JONATHAN COHN OCTOBER 26, 2011
[with contributions from Matt O’Brien and Darius Tahir]
When does life begin? Mississippi voters get to answer that question this fall, thanks to a ballot proposal that would define life as beginning at conception. It’s Initiative 26 in the November election. Proponents call it the “Personhood Amendment.”
Yesterday I flagged an article by Michelle Goldberg, in the Daily Beast, pointing out one possible consequence of the law: The banning of many in vitro fertilization techniques. The measure could prohibit not only the destruction of unused embryos but also the freezing of them. IVF frequently involves both.
Today Irin Carmon, writing in Salon, suggests another consequence: Prohibiting certain forms of birth control, including IUDs and the morning-after pill – and maybe even the common birth control pill that millions of women take daily.
I say “possible” and “maybe” because, based on Carmon’s article, it’s not clear whether officials would or could apply the law in that way. All three forms of contraception act primarily by preventing fertilization, in one way or another, although scientists generally allow for the possibility that the morning-after pill and, in particular, IUDs, could allow an egg to be fertilized and then prevent it from implanting. Under the amendment, that would presumably be illegal.
Of course, the courts probably wouldn’t let such a law stand. Plus there’s always the possibility that such a restrictive measure could backfire on its supporters politically. Even in Mississippi, a state where opposition to abortion is notoriously high, I suspect most voters will get antsy about laws that curtail access to birth control. But the mere appearance of the initiative is a sign of the times -- and, from my perspective, not an encouraging one.
See Romney flip. See Romney flop. Over at the Stump, Alec has the latest on Romney’s statement that, yes, he really does support that Ohio anti-union referendum after all. As you may recall, he wasn’t so sure about that yesterday.
Who’s afraid of “Obamacare”? Apparently congressional Democrats are, according to Roll Call’s Jonathan Strong. They're prohibiting Republicans from using the term in publicly financed constituent mail. Avik Roy of Forbes thinks that’s incredibly stupid. I agree with him completely. (And how often can I say that?)
Occupy Wall Street’s next move: It’s time the protesters engaged more directly with Washington politics, rallying to pass good proposals and to block bad ones. But will they? So far, ti looks like the answer is no. From the pages of the Harvard Crimson, by Dylan Matthews.
The do-it-yourself presidency: Why is managing national security so much easier for Obama than rescuing the economy? Maybe it has something to do with the fact that he doesn’t have to deal with Congress, particularly the Republicans, when he’s acting as commander-in-chief. From the pages of the Michigan Daily, by Dar-Wei Chen.
Too bad Costco doesn’t do surgery: What does your knee replacement cost? Sarah Kliff reports on the General Accounting Office’s efforts to find out: “None of the hospital representatives could provide a complete cost estimate for a full knee replacement, meaning the price given was not reflective of any negotiated discounts, was not inclusive of all associated costs, and did not identify consumers’ out-of-pocket costs.” And that’s pretty typical: It turns out it’s very hard to figure out a price for most medical procedures, because both insurers and hospitals prefer to keep them secret.
Chart of the Day: Does it feel like Americans are eating more processed food? That’s because we are.
From the Melting Pot: According to Amy Chozick of the New York Times, Telemundo is seeking to appeal to acculturated Hispanic-Americans by providing subtitles in English for many shows, along with stretches of Spanglish also.
Video dedication of the day: Billy Joel, again -- this goes out to Romney, who’s trying oh-so-hard to be everything to everybody: