I’m glad the faculty senate didn’t need another six-hour debate over whether to take a bathroom break before they voted on my family leave. Turns out I made it home just in time.


Meet the twins: Nancy and Michelle, named in honor of Ms. Pelosi and Ms. Obama, respectively. For those who insist on statistics, they were born last night at 9:39 and 9:45. Each is about an inch long, minus the tail, and weighs about an ounce. Mrs. Squirrel chittered pleasantly throughout the delivery. I hyperventilated while coaching her to breathe. Clearly, one of us is an expert on pregnancy and childbirth. And it’s not me.

Maybe that’s why I hyperventilated again when I dug into my research on 21st Century Political Nuttitude and found a group called Personhood, USA pushing state laws to define life as beginning at the moment of fertilization. Such laws would not only ban abortion, but the most popular forms of contraception as well. Not surprisingly, the group is led by a man. And not surprisingly, Kevin Mason feels qualified to comment on the opinions of women:

We know, without a shadow of a doubt, when human life begins. But our laws have not caught up to what we know. […] This redefinition really could end up reclassifying all of these effective and safe birth control methods as abortifacients, or agents that induce abortions. […] Certainly women, my wife included, would want to know if the pills they’re taking would kill a unique human individual.

Again not surprisingly, what Mason claims “we know” doesn’t tally with medical science. NPR asked Dr. Dan Grossman, an Ob-Gyn, about when pregnancy starts:

The medical community has really been quite clear about when pregnancy begins, and that definition is that pregnancy begins once implantation occurs.

There are two practical reasons for that definition. First, the hormonal changes that indicate pregnancy don’t begin until implantation, so there’s no way to detect fertilization alone. Second, over half of fertilized eggs never result in a viable pregnancy. They don’t begin to divide, don’t implant, or implant only briefly. Women rarely even know this happened.

So-called “personhood amendments” would not only prohibit the most common forms of birth control. They could also prohibit the most common form of in-vitro fertilization. To enhance a couple’s chance of pregnancy, doctors usually gather and fertilize as many eggs as they can. Many won’t form embryos, but often more than one will. Doctors choose one to implant and freeze the rest, in case there’s a problem with the pregnancy or so the couple can have another child later. Mason wants to ban that process, which he calls:

The creation of 30 or 60 embryos and then picking through them to see which ones are most likely boys or girls, or basically looking at the ones you want to give life to and destroying the rest.

A “personhood amendment” will be on the ballot in Mississippi this year, after a successful petition drive that included several major churches. That’s fine, as federal law allows churches to advocate for or against legislation. Similar amendments failed in Colorado in 2008 and 2010, with less than 30% of voters supporting them. But the odds look very different in Mississippi.

Mrs. Squirrel and I are thrilled to have our new babies, Nancy and Michelle. But having them was our choice. Grover Norquist famously said he wanted to starve government until it was small enough to fit in a bathtub. Keith Mason thinks government should fit in a woman’s uterus.

Good day and good nuts.