By COLLEEN MCCARTHY
A group of Mississippi State University students spoke out against Initiative 26, also known as the Personhood Initiative which will appear on next month’s general election ballot, on the Drill Field yesterday.
The initiative would amend the state constitution and legally establish “personhood” at the moment of fertilization.
Shannon Denney, a senior political science major, organized the event after learning about the specifics of the proposed amendment.
“When I first heard about it, I was outraged at the fact that the state of Mississippi is trying to have so much control on individual lives. So I wanted to inform the students, faculty and pretty much anyone who would listen about the consequences of this amendment, if it actually passes,” she said.
Both students and a number of community members gathered on the Drill Field on campus, handed out fliers with information about the initiative and offered to answer any questions the students might have. Many of those who helped out said they did so because the bill could have a lot of negative consequences, including a ban on birth control pills and intrauterine devices, the prevention of assisted reproductive technology, a ban on abortions for any reason, including rape or risk to the mother’s life, and millions of dollars in tax money.
Lauren Vasquez, a student at MSU, said the amendment would have a direct impact on her health.
“I have a condition that is only mediated by certain types of birth control which would immediately be taken away should this amendment pass. I feel like the health option that would be taken away from me because of this broader attempt to end abortion — it’s a little too inclusive,” she said. “I think that if people were a little more educated about it, they would think differently about it. It’s not about abortion — you can be very, very pro-life and very, very anti-26.”
One of the biggest misconceptions protesters said they were up against was the abortion issue.
“I feel like the people who are pushing this amendment are pretty dishonest about what it’s really about. Yes, it is going to make abortions illegal, but it is also going to put a large amount of hormonal birth control at risk as well,” Sangeetha Shivaji said. “It makes me pretty angry that this is being presented as just an anti-abortion measure, when it actually represents a much, much more extreme point of view. I just want people to know what they’re voting for.”
Some protesters came from around the state to help out with the event.
“I’m so proud to be here in Starkville. There are people on this campus and in this community who are talking to people about personhood. A lot of people think this is just about abortion, but it’s not,” Michelle Colon, organizer of the Hell No! on Mississippi 26 and 27 campaign said. “This particular amendment would outlaw birth control. This is going to force many men and women to become parents before they’re ready to. This is going to stop any life-saving medical stem cell research for those of us who have loved ones with spinal cord injuries, diabetes, or Alzheimer’s disease. Furthermore, it’s going to stop any type of in vitro fertilization or aid for couples who are having trouble conceiving. All around, it’s a bad bill. It’s so undemocratic and it’s so offensive to women.”
Though not every one agreed with the protesters’ point of view, the students said they were glad the event was starting a conversation about the issue on campus.
“People are really respectful and polite, even if they’re in disagreement with you. It’s very civil,” Shivaji said. “What I’ve noticed when I talk to people about this subject is that the majority of the people just don’t know what it is at all. One of my fears is that it is going to pass when most people don’t even understand it.”