(sidenote: I'd love to take credit for the pun in my title but my roomate first coined that phrase; Prop 26: don't throw the baby out with the bathwater!)
For those of you not from Mississippi or for those of you who are from my state but live in a cave, tomorrow our state votes on a personhood amendment -- a VERY SHORT proposition essentially defining life at fertilization. The main intent is to make abortion illegal... Should be a simple enough right?? Not even a little bit.
The proposition has caused much strife for many believers because of its uncertainties, because of its lack of clarity. I wish it had simply said "This proposition makes abortion (except in case of ectopic pregnancies or life of mother cases) illegal." How simple that would be. And then one could decide if he or she was pro-life or pro-choice. But, instead it included so much more. After much prayer and many tears and worry, I decided to vote for Prop 26. BUT not without concerns. Many people have laid out their reasons for and against, but I have seen few people show their struggle --- which is sad because MANY people have struggled with this decision, many Christians have struggled with it.
First of all, let me lay out my concerns/frustrations with Prop 26. This will not be a detailed analysis providing tons of resources (this is simply my view and why I am voting this way, I am not so certain about my decision that I could argue for you to see it my way... if you want resources on either side, I will send them along your way...)
MY PROBLEMS WITH PROP 26:
1. The proposition is poorly written
This bothers me because it leaves uncertainty. The pro life people I know who are voting against this initiative are voting no because this could limit IVF, birth control, moring after, abortion to save the mother in ectopic pregnancies, protection for doctors and pharmacists who give the morning after pill, etc, etc. Why be so unclear? Why not answer some of these questions on the front end? Even if I disagreed with a proposition limiting abortion AND all forms of hormonal birth control, atleast I would know what I am voting on. I could weigh the pros and cons and decide if voting against abortion is worth also voting against birth control. It is very unfair that we, as citizens of Mississippi, have to make that vote without all the knowledge.
It saddens me, as in literally makes me sick to my stomach, that this is the best we could do. Really? We have so many intellectual Christian conservative leaders, why did we not write a clearer amedment? I think we should do everything to the glory of Christ which means doing our best (whether lawyering, mothering, teaching, or writing legislative initiatives) This was either a half-ass job which sickens me... or as I will write about later, it was intentionally so vague to push an ultra-conservative agenda which I also disagree with...
2. The people of MS can't decide how far-reaching or limited this proposition is.
As of right now, most pro-26 people will answer your questions, "What will happen to birth control? morning after? IVF?" with "the legislature will decide..." (or, I would like to be the dorky lawyer and say, the courts might decide as well) So, most of the ramifications of this proposition aren't even decided by us!
3. This is a push by the most conservative portions of the conservative movement and I hate to think they speak for conservatives as a whole.
Many pro-life leaders weren't fans of this proposition...why? because it lacked clarity. I fear this lack of clarity may have been intentional. There are accusations that those who wrote prop 26 actually would like to EVENTUALLY get rid of birth control (something I would not advocate). I think these two issues should be dealt with separately because many people would vote against abortion and for birth control. Its not all one issue. The amendment is generic enough to "not elminate" anything but all encompassing enough that it seemingly could eliminate almost everything. Which is why, although so vague, so short, it used the word "fertilization" not "implantation"
4. I believe life begins when we were knit in our mother's womb, i.e., implantation.
I had a hard time signing on to this proposition because I honestly, after years of prayer, don't have a problem with birth control or in the instances of rape, etc, morning after pill (as long as taken within that 72 hour window before implantation) Many Christians believe this is okay, many don't. All of these Christians are against abortion. If I were the authors of this piece of legislation, I would have used the word "implantation" because more people would have signed on to it, more agreement. (The choice of words makes me thing the agenda is so much bigger, and although I support a family's choice for Natural Family Planning, I don't think we can biblically morally of legally state that as the only birth control option)
This proposition doesn't give believers (or MS citizens as a whole) the opportunity to vote against abortion but for contreceptives. There is a huge line between the two and I felt we as voters should have the right to decide if we are pro or against each. Instead I have to be pro-abortion, pro birth control, or anti both.
5. Litigation costs.
Let's not beat around the bush. This proposition will be challenged by the ACLU probably the first day. And it will cost money to litigate (I should know, lawyers ain't cheap folks) I am 100% worth our state (poor as we may be) to spend money fighting abortion with an amendment or law that could go all the way to the USSC and challenge Roe v. Wade. But, I don't belive this law is specific enough or well written enough to do so. SO, essentially we are wasting resources fighting for a bad amendment instead of using resources writing a better one, passing it, and fighting for it. Its not economical or practical.
6. Attacks by others.
I have had a hard time watching other Christians attack eachother. I've known many people to accuse others of acting "unChristian" or ignoring scriptures or being pro-choice. I've witnessed attacks at anti-26 Christians being "babykillers". I've had a hard time witnessing this and honestly, it made me dig my heals down deep and say, "I don't answer to you. I answer to God, so go ahead and tell me I am not Christian enough. Fine." Finally, I had to look past my defensiveness and their attacks and decide how to vote based on scripture, facts, and prayer...not in order to prove others wrong.
Clearly these attacks aren't the fault of the authors of Prop 26, they are the fault of us, believers. And, I am sure I have been guilty of attacking others on many issues in the past. But, the point should be made, there is a way to have this discussion without attacking other believers, realizing sometimes people may interpret scripture differently than you and you can point out how you disagree without attacking them. I've greatly appreciated those believers (from both camps) who have been willing to talk with me about my concerns without attacking my faith. I have actually learned from them and I hope they have learned from me, rather than it being seen that those who struggle with voting yes are evil and choosing to go with popular opinion over the Bible. I am grateful for the many many friends and family who have wrestled through this decision or who have listened to me wrestle through my decision, even if we don't vote on the same side.
7. The head of the MS Personhood has made some very oppressive comments on women.
These comments include the concept that women were the reason for the fall and they have continued to give themselves over to darkness for years. (maybe his parents should have explained to him where babies, even the unplanned ones, come from.... he might be surprised to know men are involved in premarital sex!!) As someone who has been in an emotional abusive engagement where the words of scripture were twisted in an oppressive way, his comments make me squirm. They make me angry. While I don't believe in "women's choice", I don't want in anyway to support a movement that oppresses women. But, as I will discuss below, even I know, I have to put that aside and look solely at the amendment.
Okay, those were my concerns. Here is why I decided to vote for Prop 26 (and I'll try to point out how I overcame my concerns):
1. Statutory protections for life of mother cases
There is a statute (97-3-3) thats still on the books from before Roe v. Wade (this statute was never abolished) -- and this statute protects abortion in the cases of mother's life. Also, there is a statute protecting the death of a fetus due to assault, homicide, etc but leaving an exception for physicians performing medically approved abortions (97-3-37).
My biggest fear was that abortions to save the life of a mother would be illegal and that OBGYN's performing these abortions for medical reasons would be prosecuted. No matter what is decided tomorrow and in the coming months, there are already statutory protections protecting both mothers AND physicians in these cases.
2. The specifics to any amendment are decided after the fact via legislature and courts and I find it highly unlikely that we will eliminate birth control.
My biggest fear is that the legislature will take this too far because of the lack of speificity of this amendment. But, lets be honest, amendments are usually fairly brief and then the legislature defines them -- ie, the US Constitution gave us the right to bear arms, and Congress later detailed what that meant. It's the same in this case, and yes, I don't trust the majority of the MS Legislature --- however, I trust them enough that I find it highly unlikely they legislate a ban on birth control in a state that has the highest number of teen pregnancies -- especially if we eliminate abortions. There are some real risks to this proposition. Birth control is MOST LIKELY not one of them... I have no facts to back that up, just common sense.
Also, we have federal constitutional protection of the right to access to birth control through court cases already decided (starting with Griswald through a long line of reproductive rights cases) We also have federal protection for the right to abortion (Roe), but I just think that the attack on abortion will be the bigger issue fought for here. Would we really knock down birth control before trying to prevent abortion? No, that would be silly.
3. Honestly, this proposition does nothing -- and everything.
As I said above, this amendment like every other amendment will just lay a framework, not details. So, like most other propositions, this is broad, too broad, but its reaches will be narrowed by legislation. And, unfortunately for pro-26 people, this does not abolish abortion -- however it lays the basis for a challenge to Roe. I, personally, think the strongest challenge would be an amendment that defines life at implantation, but at least this lays a challenge which is better than no challenge.
4. The fears I have are great, but the ramifications in existence are already greater.
I am scared that the morning after pill and hormonal birth control will be eliminated. I am scared for IVF and health of mother cases. (although some of this is already protected in our state code) This amendment is risky BUT the number of abortions allowed each year is riskier. In weighing both risks, I think its clear which one is worse. I'd rather know I will have years without birth control (although that violates MY rights) for the thousands of lives saved.
5. I fall closer to the view of life at fertilization than I do at the view of life at birth or even viability.
I don't believe life begins until implantation. This amendment states it begins at fertilization... However, I am a lot closer to believing fertilization than I am to believing viability or breathing on one's own.
6. Most importantly, I decided that if I wasn't going to be 100 percent sure either way AND I would likely have moments of regret for voting one way or the other, I would rather regret VOTING for than VOTING AGAINST.
I'd rather be upset over losing birth control than losing babies. It shouldn't be this way. It should be two separate amendments (birth control/contraceptives/IVF AND abortion) BUT it's not. And, although I'm far from 100 percent pro-26, the desire to vote against ROE V. WADE is too strong for me to ignore.
7. MONEY FACTORS.
I have no rebuttal to the money argument. Litigation costs money and this will be litigated. But, we are already the poorest state in the nation, there is nowhere to fall. I don't agree with wasting money, BUT I also don't think that money should be my main argument against or for this amendment. We are talking about the right to reproduce and the right to life...so money can't be a deciding factor for me. These are issues worth the money.
8. Narrowminded attacks from the head of MS Personhood are not a good reason not to vote for this proposition.
His attacks on women are uncalled for. My fears of poor leadership in this movement are valid-- especially since some major religious or prolife leaders and groups would not support this amendment. But, by voting for proposition 26, I am not saying that an oppressive view on women is okay. If I were to look at all the comments from the anti-26 camp, I would find some views I definitely disagree with. We often may have one similar view with someone while no other views align. And, nothing in the text of this amendment adresses or supports his negative views of women. I can't not vote for something because I disagree with one of its supporters. Although, I would highly encourage MS's pro-life movement to find new leadership as we move forward in 2012.
So, in the end, I decided (with much prayer and heavy heart) to vote yes. I will likely cry as I leave the precinct. I will likely have moments of regret, but I would rather regret voting for this amendment than against it. I am already in prayer that the legislature is able to pass statutes that properly apply this amendment to abortion and not the other many risky areas. It is a poorly written proposition, but I trust that the Lord can use this for good. However, I encourage conservatives to work harder and produce better work in the future. We can't halfway do things and expect voters to blindly vote YES on morals...this election should teach us that.
Although I vote for this proposition, I strongly believe many Godly men and women vote against it (while remaining firmly pro-life). I trust these men and women studied the Word and prayed and sought advice just like I did. I refuse to attack them or listen to others attack them. Also, I will not champion this as a huge win for the pro-life movement. The proposition was lacking, BUT Our God is bigger than that. So it can be a huge win if and only if He uses it.
What I haven't appreciated is the scare tactics and peer pressure either way. I have had a hard time separating opinons I value from those I don't. This will not have all the ramifications that Anti-26 people state. It is also foolish to think that an amendment so unclear will have no risky consequences. You are not an idiot for voting for prop 26, but you are definitely not "unChristian" for voting against it.
In law school, one of my professors gave us a section of awful modified true/false questions on each exam. Horrible. If it was false, you had to correct it and figure out what exactly made it false and how to make it true...He left space under each question to essentially change the answer to True. I wish thats how this ballot was. Can't I check NO and write a better initiative beneath my answer? Can't I say THIS IS WRONG, HERE IS BETTER?? If only life worked that way. Instead I have to vote for the least bad option. I am literally 60-40 so I am going with the 60 percent of me that says YES. I'm glad to have wrestled through this. I don't believe we can look at a situation and decide what the "Right" thing to do is without actually examining both sides.
I wish I had something to offer: a level of clarity that this is the right decision, some strong argument in favor of it. I did want to share my struggle though to say you can support this amendment while still being frustrated with it. Unfortunately for us, life is not black and white. I can only say that I never felt fully comfortable voting against this amendment so I chose to vote for it. The pros simply outweighed the cons....although I still pray the cons are appropriately addressed. In the end, I vote for the premise over the flawed wording and vagueness. IN THE END, AS FLAWED AS IT MAY BE, I COULD NOT VOTE AGAINST A PRO-LIFE INITIATIVE. I choose not to throw the baby out with the bathwater.