The Problem With Dictating Fetus Personhood in a Tax Bill

Since there is so much going on with this tax bill in front of Congress, and so many hidden little riders, you may not have heard about the personhood rider that uses college fund rules to implicitly declare that a fetus at “any stage of development” is a person (just like businesses, right GOP?). Fortunately, it was struck down via the Byrd Rule by the Senate. While we may be safe from the chaos that would inevitably ensue from this measure for now, it is just the most recent example of how the Republican Party seeks to push a pro-life agenda; by slowly adding implicit precedence and support to unrelated legislation in order to strengthen the concept of “personhood” as started with conception.

Leaving the hot button issue of abortion out of the conversation, there are still a myriad of reasons why any such legislation would be wholly detrimental to Americans.

Bureaucratic Chaos

I had a miscarriage early on in my first pregnancy. It was so early that my body was able to easily pass my baby by itself and did not require medical intervention. While I very much grieve the loss of my child, I’m grateful that I did not have to obtain a death certificate. If the Republican Party succeeds in granting personhood to fetuses, the State will have to create, file, and send death certificates for babies lost to miscarriage.

Currently, most states will provide a death certificate, or certificate of stillbirth at 20 weeks gestation. While Ohio and Florida will provide certificates of fetal death, because fetuses do not have personhood, they are not required to unless requested.

So what exactly would be the impact of granting fetuses personhood? How many more death certificates could that possibly mean? Well, it would mean somewhere around 999,846 more a year across the nation. That’s right, a million more death certificates. In 2010, 3,999,386 babies were born in the United States. Assuming the birth rate has stayed relatively stable and knowing that 1 in 4 pregnancies ends in miscarriage, you can extrapolate that number.

Most states are not equipped to handle that influx of paperwork, which they would be obligated to fulfill if fetuses were granted personhood. While on a personal or spiritual level you may believe that life begins at conception, it does not necessitate thrusting that much gridlock onto county government offices or spending that kind of taxpayer money to make it happen.

More Medical Visits

If fetuses are granted personhood, it inevitably means more doctors’ visits for women. My miscarriage did not require medical intervention, but if  fetuses had personhood I would have had to go to the doctor. I would have had to undergo blood testing and perhaps even an ultrasound to prove that the pregnancy was no longer viable or no longer existed. You see, if my child had been viewed like any other child in the eyes of the state, I would have had to report that death. In fact, it would have been illegal not to.

If I never went to a doctor again in my life, I could probably get around reporting the death, but it would be medically necessary to inform my doctors of the miscarriage.

Since Republicans would also like to take away healthcare or make it unaffordable for thousands, if not millions, with the Affordable Care Act rider that is also on the tax bill, a family could go in debt during a time of great grief just to avoid fines or jail time for not reporting a miscarriage. Am I the only one that thinks that sounds insane?

Skewed Statistics

The United States maternal and infant mortality are already abysmal by Western standards. If fetuses are granted personhood, it would drastically skew those rates. Miscarriage is almost always unavoidable, so it would not only be a statistical nightmare, but an unfair reflection of the state of healthcare in the U.S..

While there may be an argument for counting miscarriage separately than stillbirth or infant death, granting fetuses personhood means there is no longer a gray area. It says a child is a child is a child. This means in the eyes of the state the death of 9 week old fetus is no different than the death of a full term fetus, a 9 month old baby, or a 9 year old child. Even if the extra one million deaths were added to the stillbirth rate (which is currently 1 percent) the number would become 500 percent larger.

At the end of the day, it is not the government’s place to make a decision that science isn’t ready to make (and has already been pretty outspoken on). It is not their place to determine a nation’s morality, particularly at the absolute cost of the taxpayer, who is the average citizen. While the Republican Party continues to focus on non issues and wrong issues (a wall, private education, the ownership of Jerusalem) watch out for more hidden riders on bills that could drastically impact the options and obligations related to pregnancy and parenthood.

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