There will be no pro-life "personhood" initiative on the Mississippi ballot this November, state officials confirmed Wednesday, as a senior figure in the anti-abortion camp said activists had long ago abandoned the drive to revive the measure in the state.
Wednesday was the deadline to validate signatures for Initiative 41, but a recent Associated Press survey confirmed that clerks in Mississippi's largest counties had not processed any signatures.
Mississippi voters unexpectedly rejected a similar ballot initiative in 2011. The personhood concept, which has proven controversial in the pro-life movement, holds that life begins at fertilization, effectively blocking all abortions and, critics contended, bring into question the legality of many birth control procedures as well.
Organizers in Mississippi did take initial steps to register the initiative, but they "never collected" any signatures, Jennifer Mason, spokeswoman for Personhood USA, said Wednesday.
Instead, they decided to make plans to pursue an amendment in Mississippi at another time, she said, adding that her organization supports local efforts in their decisions.
Ms. Mason, whose group is a national leader in efforts to establish that unborn children have human rights, said measures were active in Ohio and Florida, as well as other states.
In Colorado, voters will have a chance to vote in November on a measure to amend the criminal code to clarify that unborn children are covered in wrongful death claims, she said.
In North Dakota, voters will consider ratifying a "Human Life Amendment" enacted by lawmakers in 2013. The amendment would add the words, “the inalienable right to life of every human being at any stage of development must be recognized and protected,” to the state constitution.
According to North Dakota organizers, Measure 1 isn't a personhood measure per se — it doesn't define terms or set penalties.
But it is intended to clear the way for state lawmakers to enact laws that can't be overturned by judges who favor an unrestricted rights to abortion, said Janne Myrdal, a leader with Concerned Women for America in North Dakota and North Dakota Choose Life coalition.
Pro-choice groups and their allies oppose such measures, saying they will undermine a woman's right to an abortions and impinge on other kinds of reproductive rights.
The number of abortions in the United States has been slowly falling since peaking in the 1980s. In 2011, some 1 million abortions were performed, about the same as in 1975, according to the latest data from Guttmacher Institute.
Public opinion polls find that most Americans support legal abortion with some restrictions, a position they've had for decades.
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