Tuesday, November 8, 2011

HOV Lanes (“High Occupancy Vehicle” Lanes) and Mississippi’s Proposed Constitutional Personhood Amendment

One of the many uproarious “Curb Your Enthusiasm” episodes features a joke where the Larry David character hires a prostitute so that he will have enough people in his car to use the faster-moving HOV or “High Occupancy Vehicle” Lanes.

This election day one of the matters pending that we shall soon hear about is whether a proposed “personhood amendment” to the Mississippi state constitution will pass. The amendment, a “right to life” initiative, declares a fertilized egg to be a “person.” If it passes it will make most of the better forms of birth control illegal in the state. (A tourism problem?) It will also play havoc with how a lot of laws will have to be interpreted. Word is that the amendment might pass. I wonder: Do the people of Mississippi, polled at being about 50/50 on the amendment, know what they are getting themselves into?

Here just one ridiculous question. If the amendment passes will the High Occupancy Vehicle Lane laws in Mississippi have to be rewritten? If they aren’t, how will the police officer who stops someone for using the lane know how many “persons” are in the car?: “But officer, I have a fertilized egg inside me.” What if the woman can claim that she has both an egg inside and a sperm cell she is sure is hellbent on fertilizing that egg?

Maybe the state of Mississippi will decide ii needs to address the need to make such challenging distinctions by pushing back its legal definition for the beginning of life still further. Maybe it will decide that a person exists if there is a man amorously interested in a female companion and they are both in the same car. Maybe, if a man and a woman are together in a car it will be considered a prima facie case for proving “personhood” if the woman has been hired for purposes of prostitution . . .

. . But wait a minute! That’s sort of the opposite of the joke of the “Curb Your Enthusiasm” episode, where, as memory serves, the joke's whole point depended on the fact that though the Larry David character had hired a prostitute he had absolutely no interest or intention of having sex with her.

By tomorrow morning we should know whether the citizens of Mississippi are going to be dealing with a whole lot of headaches involving interpretation of a whole lot of statutes. We'll also know whether you will need to think about what birth control you are using before you decide to visit the state.

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