UPDATE: the ballot measure was defeated.
Mississippi voters today went to the polls to decide whether to define legal personhood as beginning with fertilization.
Initiative 26 would define personhood as “every human being from the moment of fertilization, cloning or the functional equivalent thereof.”
Though the text of the amendment is simple, the implications if it passes couldn’t be more complex. If approved by voters, it would make it impossible to get an abortion in the state and hamper the ability to get some forms of birth control.
Because the amendment would define a fertilized egg as a person with full legal rights, it could have an impact on a woman’s ability to get the morning-after pill or birth control pills that destroy fertilized eggs.
The group Public Policy Polling found a basic toss-up on the amendment hours before the vote: 45 percent in favor, 44 percent opposed.
As fodder for the voting booth, some clergy took to the rostrum to speak out against the measure, including The Rev. Melanie Lemburg, rector of St. Peter’s-by-the-Sea, Gulfport.
“Twenty six would force victims of rape and incest to carry pregnancies caused by their criminal attackers. Twenty six would make some forms of contraceptives, our best strategy against abortion, illegal,” said [Rev. Carol] Burnett.
“This initiative applies chains of bondage to physicians who would hope to act in the best interest of their patients,” said the Rev. Lashaundra Smith, a Christian Church-Disciples of Christ leader.
The Rev. Melanie Lemburg told a powerful story about counseling a woman whose special needs daughter was raped and had to terminate her pregnancy.
“If we allow the government to be responsible for these most intimate decisions and issues, then we people of faith are giving away the opportunity to decide what may be the only merciful option in the sea of bad options,” said Lemburg, an Episcopal Church leader.
The Center for Reproductive Rights has pledged to file suit against the amendment immediately and expects the courts to issue an injunction against it because it “clearly violates the Constitution,” according to group President Nancy Northup.