Initiative 26 has unintended consequence

Published 12:09 am Thursday, November 3, 2011

At a recent Homochitto Valley Medical Society meeting, we discussed the upcoming election and constitutional amendment Initiative 26.

Those present agreed to send a letter to The Democrat as a public forum expressing our concerns about the proposition. The initiative seeks to declare the fertilized egg of a female to be a person with all legal protections. We anticipate complex and agonizing problems occurring if the initiative passes.

These issues, little discussed so far, will arise in doctors’ offices in Natchez and in the emergency rooms and surgical suites of the hospitals and will affect all of us.

If a fertilized egg is given legal status as a person, then destruction of the egg would be declared the crime of manslaughter or murder.

The point of the initiative, to end abortion, is well intentioned; it seems like voting for free speech or the right to bear arms. But we all know there are nuances to these rights.

We don’t allow free speech in a theatre when someone stands to yell “Fire!” and we don’t give the right to bear arms to a felon. Catastrophes have made these restrictions necessary.

Imagine now a woman brought into the emergency room with abdominal pain and found to have a tubal pregnancy, one in which a fertilized egg never made it to the womb.

Untreated, the result is a disastrous rupture and fatal hemorrhage taking the life of the mother with her fetus. Current treatment is emergency surgery to end the pregnancy by removal and sacrifice of the fetus, thus saving the mother’s life.

In this example, if Initiative 26 were law the physician could be arrested for murder or wrongful death along with the mother who signed the consent for her surgical procedure. The alternative to surgery would be to admit the mother to the hospital and keep her as comfortable as possible like a terminal cancer case until she dies with her fetus.

A question could arise if a mother developed any other life-threatening condition, such as molar pregnancy, severe toxemia, or some breast cancers, warranting immediate delivery. Could she find herself prosecuted for this? Could her doctor also find himself in the middle of a long court battle while someone attempts to prove a point?

There are other examples, but you get the idea.

We doubt many people have thought of the repercussions of Initiative 26, but chaos is a mild term for the medical and social problems created.

We as a community cannot afford to lose doctors who would move away to avoid the chance of prosecution.

While we sympathize with the feelings behind the initiative, current procedures are the most humane way to address these difficult medical situations.

We ask you to consider your vote carefully.

Dr. Roderick Givens

president of and

on behalf the Homochitto Valley Medical Society