Personhood Ammendment: Mississippi Legislation to Vote Measure Tuesday

The governor of Mississippi, Haley Barbour, said Friday that he supported a measure that would allow the definition of a person starting at conception to be added to the states constitution.

He stated that he had cast his absentee ballot while still contemplating the effects that the legislation would bring.

"I have some concerns about it, but I think all and all, I believe life begins at conception so I think the right thing to do was to vote for it," he said in a statement.

Initiative 26 would define personhood as "every human being from the moment of fertilization, cloning or the functional equivalent thereof." While the language may be simple the overarching implications should this amendment pass are very complex.

If MS 26 passes that could mean the end of abortions in Mississippi. It could also hamper individuals’ use of some contraception like the morning after pill because the fertilized egg would have full human rights. The measure could also affect in vitro fertilization because it would make it illegal to discard unused fertilized eggs.

The idea of personhood came about after the Supreme Court ruling in Roe v. Wade when Justice Potter Stewart said, "If it were established that an unborn fetus is a person, you would have an impossible case here."

The ballot initiative in Mississippi was brought about by Personhood USA. This Colorado based group’s mission states it "serves the pro-life community by assisting local groups to initiate citizen, legislative, and political action focusing on the ultimate goal of the pro-life movement: personhood rights for all innocent humans."

The group describes on its website to serve “Jesus by being an advocate for those who cannot speak for themselves, the pre-born child.”

Even in this heavily religious state clergy and church officials are divided on the issue. Some pro-life groups feel that this step may be too extreme. They have concerns that it could actually lead to a Supreme Court ruling strengthening Roe v. Wade.

But what the proposal actually means and its real purpose depends on who you talk to. Terri Herring, national director for the Pro-Life America network, said the goal of the amendment is to give people the chance to say there is a better way than abortion.

"In Mississippi, we have the opportunity to lead the way on a social justice issue. We may have been behind on civil rights, but we can be ahead on human rights, and that's what personhood is really all about." Herring said.

But a mother from Oxford, Cristen Hemmins, has spoken in opposition of the measure.

"Whether or not you believe life begins at conception, this amendment goes too far," she said. "It is too ambiguous. It seems so obvious to me that it is far-reaching and it is going to be big government getting all up in my uterus."

Other than the personal opinions from individuals the tangible effects are all too real. The benefit for the adoption system would be great. It could mean that instead of getting children from other countries families could help children in need right here at home.

"Not every unwanted child has to die. There are over a million couples waiting to adopt. It's time to stop the senseless killing of children. We can provide these children, if people don't want them, to all of those who cannot have children themselves and stop the rush of people going to Russia, China and other areas to get children." Herring said.

The legislation is set for a vote on Nov. 8.