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Abortion foes to try to pass ‘personhood’ bill through Mississippi Legislature after failure in ballot box

Though voters soundly rejected a state “fetal personhood” measure that appeared on Mississippi’s November 2011 ballot, reps for Personhood USA say they still have hope — in the state’s legislature.

The group’s Amendment 26, which would have defined life as beginning at the moment of conception, was harshly criticized for being broad and vague. Though Personhood leaders claim they only intend to ban abortion, critics have argued that personhood measures could have negative effects on the use of birth control, in vitro fertilization and disease research.

Because the measure is so controversial (even in Mississippi, a state with only one abortion clinic), lawmakers have said that it might stand a better chance in the Legislature. Nearly 60 percent of Mississippi voters voted against the amendment, despite support from Gov. Haley Barbour and Governor-elect Phil Bryant.

In November, Barbour said that the state Legislature would have been a better place for the bill, as lawmakers could have corrected some of the ambiguities “If somebody had offered legislation in the Mississippi Legislature that says life begins at conception, that would pass,” said Barbour. “However, what has been put on the ballot is a little ambiguous.”

Bryant was recently quoted in USA Today as saying he would be “very surprised if a member of the Legislature didn’t introduce some legislation similar to [Amendment 26].”

Personhood USA’s Les Riley says his group plans to work closely with the Legislature, in an attempt to introduce a personhood bill through a different channel. “We’re going to work with the Legislature and reach out to Mississippians,” Riley told USA Today.

Personhood’s Florida affiliate failed to gather enough signatures for placement on the state’s 2010 ballot, but has already begun a new push, aiming for placement on the 2014 ballot.

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