On Nov. 8, Mississippi residents will vote on a constitutional amendment that declares human embryos full American citizens. This week, Slate staffers brainstormed a list of perplexing legal questions raised by the potential law. Proponents of the amendment say it’s necessary to prevent abortions and other forms of birth control within the state. But as the New York Times pointed out on Tuesday, the proposal could also spawn an array of dilemmas for doctors, women with life-threatening pregnancies and in-vitro fertilization participants.
To help us get a sense of the amendment’s broader implications, Slate Editor David Plotz asked readers to submit their questions about what passing the proposal might mean. They responded in full force: As of this writing, there were over 1,000 comments on the post. Some of the questions readers posed were clearly tongue-in-cheek, but most indicated serious concerns over the measure’s far-reaching potential.
Here are some of the questions readers asked that caught our attention:
1. Could my wife use the carpool lane if she’s pregnant, and how would the police be able to tell if she’s lying?
2. Would Mississippi declare March 25 as Christmas Day?
3. Could I claim my frozen embryos as tax deductions?
4. Could a landlord or a hotel charge a pregnant woman for double occupancy?
5. If fertilization occurs just before a divorce, could the father get visiting rights or custody of the fetus?
6. Would the conception of a child have to be registered with the state? And would legal conceptions require a witness?
7. If a woman is on an individual health insurance plan, must she switch to family coverage while pregnant to receive prenatal care?
8. Could Mississippi force women of childbearing age to have monthly pregnancy tests during census years?
9. Would I be required to turn my birth control pills over to the state police upon crossing the Mississippi state line?
10. Would you be able to jail a pregnant woman? Would it be okay to keep a person (the fetus) in prison without a fair trial?
11. Would every miscarriage result in a murder investigation? Do we have enough detectives for that?
12. If I have a life-threatening pregnancy, can I get an abortion on the grounds of self-defense? Or would the police content themselves with investigating my subsequent painful death as a murder-suicide?