Why I’m Glad My Miscarriage Wasn’t in Mississippi

I had a miscarriage in 1991. No one accused me of murder. No one arrested and jailed me on suspicion of abortion. No one charged me with endangering the miscarried fetus.

If Initiative 26 to amend the Mississippi constitution passes next week, that won’t be true for the next woman who miscarries. She will be looking over her shoulder for the police (not the anti-abortion police, the real badge-carrying kind) to question her about the circumstances and maybe arrest her if she doesn’t have a doctor who can offer a satisfactory explanation.

Think I’m exaggerating? Think again. Initiative 26 would define a fertilized egg, from the moment of conception, as a legal “person” with all the rights and legal protections of a living, breathing child. From the moment of conception. So a miscarriage would be murder, unless you could prove it was accidental. And of course, so would an abortion–at any stage, no matter how early.

Yep, the birth control pill too–because hormonal pills can prevent a fertilized egg from implanting in the uterus. Yes, I know, implantation is the accepted medical definition of pregnancy, and you’re not yet pregnant if the fertilized egg hasn’t implanted in the uterus–but why should Mississippi care what the obstetricians and gynecologists say?

What about an ectopic pregnancy, where a fertilized egg has implanted in the fallopian tube? Would surgery to remove it be prohibited? Maybe yes, because there is no exception to preserve the life of the woman. Seriously: no exception.

Worst of all (could it be worse?) is this: If this passes in Mississippi, it will encourage our opponents to put it on ballots in key states such as Ohio, Florida and Wisconsin next year, affecting millions of women and bringing ultraconservative voters to the polls. If we win in conservative Mississippi, it will discourage them from pursuing this strategy in (even slightly) more progressive states. Think about it.

I was fortunate to have had my miscarriage in circumstances of care and support, where the trauma of miscarriage was not compounded by threat of prosecution.

If you have friends in Mississippi, they may not be so lucky. If you haven’t talked with them lately, this would be a good time to call, write, text, Facebook or otherwise remind them to Vote No on 26 next Tuesday. It could affect far more than Mississippi. Don’t let it slip your mind–do it now.

Part of the #HERvotes blog carnival.

 Photo from Wikimedia Commons user Skiddie2003


Kim Gandy is a lawyer and women's rights leader, having been active in movements for equality for more than 30 years. She was twice elected national president of the National Organization for Women, term-limited in 2009 after eight years, and now is Vice President and General Counsel of the Feminist Majority Foundation. In 2009 she was a resident Fellow of the Institute of Politics at the Harvard Kennedy School of Government. During her tenure at NOW, Gandy was a lead organizer of the million-plus 2004 March for Women's Lives and led a multi-issue agenda committed to achieving equality for women, advancing reproductive freedom, promoting diversity and ending racism, stopping violence against women, winning LGBT rights, and ensuring economic justice. Gandy regularly appears on television and radio, as well as in print and internet media. She is an active leader in the progressive community, serving currently as Chair of the Board of Free Press, the media reform organization, on the board of Legal Momentum, the women's legal defense and education fund, and on the advisory committees of Ms. Magazine and Take Your Daughters and Sons To Work Day. She has served on a variety of nonprofit boards, including the Executive Committee of the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights and the Rainbow/PUSH coalition.