Miss. Voters Feared 'Personhood' Measure Would Allow Government Intrusion into Medical Decisions

November 16, 2011 — Concerns that Mississippi's "personhood" measure would threaten medical decisions other than abortion were a key factor in its defeat, and the same issues could imperil similar initiatives in other states, the New York Times reports.

Fifty-eight percent of Mississippi voters opposed the amendment, which would have defined "persons" in the state constitution as "every human being from the moment of fertilization, cloning or the functional equivalent thereof." The amendment would have banned abortion, even in cases of rape, incest or to save a woman's life. However, in the heavily conservative state, it appears that opposition to government intrusion in other medical decisions -- such as infertility treatments, birth control and treatments for pregnant women with cancer -- propelled the amendment's defeat.

According to the Times, opposition to the amendment was bolstered by statements from the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists and state physician and nurses groups warning that personhood could jeopardize women's health care. In addition, opponents used personal stories and social media sites like Facebook to highlight individual voters' concerns about the measure (Grady, New York Times, 11/14).