It's no surprise to me that Mississippi, the home of mud pie and vintage race relations, came up with Initiative 26, which would declare a person as "every human being from the moment of fertilization, cloning or the functional equivalent thereof." During Tuesday's general election, the initiative failed, which means women can still get abortions (at the one abortion clinic in Mississippi), they still have access to Plan B (if they can find a pharmacist who isn't ethically opposed to dispensing it) and ladies undergoing IVF treatments won't face jail time for destroying unused embryos (if that's a process they can afford).
With things already pretty difficult for Mississippi women on the reproductive front, you might be thinking what I was thinking - "What kind of dumb dumbs come up with an initiative like this?" In Mississippi's defense, they didn't exactly come up with this idea to set women's rights back 38 years all by themselves. Colorado-run "Personhood USA" dumped lots of money into a national campaign to get this constitutional initiative on state ballots, and Mississippi jumped on the "No More Abortion" train faster than you can say "Get me off this train!"
Women aren't the only Mississippians suffering from the strict laws of this ultra-conservative state. Mississippi has a tried and true tradition of making sure living life in Mississippi is as difficult as possible. Interracial marriage wasn't legal until 1987, and while I don't have any data to support this claim, I'm pretty watching "The Crying Game" will get you thrown in jail. That is, if you're even healthy enough to have the strength to put the DVD in the player. In the United States, Mississippi ranks 50th in the nation in health care for its residents. Yup, it's the worst. No one can ever beat Mississippi in "Worst Health Care" because they're the best at "Worst Health Care". The only way they could be less awful would be if we burned down every health care facility in any one of the other 49 states.
But that's not all they have to brag about! Lowest ACT scores? Check! Poorest state in the country? Check! Bottom of the American Human Development Index? Check! 21.8% of its residents living below the poverty line? Check! Laws to ban gay marriage and prohibit the state from recognizing gay marriages performed in other states? Check! A constitution that mandates "No person who denies the existence of a Supreme Being shall hold any office in this state"? Check!
Even Biloxi Blues, a movie set in Biloxi, Mississippi had the good sense to shoot in Arkansas.
For a state so concerned with life and protecting it, they are doing an A+ job of ensuring life outside the womb is a daily struggle to not put a shotgun in your mouth and blow your brains out. If you can afford a shotgun. And bullets. And aren't so fat that you're arms are immobile.
The only thing Mississippi does right is the blues. And there's no better way to keep that rich musical tradition of melancholy and sadness alive than to continue to oppress the people of Mississippi. But perhaps the failure of Initiative 26 is a sign that life in Mississippi might be getting a little bit happier.
This post has been corrected to reflect that 21.8% of Mississippians were living below the poverty line (in 2009).