Michele Bachmann, Newt Gingrich, Rick Perry and Rick Santorum have all signed a pledge to support the Personhood amendment. This is a proposed change to state constitutions which would protect the rights of the pre-born by declaring that every fertilized ovum is a “person” under law. The amendment, as presented to the voters of Mississippi read:
“Be it Enacted by the People of the State of Mississippi: SECTION 1. Article III of the constitution of the state of Mississippi is hereby amended BY THE ADDITION OF A NEW SECTION TO READ: Section 33. Person defined. As used in this Article III of the state constitution, "The term 'person' or 'persons' shall include every human being from the moment of fertilization, cloning or the functional equivalent thereof." This initiative shall not require any additional revenue for implementation.”
The voters ibn Mississippi, as conservative as any in the country, rejected the bill with over 55% of the vote, and the margin would probably be higher if the implications were more fully understood. Personhood goes beyond a ban on abortion, but would also ban any form of birth control that impedes implantation of the fertilized egg in the uterus. This includes all the most popular forms of birth control. Any woman who has a miscarriage might be subject to investigation for a possible felony. Governor Perry has said that he would not consider exceptions to the anti-abortion provisions in cases of rape or incest. At a forum in Iowa, Governor Perry Governor Perry described how he had undergone a “transformation” after a conversation with Personhood USA spokeswoman Rebecca Kiessling whose conception was the result of rape. “Looking in her eyes, he said, “I couldn’t come up with an answer to defend the exceptions for rape and incest,” . Governor Perry doesn’t seem to have looked in anyone else’ eyes.
There is a group of genetic conditions known as lysosomal storage diseases – inborn disorders of metabolism in which certain proteins cannot be fully metabolized. Over time, the waste products of faulty metabolism accumulate and damage the nervous system, leading to reduced function, pain and death. Modern methods of prenatal screening have made it possible to detect some (not all) of the lysosomal storage diseases prior to birth. The diseases are relatively rare, and have varying prognosis. Genetic screening of prospective parents can prevent these diseases; for example, Tay-Sachs Disease, formerly seen among Eastern European Jews, has been almost completely eradicated by testing of prospective parents. Tragically, while the gene that causes Tay-Sachs Disease has been almost totally eliminated from the high risk gene pool in Israel and the United States, infants are still born with this tragic condition because either the parents seemed to be at low risk, or did not have the full resources of genetic counseling. This would be most common among low income families who do not have medical coverage or access to prenetal care.
While testing the prospective parents has been the most effective screening method, and can prevent the conception of a fetus, others, an increasing number, can be suspected as a result of ultrasound and confirmed by testing of cells from the fetus. Depending on the diagnoses, some cases can be treated, although the range of treatments is usually quite costly and not always fully effective. A paper in OJIN, tghe online hournal of issues in nursing, discusses the cost issue:The majority of patients receive some benefit from ERT (enzyme replacement therapy), however the drug response is somewhat dependent on disease burden, previous damage that occurred prior to the start of ERT, and the patient’s individual disease complications. On average the drug cost per year for ERT is $200,000-$300,000 in the United States, depending on the individual’s weight, prescribed dose, and the average wholesale price of the drug .... This does not include markup on the drug from hospitals, private offices, or infusion centers. It does not include supplies, infusion charges, or other medications and therapies needed to treat the condition. In general patients are not denied drug coverage by their third party payers in the United States, but often times must be concerned about lifetime maximums which could be reached in 2-5 years, thereby increasing premium costs, and pharmacy plans with an annual maximum of $25,000-$50,000 on a subset of drugs....” The incidence of the lysosomal storage diseases is relatively low. but as more drug therapies are developed, more patients will require these treatments and will have to be factored into health costs estimates.
Still, there are diseases among this group that have no treatments, and for which the prognosis is slow but certain, painful death. The infant, no longer a fetus but a living child, will be born , and over time, in some cases as long as 8 to 10 years, will lose physical abilitites and cognitive function, but suffer constant pain. The Right to Life Groups have presented evidence that fetuses appear to experience pain – these is even greater evidence that infants feel pain. In other nations there are ethical debates about providing both abortions for untreatable conditions and treatments which put a severe strains on the families, patients, and all members of a poor society.
The Republican contenders have no such questions. They are in favor of repealing the Affoerdable Healthcare Act which would assure that these conditions could be covered by insurance, but are [ledged to let infants be born to as tragic a fate as can be imagined. Jennifer Mason, spokesperson for Personhood USA. has said “There are no exceptions in Personhood USA’s presidential pledge because there are no situations where it becomes necessary to dismember a baby.” There are, however, circumstances in which a baby may suffer a prolonged and incredibly painful deterioration and death. In Arizona, patients have died because the state refused to ;pay for solid organ transplants. This seems predictive of how the states will respond to requests for the enzyme therapies needed to treat the lysocomal storage disorders..
The people behind Personhood USA and the presidential aspirants who have signed the pledge have no questions and no doubts. Human rights begin at the moment of fertilization and end at the moment of birth.