Mississippi Residents to Vote on Anti-abortion Constitutional Amendment

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Fertilization of a human zygote

In a Nov. 8, 2011 general election, Mississippi voters will decide on Proposition 26 which would amend the state’s constitution to define a person as “every human being from the moment of fertilization, cloning or the functional equivalent thereof.” If Proposition 26 passes, abortion would be prohibited even in cases of incest and rape. According to the state Department of Health, there were 2,297 abortions in Mississippi in 2010.

Supporters of the personhood amendment include both Democratic and Republican candidates for governor and a majority of attorney general candidates. Personhood USA sponsored two similar amendments in Colorado in 2008 and 2010. Both were defeated.

Personhood USA founder Keith Mason believes, “All humans are persons, no matter how small. These are people created by God.” Of the 10 largest Christian denominations and five largest non-Christian religious groups, four groups have official positions against abortion being legal and three support abortion remaining a legal option.

In July, Planned Parenthood and the ACLU unsuccessfully sued the Mississippi Secretary of State to remove the proposition from the ballot. In denying the motion (7-2), the state Supreme Court said, “Just as this Court cannot prohibit legislators from offering proposals in the House or Senate, this Court cannot impede voters from submitting proposals through the voter initiative process.”

The implications of a personhood amendment remain unclear. “Part of the concern is that it’s not entirely clear what will happen if this passes,” said Mississippi College law professor Jonathan Will. Opponents fear that certain fertility treatments and birth-control methods would be banned. Both opponents and supporters seem to agree that RU-486, the so-called “abortion pill,” would be outlawed. University of Michigan-Dearborn Professor Michael J. New explains how personhood amendment are politically difficult for the pro-life movement. “They force pro-life activists to publicly oppose abortion in some of the most difficult cases including rape, incest, and life of the mother. They also effectively require pro-life activists to support the banning – not just the defunding – of embryonic stem cell research. They might also require pro-lifers to oppose in vitro fertilization.”

The Clarion-Ledger reports that personhood measures could appear on ballots in up to 16 states next year, including Arkansas, Florida, Ohio, and Oklahoma.

Sources:

Jennifer LeClaire, “Mississippi Personhood Amendment Withstands Planned Parenthood Attack,” www.charismanews.com, Sep. 9, 2011

Richard Fausset, “Mississippi Considers Anti-abortion ‘Personhood Amendment,’” www.latimes.com, Oct. 10, 2011