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Can 17-Year-Olds Vote in Mississippi?
The weirder implications of Mississippi's anti-abortion amendment declaring fetuses to be people.
By David Plotz Posted Wednesday, Oct 26, 2011, at 10:33 PM ET
On Nov. 8, Mississippians will vote on a constitutional amendment that would declare, for legal purposes, that a fertilized human egg is an actual person. The primary goal of the amendment, conceived and pushed by pro-life activists, is to bar all abortion in Mississippi, as well as the kinds of birth control that affect fertilized eggs. But the legal implications are much more profound: The amendment, writes the New York Times, "effectively brand[s] abortion and some forms of birth control as murder," raising the possibility that doctors and even expectant women could be prosecuted for ending pregnancies.
The amendment is expected to pass, but it would face immediate legal challenges, and is unlikely to survive intact. Still, it made us wonder about the weirder legal, political, and cultural effects of declaring embryos to be fully human. (Mississippi is not first to this idea: Philip Roth's satiric 1971 novel Our Gangwas inspired by a Richard Nixon quote declaring that the unborn are legal people.)
My Slate colleagues and I spent a few minutes imagining some of the possibilities raised by the Mississippi amendment. We came up with some interesting ideas (see below), but we bet you come up with even better ones: Please add them in the comments section at the end of the article, and we'll write a follow-up about some of your best notions.
Here are some of the questions we came up with:
1. If you are legal person at fertilization, does that mean ...