Days before Mississippians are to vote on the “personhood” amendment that would define life as beginning at conception, pro-life activists seem optimistic with Gov. Haley Barbour now supporting their initiative.
Barbour, who will step down as governor later this year, will be remembered for supporting the measure, said Colorado-based pro-life group Personhood USA, which is behind Amendment 26 that seeks to protect the preborn.
“The babies that will be saved by Amendment 26 will live, grow up, and return to thank the Governor along with the overwhelming number of politicians, medical professionals, and citizens who have advocated for their right to live,” Personhood USA President Keith Mason said in a statement.
Mason’s statement came soon after the Governor announced he voted ‘Yes’ via absentee ballot Friday while he was taking questions at a rally for Republican candidate Lt. Governor Phil Bryant.
Barbour’s support was awaited as he had said last week that he was to make his decision soon. “I think all in all, I know I believe life begins at conception,” he said. “So I think the right thing to do was to vote for it.”
After the announcement, Barbour denounced a pro-abortion group, Planned Parenthood, which is using a recording of his voice in automated phone calls asking voters to reject the measure.
“A pro-abortion group has called people’s homes and deceived voters into thinking I’m opposed to Initiative 26, the Personhood Amendment,” the Governor said in a statement. “As I’ve previously stated, I voted for the Personhood Amendment. These misleading calls were made without my knowledge, without my permission and against my wishes. I have demanded this deception be stopped, and those responsible have assured me that no more calls will be made.”
Mason is confident that Mississippians “will not be fooled.”
“These tactics will backfire on Planned Parenthood,” he said. “The people of Mississippi are well-informed. They will hear that the Governor voted ‘Yes’ on the amendment, and see that Planned Parenthood is running ads implying that he did not. They understand which group deals in facts, and which is propagating lies.”
Planned Parenthood used clips from MSNBC’s interview with Barbour last year. “I’m pro-life. Americans United for Life picked me their man of the year several years ago. I believe life begins at conception,” the Governor told MSNBC. However, he added, “Unfortunately this personhood amendment doesn’t say that. It says ‘life begins at fertilization or cloning or the functional equivalent thereof.’ That ambiguity is striking a lot of pro-life people here as concerning and I’m talking about people who are very outspokenly pro-life.”
Some fear the implications of the “personhood” amendment – which would change the definition of a person to include “every human being from the moment of fertilization, cloning or the functional equivalent thereof” – could be complex. If passed, it could make all forms of abortion and emergency contraception illegal.
Personhood USA wants to establish that unborn fetus is a person in light of a 1973 landmark case, Roe v. Wade, on abortion. The U.S. Supreme Court ruled that a woman had the right to have an abortion, but that right must be balanced against the state’s legitimate interests for regulating abortions to protect prenatal life and the mother’s health. In oral arguments, Justice Potter Stewart said, “If it were established that an unborn fetus is a person, you would have an impossible case here.”
However, some anti-abortion groups fear that an “extreme” measure such as the personhood amendment could lead to an appellate action and prove to be counterproductive.