How Personhood Mississippi Perverts Black History to Fight Abortion

Personhood Mississippi, the group behind the anti-choice ballot initiative Amendment 26, is the latest group to hijack racial justice history for a profoundly unjust cause. This sleaze has got to stop.

By Akiba Solomon Sep 09, 2011

One of the most sickening features of the radical anti-choice movement is how it uses the meat of racial and gender justice struggles to manufacture its rhetorical sausage.

So far in 2011, they’ve cast black and Latino wombs as genocidal time bombs; they’ve twisted structural analyses of female infanticide in Asia beyond recognition; and they’ve branded fetuses the most persecuted minority in the world.

Now a cell of this national movement called Personhood Mississippi is using the infamous Dred Scott decision of 1857 to convince Mississippi voters to outlaw abortion in the state via a November 8th ballot initiative called Amendment 26.

As we all (hopefully) know, Dred Scott was an enslaved African-American who sued his so-called master for his freedom. The case went all the way to the Supreme Court, which ruled that Scott and every other black person in this country had no right to sue in federal court because his blackness made him a non-citizen.

The Dred Scott decision is one of the purest examples of structural racism in U.S. history: A person of color is "owned" by a white person. That person tries to use the high court to get free. The high court says, "You’re black and therefore not a citizen. Kick rocks." Case closed until the post-Civil War 14th Amendment establishes birthright citizenship.

But here comes Personhood Mississippi, using that history and legacy to assert their own Christianity-only, unconstitutional idea of "equal rights" for fetuses of any "size, location or developmental stage":

If Mississippians vote Yes on Amendment 26 a legal challenge will be set up to the unconstitutional court ruling "Roe-v-Wade" [sic] that allegedly "legalized" abortion [sic]. Court decisions do not make law because courts are not given the authority to make law. However, when court rulings are treated like law they have the effect of law. When a court makes a horribly unjust, immoral, and unconstitutional ruling, it should not be allowed to stand in perpetuity–if so, we would still be treating some African Americans as property because of Dred Scott.

To be sure, I’m not surprised by this perversion of my history. After all, Personhood Mississippi is the same group that sponsored a "Conceived in Rape" tour championing the inalienable rights of rapists’ sperm. The organization is also headed up by Les Riley, an "eighth-generation Mississippian" and "one stubborn Celt" who has blogged for a Christian secessionist group. But I do fear folks like this. We’re in a dangerous time where ideologues make mystery meat out of basic history and widely distribute this propaganda on conservative radio, online and on Fox News. And they’re tapping established political figures to perpetuate the distortions. Just yesterday, former Arkansas governor and presidential candidate Mike Huckabee keynoted a fundraiser for Personhood Mississippi. I don’t consider Huckabee legitimate, and the Colorado personhood measure he backed in 2008 did fail. But I can’t sleep on the fact that a national figure like Huckabee can make a fringe group look bigger and sounder than it is. 

It’s Friday, and the sun is actually out in New York City so I’m going to leave the doom and gloom here. But please. If you’re a voter in Mississippi or you know potential voters there, tell them to say no to Amendment 26 on November 8th. Clearly, Personhood Mississippi and their ilk will stop at nothing to curtail people’s right to choose parenthood. It’s our job to draw the line.

Extra: Read the language of Amendment 26, which would also jeopardize in vitro fertilization in the state, here. I don’t like sending traffic to their site, but clarity is more important.