- The Washington Times - Wednesday, May 14, 2014

No “personhood” initiative will be on the Mississippi ballot in November, state officials confirmed Wednesday, as a senior figure in the pro-life camp said activists decided to postpone their campaign.

Wednesday was the deadline to validate signatures for Initiative 41, but a survey by The Associated Press confirmed that clerks in Mississippi’s largest counties had not processed any signatures.

“No signatures were received,” Pamela Weaver, director of communications for the office of the Mississippi secretary of state, said Wednesday.

The personhood concept holds that life begins at conception. Critics say this effectively blocks most, if not all, abortions, and some note that a personhood law could limit other reproductive activities such as fertility treatments and some forms of birth control.

Personhood proponents say the only way to eliminate abortion on demand — and protect vulnerable populations — is to clearly state that people have human rights from conception to natural death.

In 2011, Mississippi voters unexpectedly rejected a personhood initiative.

The proposed Initiative 41 was similar to the defeated measure and would have “carried the same unintended consequences,” said Atlee Breland, a mother with children via fertility treatments who started Parents Against Personhood to fight the measures, which her group fears would restrict or bar in vitro fertilization.

Jennifer Mason, communications director for Personhood USA, said Mississippi campaign organizers were not planning to turn in any signatures Wednesday because they “never collected” any — they decided several months ago to postpone their campaign.

Ms. Mason, whose group supports and tracks grass-roots campaigns for personhood legislation, said measures were active in Ohio and Florida.

In Colorado, voters will have a chance to vote in November on a measure to clarify that in the criminal code and wrongful-death act, the words “person” and “child” include unborn human beings, she said. The Brady Amendment is named in honor of a woman’s 8-month unborn child who was killed in a car accident.

Also in November, North Dakota voters will consider ratifying a Human Life Amendment enacted by lawmakers last year. The amendment would add to the state constitution “the inalienable right to life of every human being at any stage of development must be recognized and protected.”

North Dakota organizers said Measure 1 isn’t a personhood measure per se because it doesn’t define terms or set penalties.

But it is intended to set the legal foundation for state laws supported by the people and make clear to judges that there is no right to unrestricted abortion in the state constitution, said Janne Myrdal, a leader with Concerned Women for America in North Dakota and with North Dakota Choose Life.

Pro-choice groups and their allies say such measures will undermine a woman’s right to an abortion and impinge on other kinds of reproductive rights.

Felicia Brown-Williams, director of public policy for Planned Parenthood Southeast, applauded news that the second personhood attempt was over.

“Initiative 41 would have been the same thing warmed over — proposing the same extreme agenda that would have allowed the government to interfere in personal and complex health care decisions that are best made by women and families,” she said.

Mississippi families “need better access to health care, education, and employment, not efforts that waste taxpayer time and money debating issues that Mississippians have already voted down,” she added.

The number of abortions in the United States has been falling slowly since its peak in the 1980s. In 2011, some 1 million abortions were performed, about the same as in 1975, according to the latest data from the Guttmacher Institute.

Public opinion polls find that most Americans support legal abortion with some restrictions, a position they have held consistently for decades.

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