Personhood Supporters Continue Efforts After Mississippi Defeat

Proposed ballot initiative intended to recognize legal personhood from conception onward failed to pass this week, but pro-lifers are not giving up.

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Mississippi’s proposed ballot initiative intended to recognize legal personhood from conception onward failed to pass on Tuesday, Nov. 8, but its backers resolved to continue their work.

With about 90% of the vote counted on the evening of Nov. 8, Initiative 26 was failing by 58% to 42%.

“Changing a culture — and changing a country — will not happen with one election, and so, it is not unexpected. We thank the over one-quarter of a million Mississippians who voted for Amendment 26,” said Keith Mason, president and co-founder of initiative Personhood USA.

“We vow to continue on this path towards affirming the basic dignity and human rights of all people, because we are assured that it is the right thing to do, and we are prepared for a long journey.”

Mason said the initiative enjoyed the “widest, broadest base of support” ever seen on a pro-life amendment.

“This alone demonstrates that the tide is turning in America,” he said Nov. 9.

Other backers also weighed in.

“We are disappointed, but not discouraged. We are going to continue the fight for those who can’t fight for themselves,” Rev. Jimmy Porter, executive director of the Christian Action Commission of the Mississippi Baptist Convention, told the Jackson Clarion-Ledger.

Mason said the campaign “fell victim to the outright lies of our opposition, and because of their lies, children will continue to be murdered in Mississippi.”

Opponents included groups that support legal abortion as well as those who feared it would ban birth control pills, IVF treatments and procedures necessary to save the life of a pregnant mother in medically dangerous pregnancies.

Critics also objected to its lack of exceptions for abortion in cases of incest or rape.

The Planned Parenthood Federation of America argued the initiative “would have allowed government to have control over personal decisions that should be left up to a woman, her family, her doctor and her faith.”

Meanwhile, Catholic Bishop Joseph Latino of Jackson, Miss., was neutral on the initiative. In an Oct. 28 letter, he expressed support for the amendment’s goals but voiced concerns about the unintended legal challenges the initiative could create.

Similar amendments backed by the Colorado-based Personhood USA were placed on the Colorado ballot in 2008 and 2010 and also failed to pass.

Mason told Catholic News Agency in an interview before the election that past political successes like the abolition of slavery, the women’s suffrage movement and the civil-rights movement required repeated pushes to gain support until they succeeded.

Even unsuccessful efforts can continue to gain support and can give the issue a national profile, he said.