‘Personhood’ campaign wants birth control out of the debate

October 6, 2011

Health Care, Legal Affairs, Politics

Yes on 26 campaign director Brad Prewitt is quickly irritated at the mention of “birth control” and the possibility a Nov. 8 victory for his coalition’s “personhood” amendment would restrict doctors from prescribing contraceptives.

His organization, he says, wants to outlaw abortion and the “morning after” pill in the state — not birth control or fertility clinics, though legal scholars say the proposed constitutional amendment that voters will decide on Nov. 8 sets the stage for banning both.

“Abortive agents” and abortion procedures are the target, Prewitt insists.

He is annoyed, he said, that both state and national media have used the birth control issue and the prospect that the constitutional amendment would ban fertility clinics as a stalking horse. They merely want to divert attention from the coalition’s true goal – stopping a practice that has led to destruction of 54 million fetuses since the U.S. Supreme Court upheld a woman’s right to abortion in Roe v. Wade nearly 40 years ago, Prewitt charged.

“They are trying to make the woman’s medicine cabinet the issue of this election. That is not fair.”

Prewitt conceded, however, that other anti-abortion groups in the state might have an agenda that is broader than that of Yes on 26, a coalition that includes Mississippi Personhood, The Liberty Council and a number of churches. Those groups, he said, “may have some of these issues in play.”

A Tupelo lawyer who took over the Yes on 26 campaign in June, Prewitt has been second-guessed for removing a somewhat detailed statement on birth control from the campaign’s website and replacing it with a simple declaration that Yes on 26 does not “advocate” the use of contraceptives.

He now says he will repost the former statement that read:

“We are opposed to forms of the pill which act to prevent implantation of the newly formed human being into the lining of the womb; forms of the IUD, which can act the same; and prostagiandin suppository drugs, which act to cause delivery of whatever size baby the uterize contain.”

“I’m going to put back the other statement,” he said. “There is no difference” between the two.

He said he made the switch initially to give visitors to the site a more “concise” position statement. Further, the birth control mention is on the website only to “make the Catholics happy” and not “because we want to ban” contraceptives, he noted.

The campaign manager acknowledged that forms of birth control that cause destruction of the embryo would be illegal under the amendment. But birth control pills that suppress ovulation — keeping a woman’s ovaries from releasing an egg — would be acceptable, he said.

But certain types of the intrauterine device, or IUD, would be problematic, according to Prewitt.

“An IUD operates differently from a birth control pill. I would defer to medical people on that,” he said, though he added that if the IUD kills a “conceived baby I think that would probably be an issue.”

Mississippi’s courts, he said, will most likely employ a simple test: is the drug or device “an abortive agent?”

Otherwise, “you are not going to be able to get rid of any of these things,” Prewitt said.

He gave assurances that infertility clinics in Mississippi such as the one operated by the University of Mississippi Medical Center should not fear prosecution “provided they don’t purposely destroy an embryo.”

He explained: “If you destroy an embryo purposely to kill it, you would be destroying a human life purposely. But is it going to stop IFV (infertility clinics)? I would say no.”

The National Infertility Association is not convinced clinics would not be a target of the amendment and has called the Mississippi measure a threat to undermine “access to safe and reliable infertility medical treatments.”

The University of Mississippi Medical Center has declined to take a position on the amendment but says it is “interested in preserving patient access to safe and reliable medical treatments for infertility.”

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