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‘Personhood’ amendment loses in Mississippi

Nearly 60 percent of Mississippi voters yesterday defeated the state’s controversial “fetal personhood” amendment, an initiative that would have defined life as beginning at the moment of conception. Though support for Amendment 26 was much stronger than in other states with similar personhood bills, concerns over the potential consequences of the bill trumped support in the end.

Even some ardent anti-abortion advocates expressed concerns that the bill would not only outlaw abortion, but could affect in vitro fertilization and birth control use, as well.

National Right to Life was firmly opposed to Amendment 26, arguing that, if passed, the bill would lead to dozens of lawsuits — all of which could end up strengthening Roe v. Wade. Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour also expressed reservations about the measure, but ultimately voted in favor of it anyway.

The vague language of the bill also sparked concerns within the medical community, which would have been impacted by the move to grant legal rights to human embryos.

“It flies in the face of common sense,” Douglas Laube said on a Tuesday afternoon phone call. “If every human being is defined as a person from conception, we would see wide-reaching impact to access to women’s health: cancer treatment, fertility treatment, birth control.”

Laube, a gynecologist based in Wisconsin, is the Health Board Chair of Physicians for Reproductive Choice and Health, a group adamantly opposed to the bill. Though personhood supporters argued that they only aimed to ban abortion, Laube believes the bill would have done much more, negatively impacting even cancer and heart disease treatment.

“Overall health would be affected adversely,” he said. “Chronic disease either made worse by, or caused by, a pregnancy would be denied a treatment.”

Mississippi currently has only one abortion clinic, so women who do wish to undergo an abortion procedure hardly have a plethora of options. The state,which is also a hotbed for abstinence-only education, currently boasts the highest teen pregnancy rate, as well as one of the highest infant mortality rates, in the nation.

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