Commentary Politics

Talking to Mississippi Voters: Some Personal Experiences in the Final Days

Marjorie B. Signer

Reports from Mississippi are mixed. The fate of Initiative 26 may hinge on voters like the pro-life woman whose stepdaughter had an ectopic pregnancy – and whose life was saved by a medical procedure that would be banned if the amendment passes.

See all our coverage of egg-as-person initiatives here.

See all our coverage of Mississippi Initiative (Prop) 26 here.

Reports from Mississippi are mixed. A respected journalist said on the Diane Rehm Show earlier this week that the personhood amendment will pass overwhelmingly. Initiative 26 opponents on the ground say opposition is growing as people begin to understand how extreme the initiative is. Even Gov. Haley Barbour doesn’t like it. If polling has been done, it has not been made public so we really don’t know what voters will do Tuesday, Nov. 8. What I learned from participating in the Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice’s phonebank to Mississippi voters this week was enlightening. Most people have made up their minds, one way or the other, and they’re not talking – or listening; a few still have not heard about Initiative 26 (for example, one woman who had just returned home from two weeks in the hospital), and a few are still unsure, including a woman whose story left me convinced there is hope for defeating this awful legislation.

A busy young mother I spoke to put it bluntly: “You mean the abortion thing?” When I said yes, she continued: “You mean whether the mother dies or the baby?” I said yes again. She said she knew how she was voting – against 26. After all, she’s a mother and knows the terrible consequences of forbidding medical treatment to a pregnant woman.

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An older woman said she knew all about it – two of her granddaughters, who are students at local community colleges, are going door-to-door to talk to people about the amendment, along with several of their friends. She said many people did not understand the harmful consequences of the amendment and her granddaughters and their friends are educating them. We agreed that young people – at least these young people – aren’t apathetic. She is very proud of them.

What gave me the most hope was a long conversation, about 12 minutes. The woman I spoke to was a middle-aged working mother who defined herself as pro-life. At first, when I mentioned the reasons why the amendment is so bad – it would ban birth control and in vitro fertilization, ban all abortions even in cases of rape – she said she had heard that wasn’t true. We discussed the amendment in more detail and she said: “It’s so complicated. I wish things were simpler, like they used to be.” She said she felt like she was living in Russia because there was so much government control these days. Finally, she said what was really on her mind. Her stepdaughter had had an ectopic pregnancy – and her life had been saved by a medical procedure that would be banned if the amendment were passed and changed laws regarding abortion. It took a relatively long phone call to get to that point – and when we hung up she still wasn’t sure about how she would vote. But she’s thinking about it, and that may be the best we can do in the final hours before Tuesday, Nov. 8.

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