By Nikki Broderick ’14, Staff Writer
On Nov. 8, voters in Mississippi rejected Amendment 26, a controversial initiative that would have defined “personhood” as beginning at conception. The amendment also defines life “to include every human being from the moment of fertilization, cloning or the functional equivalent thereof.”
The website of Amendment 26 (www.personhoodmississippi. com) states that the aim is to outlaw “human cloning, embryo stem cell research and other forms of medical cannibalism.” Personhood Mississippi also states that the core of the initiative is to challenge Roe v. Wade, the Supreme Court decision that made abortion legal. But its most important goal is to “[honor] God and loving our neighbors in our law system.”
Governor Barbour of Mississippi, who claimed he had doubts with the wording of the amendment, said that “what’s been put on the ballot is a little bit ambiguous.” However, Governor Barbour still voted for Amendment 26 based on his belief that life begins at conception. Despite this support from the governor and other pro-life groups, such as Personhood USA, voters in Mississippi rejected the controversial amendment, in a 58-42 percent vote.
Though there were serious doubts as to whether or not Amendment 26 would pass, it still brought fear into the minds of many pro-choice groups, such as the American Civil Liberties Union and Planned Parenthood. The new amendment would have made abortion illegal in the one abortion clinic available in Mississippi, located in Jackson, whose pre-procedure instructions include a warning: “There may be protesters outside on the day of your procedure. If there are protesters outside on the day of your procedure, please ignore them and come directly into the clinic. You do not have to stop.”
Pro-choice groups feared that the new amendment would have banned many forms of contraceptives and abortions—even in cases of rape, incest or times when a mother’s life is in danger.
While these potential ramifications caused anger among some women and pro-choice groups, there was another controversy in the amendment, which created a divide between different pro- life groups. The loosely-worded amendment caused a rift in some pro-life groups, not due to the dangers it might impose on women, but due to the way it would have created grounds on which to challenge Roe v. Wade, the 1973 Supreme Court case that legalized abortion by naming it a woman’s constitutional right.
Some pro-life groups, such as National Right to Life, feared that Amendment 26 was not sound enough to serve as an actual threat to Roe v. Wade. These pro-life groups opposed the amendment because they wanted to wait to put their support behind an initiative with the same goals, but written with more clarity. With a stronger amendment to outlaw abortion, some pro-life groups believe they could overturn Roe v. Wade. Overturning Roe v. Wade is one of the Republican Party of Mississippi’s goals.
Although Mississippi, one of the country’s most consistently red states, chose to reject the initiative, there is still the possibility that initiatives similar to Amendment 26 will be seen in other states across the country. The ongoing battle, between pro-life advocates to define “personhood” as beginning at conception and pro-choice activists supporting a woman’s right to choose, will no doubt continue to be on ballots in the future.