceptable to deliberately kill anyone else, even when that person is doomed to die anyway, even if doing so is the only way to save someone else’s life. For example, if two people are trapped in a burning building and you can’t save them both, you can’t shove the other one out of the window on your way out.
That’s why the Catholic Church, and other pro-life groups such as the Association of Pro-Life Physicians, argue so hard about the principle of double effect. For those groups, it’s not okay to use methotrexate to deliberately end an ectopic pregnancy, even knowing that the pregnancy is inevitably doomed, and that waiting for rupture poses an additional risk to the mother’s life. They permit surgery to remove a damaged tube, which unavoidably removes the embryo and causes its death, but which is not a deliberate action performed solely for the purpose of killing the embryo.
In those groups’ view, the embryo’s right to life is precisely equivalent to the mother, and no choice can be made which deliberately values one above the other — you can only take actions which have a stated goal other than killing, even if fetal demise is an unavoidable side effect. That’s why, as we have seen in an earlier post, some pro-life hospitals refuse to terminate pregnancies even in the face of a grave threat to the mother’s life. In the view of those groups, you cannot kill one person to save the other, because you can’t choose between two lives of equal inherent value.
If you state that ectopic pregnancy treatment with methotrexate will be permitted, you are implicitly conceding that the embryo’s right to life is somewhat less valuable than the mother’s. If you state that IVF embryo cryopreservation and blastocyst transfer will be permitted, you are agreeing that it’s okay to treat an embryo in a manner which, applied to an infant, would constitute manslaughter.
Therefore, if you believe that methotrexate and cryopreservation should remain available, you believe that the Article III rights of the Mississippi Constitution do not apply completely to embryos in the same manner which they apply to people. If you believe that a doctor’s primary duty is to treat the mother rather than the embryo or fetus, you are conceding that the embryo is not fully equal to the mother. You can still believe these things even if you consider yourself pro-life, but you can’t believe them and still consider yourself pro-Initiative 26.
More importantly, if you believe that Article III rights apply to 100% equally to embryos, you cannot logically argue that Initiative 26 will protect current practices for ectopic pregnancy treatment and IVF.
Read the text of the amendment, and consider what you are actually being asked to sign off on. It’s not asking whether you think human life begins at fertilization, or whether embryos are people, or whether you oppose elective abortion. It’s asking whether you believe that an embryo ought to have precisely equivalent Article III rights to its mother.
Before you vote yes, think very hard about what you think should happen when the rights of the embryo and the mother come into direct conflict.