Editor’s Note: Dr. Freda Bush is an OB-GYN who practices in Jackson, Mississippi. She is a former presidential appointee to the Presidential Advisory Council on HIV/AIDS from 2006-2009, and a speaker and author on issues connected to sexuality.
On Tuesday, Mississippi voters can decide whether the state's constitution should define personhood as "every human being from the moment of fertilization, cloning or the function equivalent thereof." If approved, it would make it impossible to get an abortion, and hamper the ability to get some forms of birth control. Click here to read an argument in opposition of the amendment.
By Dr. Freda Bush, Special to CNN
(CNN) - As a Christian, a black American woman, mother, grandmother and OB-GYN, I know that every person is valuable and has a right to life.
I know I have become a better person because I sacrificed myself for my four children. Mothers take care of their children, teach and guide them until they can care for themselves. My mother, who had nine children, said, "A mother carries a child under her heart for nine months, then in her heart for the rest of her life."
Mississippi’s Amendment 26 recognizes a human being as a person from the beginning of their biological development to their natural end, regardless of the means by which they were procreated or method of reproduction, thereby giving the person legal protection. No one has the right to take the life of an innocent human being.
Many people say Amendment 26 is taking government too far. They forget that it was only 38 years ago, in 1973, when the Supreme Court ruled that a woman had the “right to choose” abortion through all nine months of pregnancy. That is when government went too far.
I have worked in women’s health for more than 40 years. Every woman knows when she gets pregnant that she is pregnant with child and the child has his or her own body. Whether the pregnancy is planned or unplanned, wanted or unwanted, the initial response to the positive pregnancy test is a surprised inhalation, followed by a rush of emotions and questions: "Am I really pregnant? Do I want this NOW? What are my choices?"
The choice for women is to choose life, not death, for their child. Women can be assured pregnancy is not an incurable disease and is time limited.
Many have expressed fear about how Amendment 26 will affect in vitro fertilization because the process often creates more embryonic human beings than are implanted in the mother’s womb, and the excess are usually discarded. Amendment 26 would not ban IVF. However, it would require ethical standards to forbid the intentional mass production, genetic selection and harvesting of embryos for research.
IVF mothers ought to be fighting for Amendment 26. They know the yearning in their hearts to fill the void that can only be filled by a child. They go through tests and spend thousands of dollars to have an egg and sperm unite. One unique individual will begin to grow to the stage it can be instilled in her womb, where it will implant, continue growth and be born. The expectation is the "fertilized egg," yes, even the "potential person" will fulfill that potential and will one day soon be held in her arms and in her heart.
How can any woman not believe that every child deserves the opportunity to live? Life does not guarantee health and wealth, but comes with an innate and sacred value given by God that is not based upon our circumstances. I am a person who once lived in my mother’s body. Though born naked, poor and disenfranchised in the South, I’m glad my mother chose life for me.
Amendment 26 is good for humanity. It causes us to rise to another level where we value and treat each other as equals. It does not pit the woman against her child, but values both. It is not either-or, but both-and. Amendment 26 will not stop doctors from practicing good medicine. In cases of ectopic and high risk pregnancies, doctors would be expected to strive to save the mother and child.Mississippicode currently contains criminal and civil protection to physicians for causing the death of unborn persons in the course of saving the life of the mother.
Amendment 26 will not take away birth control, but it will end abortion as a birth control. The potential for pregnancy should be considered with each act of sex since procreation is one of the purposes of sex. Although recreation is a purpose, it cannot be disconnected from the procreative purpose. Unless contraception is used to cover each act of sex, then conception should be the expectation. Birth control prevents the sperm and the egg from coming together, which results in a single-celled person. Even Margaret Sanger, the mother of the birth control movement, said, “Any attempt to interfere with the development of the fertilized ovum is called an abortion.”
In the case of a pregnancy conceived in rape or incest, all victims will be defended. The choice of abortion hurts women. They risk injury physically and even death. The woman is always affected emotionally and mentally by abortion. That is my experience, and the conclusion of many studies, one study most recently published in the British Journal of Psychiatry.
Amendment 26 will save lives for the greater good of us all. I believe it will make us think before we act, make us as human beings more humane and begin to restore a culture of life in Mississippi.
The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Freda Bush.