Abortion-Rights Opponents Push 'Personhood' Amendment in Miss.

October 18, 2011 — On Nov. 8, Mississippi voters will consider a ballot initiative that would declare that human life begins at fertilization and grant state constitutional rights beginning at conception, the AP/San Francisco Chronicle reports. Abortion-rights opponents are hoping the so-called "personhood" movement will resonate more with Christian conservative voters in Mississippi than it did with Colorado voters, who rejected similar proposals in 2008 and 2010. Even if the ballot measure is approved, courts likely would declare it unconstitutional, according to the AP/Chronicle.

Mississippi is the only state with a personhood amendment on the ballot this fall, but efforts are ongoing in at least four other states to have similar measures on ballots in 2012. Mississippi already has "some of the nation's toughest abortion regulations," and there is only one clinic in the state that offers abortion care, according to the AP/Chronicle.

Opponents of the ballot measure say it could outlaw some forms of birth control and deter physicians in the state from offering in vitro fertilization for fear that they would face criminal charges if an embryo does not survive. They also say abortion-rights opponents are imposing their religious beliefs on women by outlawing abortion, including in cases of rape or incest.

The American Society for Reproductive Medicine said the measure would "unduly restrict an infertile patient's right to make decisions about embryos created as part of the in vitro fertilization process." The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists also opposes the initiative. The Mississippi State Medical Association is not supporting the initiative but is not actively opposing it.

The initiative is supported by both candidates in the Mississippi governor's race, as well as the American Family Association and Mississippi Baptist Convention. Proponents of the measure hope it will spark a court fight that will challenge Roe v. Wade (Wagster Pettus, AP/San Francisco Chronicle, 10/17).