Voters in Mississippi were expected to make it the first state to confer protected legal status to fertilized human eggs Tuesday. Instead, they made it the second state to reject a so-called personhood amendment to its constitution.
One possible reason is that the effort divides even those who consider themselves against abortion.
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.
Colorado voters have twice rejected measures to define “personhood” – and now voters in Mississippi will have their say. An initiative on next week’s ballot would, if approved, define personhood from the moment of conception and all rights afforded under the state’s constitution would apply.
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.