IUD ban looms

Mississippi voters on Nov. 8 will decide whether to enact a state ballot measure that would outlaw intrauterine devices and might threaten other forms of birth control, as well.

That’s not the principal goal of the measure, but it’s the one that is likely to affect the most people. The measure is designed to establish “personhood” from the moment of fertilization in order to outlaw abortion.

But the effect is more wide-ranging. The anti-abortion movement has long had a secondary goal of ending birth control (“The battle for birth control,” RN&R, Nov. 2, 2006), but has not often brought it to the fore as is happening in the personhood campaign.

There are personhood efforts—either legislative efforts or ballot initiatives—underway in a number of states, including Nevada, Arkansas, Oklahoma, Montana, Georgia, Iowa and Texas. They are opposed by both abortion supporters and opponents, notably Catholic bishops and the National Right to Life Committee. Abortion opponents have expressed concern that personhood measures would open the field to unfavorable or unanticipated court interpretations.

The Mississippi vote, if successful, would outlaw abortion—there are no exceptions for rape or incest—and prohibit birth control methods that prevent implantation of fertilized eggs in the uterus. That would include IUDs and morning-after pills, though only about half of fertilized eggs produce a pregnancy. In addition, it would ban destruction of lab-created embryos.

The Mississippi measure reads, “The term ‘person’ or ‘persons’ shall include every human being from the moment of fertilization, cloning or the functional equivalent thereof.”

The Nevada version, currently under court challenge, reads, “The intentional taking of a prenatal person’s life shall never be allowed in this State. For the purpose of this section only, the terms ‘prenatal person’ include every human being at all stages of biological development before birth.”