Mississippi voters on Tuesday rejected an amendment to their state constitution that would have declared that life begins at fertilization.
The result was somewhat unexpected: As recently as a few weeks ago, the so-called personhood amendment was considered almost certain to pass. Voters in Colorado have twice rejected similar amendments to declare that life begins legally at fertilization, in 2008 and 2010. But Mississippi, with its far more conservative bent, was considered much friendlier territory.
Next week Mississippi voters will decide whether to pass a constitutional amendment that redefines a person. Under the proposal, fertilized human eggs would be considered human beings, which would ban all abortions in the state. But abortion-rights activists say it would also limit contraception and threaten fertility treatments.
Les Riley has worked on the initiative for years, gathering signatures to get it on the ballot. Now, in northwest Mississippi, he's talking to voters and assembling yard signs that urge the passage of Amendment 26.
The Republican takeover of the U.S. House and statehouses across the country has helped launch a new chapter in the nation's long-running debate over abortion.
And as NPR's Julie Rovner reports on Wednesday's All Things Considered, there's a move afoot to legally redefine when personhood itself begins — to the time when a sperm fertilizes an egg. A change like that would have broad legal ramifications.
Last year's GOP takeover of the U.S. House and statehouses across the country has dramatically changed the shape of the nation's abortion debate. It has also given a boost to an even more far-reaching effort: the push to legally redefine when life itself begins.
The question being raised in legal terms is: When does someone become a person?