News Abortion

Campaign for Mississippi ‘Personhood’ Ballot Initiative Fails

Teddy Wilson

The proposed state constitutional amendment declaring that life begins at conception was nearly identical to an initiative that was rejected by 58 percent of Mississippi voters in 2011.

An anti-choice campaign in Mississippi to get a “personhood” initiative on the ballot in November 2015 ended unsuccessfully last week. A year after filing paperwork for the ballot initiative, organizers failed to turn in petitions with the required number of signatures.

The proposed state constitutional amendment declaring that life begins at conception was nearly identical to an initiative that was rejected by 58 percent of Mississippi voters in 2011. Proponents of the “personhood” initiative claim voters were confused by how the amendment would affect in vitro fertilization and birth control.

Jennifer Mason, communications director for Personhood USA, told the Washington Times that the activists in Mississippi did not turn in the petitions because they “never collected” any signatures. At least 107,216 signatures from registered voters were required to place the initiative on the ballot. A statement released by Personhood USA claims that supporters of the initiative “decided last fall not to collect signatures” and to “suspend” the signature campaign. The statement also says that plans are being made for a “future citizen-led initiative.”

This directly contradicts a statement made by an organizer in Mississippi in March, several months after that decision reportedly was made. The Jackson Free Press reported that Anne Reed, spokesperson for Personhood Mississippi, said “with confidence” that because the wording of the initiative is much clearer, organizers should not have a hard time collecting the required signatures.

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In a statement released by Parents Against Personhood, a political advocacy organization that raises awareness about the unintended consequences of “personhood” amendments and legislation, Atlee Breland said that the organization is “relieved” that the measure will not be on the ballot. “We hope that organizers will respect the opinions that Mississippians have now expressed twice over and decline to pursue future personhood efforts,” wrote Breland.

Felicia Brown-Williams, public policy director for Planned Parenthood Southeast, told the Associated Press when the petition initiative was launched last year that health-care decisions should be left to a “woman, her family, her doctor, and her faith — not politicians.”

There are similar efforts underway in other states, such as Colorado, where a “fetal homicide” amendment on the 2014 election ballot is being backed by Personhood USA. Similar initiatives were rejected by Colorado voters in 2008 and 2010.

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