Abortion foes undeterred by Mississippi setback

Too many doubts and questions among voters helped doom Mississippi’s pro-life “personhood” amendment in voting Tuesday, but anti-abortion forces said Wednesday the vote still marked a sea change in the national debate and that the fight was far from over.

“We certainly are disappointed, but we’re not discouraged” - a “phenomenal” 42 percent of the electorate showed that they unequivocally believe that “life should be protected at all stages of development,” said Daniel Becker, a longtime proponent of personhood rights.

“Amendment 26 enjoyed the widest, broadest base of support that this country has ever seen on a pro-life amendment. This alone demonstrates that the tide is turning in America,” said Keith Ashley, a spokesman for Personhood USA.

The amendment, which defined life legally as beginning at the moment of fertilization, was designed as a direct challenge to the Supreme Court’s 1973 Roe v. Wade decision that established a legal right to abortion.

Pro-choice forces expressed both shock and elation at the result for Amendment 26, which had been put on the ballot through a citizens’ petition drive, survived court challenges all the way to the Mississippi Supreme Court, and was expected by many to pass handily in the strongly pro-life, conservative state.

“Nobody, NOBODY expected a [58 percent to 42 percent] result,” wrote a gleeful Atlee Breland, mother of three and founder of parentsagainstms26.com.

She and others had opposed Amendment 26 because they feared that its language - that “person” or “persons” would include “every human being from the moment of fertilization, cloning or the functional equivalent thereof” - would interfere with people’s access to in-vitro fertilization.

The White House and pro-choice groups cheered the amendment’s defeat.

President Obama “believes that extreme amendments like this would do real damage to a woman’s constitutional right to make her own health care decisions, including some very personal decisions on contraception and family planning,” said White House press secretary Jay Carney.

“This is the third time an amendment like this has failed. Legislators around the country should listen to the voters of Mississippi and stop playing politics with women’s health,” said Jennifer Dalven, director of the American Civil Liberties Union’s Reproductive Freedom Project.

In their statements, NOW President Terry O’Neill and Planned Parenthood Federation of America thanked voters for standing up against “the fanaticism of the personhood movement,” and blocking the criminalization of “everything from abortion to common forms of birth control, such as the pill and the IUD.”

On blogs, many Mississippians said they voted against the amendment because they didn’t like the idea that abortion wouldn’t be allowed in cases of rape or incest, or when the life of the mother was endangered.

Some were alarmed by the pro-choice group wakeupmississippi.org’s billboards, which warned, “Amendment 26 makes birth control a lethal weapon.” Others didn’t like the fact that the Colorado-based Personhood USA was a primary backer of the amendment.

Mississippians don’t want these people to “carpetbag their movement to our state,” wrote one blogger.

Pro-life physicians and the Mississippi Center for Public Policy issued detailed reports to answer questions about Amendment 26. But in the end, judging by the votes, their materials didn’t reach or persuade enough people.

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About the Author
Cheryl Wetzstein

Cheryl Wetzstein

Cheryl Wetzstein covers family and social issues as a national reporter for The Washington Times. She has been a reporter for three decades, working in New York City and Washington, D.C. Since joining The Washington Times in 1985, she has been a features writer, environmental and consumer affairs reporter, and assistant business editor.

Beginning in 1994, Mrs. Wetzstein worked exclusively ...

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