The Mississippi Medical Association says physicians could be placed in a “perilous position” by passage of a proposed amendment to the state constitution that defines life as beginning at fertilization.
The Mississippi Medical Association insists it has not adopted a position on the so-called Initiative 26 but emphasized passage of the anti-abortion “personhood” amendment would change the way many Mississippi doctors practice medicine.
The unintended consequences “will affect all physicians — not just gynecologists,” said Dr. Thomas Joiner, a Jackson family medicine physician and president of the Mississippi Medical Association.
“Like all laws, Proposal 26 could be tested by the judicial system. A legal challenge could negate the medical decisions now entrusted to a patient and her physician,” he said. “Judges and juries are not fungible. There is no way to predict the outcome of a legal challenge. Some verdicts simply defy belief; and, in my opinion, this constitutional amendment could place well-intentioned physicians in a perilous situation.”
Joiner said he issued the statement at the direction of the association’s Board of Trustees.
Meanwhile, the University of Mississippi Medical Center says that although it is not taking a position on the initiative, it wants to preserve “patient access to safe and reliable medical treatments for infertility.”
Some interpretations of the amendment hold that it could outlaw fertility clinics, including the one operated by the medical center, as well as some types of birth control pills and devices such as the IUD.
However, the campaign director of the pro-amendment coalition Yes on 26, Brad Prewitt, said the coalition put forth the amendment with no intention of banning either birth control or fertility clinics.
The Mississippi Supreme Court ruled in early September that the initiative could go on the Nov. 8 ballot but could be subject to further challenge on whether the measure violated constitutional rules governing citizen initiatives by adding a whole new section to the state constitution’s bill of rights.
Here’s the wording of the ballot question:
“The term ‘person’ or ‘persons’ shall include every human being from the moment of fertilization, cloning or the functional equivalent thereof.”