Personhood Shenanigans

I would like to begin by pointing out that Lila Rose, president of Live Action, is not from Mississippi. She’s from California. I mention this for two reasons.

First, in this video from Yes on 26 – the group leading the charge for a fetal personhood measure in Mississippi – they make much out of the fact that one of the anti-26 groups, Mississippians for Healthy Families, “take no interest in healthy families, and they’re not even from Mississippi.” Because Mississippians for Healthy Families received donations from Planned Parenthood groups around the country (here you go). Imagine! A political campaign whose name is more pithy than strictly and exhaustively descriptive.

Of course, that’s an interesting criticism to level, in light of the fact that Yes on 26 received the audio for their ad from Live Action Films. What audio? Oh, I mean, you can probably guess: the audio where (cough) someone poses as someone else and then records and edits the encounter, all in an attempt to make Planned Parenthood (this never gets old) look bad. Friends – and I say this as someone who genuinely, un-ironically adores the show “Murder, She Wrote” – does anyone else think this is getting a bit formulaic?

Well, anyway, this time it’s a young woman phoning the health department, Planned Parenthood affiliates, and a pharmacy, and asking various versions of “I heard that the birth control pill won’t be available after the election. Is that true?” And then there are lots of people saying “No,” presumably because they think that’s the answer.

Of course, and I really can’t believe this needs to be pointed out, that does not make it the answer. Critics of MS 26 have pointed, not to selected public opinion, but to the language of the proposed amendment: if a fertilized egg is a person, then oral contraceptives could become illegal if it is determined that they might cause a fertilized embryo to die by not being implanted. Moreover, many treatments for infertility would be on shaky legal ground as well, as genuine Mississippian Atlee Breland has written about for RD.

And, surprise! It turns out some supporters of the personhood measure are saying this, too:

Hoye: Any birth control that ends the life of a human being will be impacted by this measure.
Rehm: So that would then include the IUD [intra-uterine device]. What about the birth control pill?
Hoye: If that falls into the same category, yes.
Rehm: So you’re saying that the birth control pill could be considered as taking the life of a human being?
Hoye: I’m saying that once the egg and the oocyte come together and you have that single-celled embryo, at that point you have human life, you’ve got a human being and we’re taking the life of a human being with some forms of birth control and if birth control falls into that category, yes I am.

(And interestingly, at least one Mississippi bishop has suggested that fetal personhood is counterproductive even for achieving unequivocally anti-abortion goals. I mean, if we’re just doing selective opinion culling here.)

But I said there were two reasons why I was mentioning that Lila Rose is not from Mississippi. The second may or may not be relevant, but I offer it for your consideration: It sounds to me like the unknown person phoning all these places, who sounds like a young woman, is maybe trying to affect a southern accent but it slips certain words? Well, that person shouldn’t worry too much, if that’s the case. Consistent, authentic accents are really hard. That’s one thing I learned from all the guest stars of those many, many episodes of “Murder, She Wrote.”

sarah.morice.brubaker@ptstulsa.edu'

Sarah Morice-Brubaker is an assistant professor of theology at Phillips Theological Seminary in Tulsa, OK. In addition to writing for RD, she’s also written for The Christian Century, Dialogic Magazine, and Faith and Leadership. She has a chapter in the forthcoming edited volume from Ashgate, Placing Nature on the Borders of Religion, Philosophy, and Ethics.