Protect Our Rights in Mississippi

By Hannah Gordon

The people of Mississippi will vote on typical election issues this year such as who will be their next governor and attorney general, but something besides candidates’ names will appear on the ballot. Two important ballot initiatives will be decided and both have the potential to roll back important rights. The first, Initiative 26, would define personhood as beginning at conception. The second, Initiative 27, would require voter identification at the polls. Both of these initiatives are a threat to young women’s rights.

Initiative 26, the so-called “personhood” amendment, is an extreme attack on women. Under this law, as soon as an egg is fertilized it will be considered a person. For pregnant women, this could result in the denial of life-saving treatment in the event of a complication or medical emergency if such treatment would harm the fetus. Any birth control that prevents a fertilized egg from implanting in the uterus (like an IUD) could be outlawed. Moreover, women who engage in behaviors that are deemed “risky” while pregnant could be charged with violating the law, even if these women did not know they were pregnant.

This initiative does not just take away abortion rights – it takes away most reproductive rights. Instead of moving forward towards better health and reproductive care for women, this law moves backwards. This is a complete overhaul of women’s rights and is a hazardous measure that must be defeated.

Initiative 27, the voter ID law, is also a threat to the rights of the people of Mississippi. Under this law, voters would have to show government issued identification to vote. Voter ID laws have historically been proposed as a means of suppressing minority voting. It unfairly penalizes students, youth, the elderly, and low-income people because these groups often do not have the proper ID and sometimes have difficulty obtaining this identification.

Both of these initiatives are on Mississippi’s ballot and would impact only the state’s laws, but that doesn’t mean people in other states can ignore these hazardous measures. This is an issue that impacts the country as a whole. If these initiatives pass, Mississippi will be setting a dangerous precedent. The passage of Initiative 26 would make Mississippi the first state to define life as beginning at conception. This must not become a model for other states to follow. Women all over the country are at risk. As for Initiative 27, voter ID laws have already been passed in 7 states this year. If more states, including Mississippi, adopt these laws and others follow, voting rights across the nation will be increasingly in peril.

As states such as Mississippi try to subtly reduce our reproductive rights and our right to vote, we need to pay attention to the problem and stand up against it. The people of Mississippi have a chance to actively do that this November by saying “NO!” on 26 and 27. Those in other states have an opportunity too, by paying attention to these threats to rights and getting involved to protect them.

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