Mississippi High Court Dismisses Challenge to ‘Personhood’ Initiative

The Mississippi Supreme Court Thursday cleared the way for residents of the Magnolia State to vote on a “personhood” ballot initiative, which would protect the unborn in the earliest stage of life.

“We seek to become the first state in the nation to grant civil rights to the unborn,” said Brad Hewitt, executive director of the “Yes on 26” campaign, in a statement.

If approved by Mississippi voters in November, and ultimately upheld by the courts, the proposed amendment to the state constitution will bestow upon the unborn the same right to life as the newborn.

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Measure 26, the Personhood Amendment, was challenged by the ACLU, Planned Parenthood and the Center for Reproductive Rights. The three groups claimed that the measure was an improper attempt by its sponsors to modify the federal Bill of Rights.

Mississippi’s highest court did not address itself to the constitutional questions raised by the ballot proposition, which, essentially, would set aside Roe v. Wade in the Magnolia State.

The justices declared, "Just as this Court cannot prohibit legislators from offering proposals in the House or Senate, this Court cannot impede voters from submitting proposals through the voter initiative process."

 “There is time enough in the future to consider whether the measure, if passed, is substantively, facially invalid, vel non,” the justices said.

Planned Parenthood Southeast, one of the plaintiffs in the lawsuit, said in a statement Thursday it was “disappointed” the court allowed the Personhood Amendment to be placed on the ballot.

“Amendment 26 may sound sensible to some,” said Kay Scott, the organizations CEO, "but it will have extreme consequences for women and children." She gave the example of women being denied abortion even in rare cases where they have been raped and impregnated, or when their lives are threatened.

She even suggested that the measure, if passed, could “ban common methods of birth control like the pill and IUDs.”

Mississippi is just the latest battleground in the quest by the pro-life movement to establish the “personhood” of the unborn in the states. Personhood USA, a Christian ministry based in Arvada, Colo., says that the ultimate goal is undo Roe v. Wade.

On its website, the ministry notes that the majority decision in Roe turned on the question of whether “the fetus is a ‘person’ within the language and meaning of the 14th Amendment.”

If it could be established as such, Justice Harry Blackman wrote for the majority, “the fetus’ right to life would then be guaranteed specifically by the Amendment.”

Personhood USA argues, as sponsors of Mississippi’s Measure 26 have, that the science of fetology at the time of Roe was not able to prove that a fetus truly is a person. Now, they say, nearly 40 years after Roe, the science has proven “that a fully human and unique individual exists at the moment of fertilization.”

“The nation is watching Amendment 26,” said Keith Mason, President of Personhood USA. It “sends a pro-life message to the rest of the United States: babies in the womb are people, and have the right to live.”

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