When Mississippi voters go to the polls tomorrow, they’re voting on when life begins.
Passage of Initiative 26 would grant “personhood” status to a fertilized egg. Proponents say it’s a way to protect life and end abortion. Opponents see it as one of the most broad-sweeping and under-handed pieces of legislation limiting reproductive rights.
Critics argue that the initiative would end hormonal birth control methods including the pill and the morning after pill; It could also lead to deaths of women because fertilized egg cells could not be removed during ectopic pregnancies. And abortion would be criminalized.
Interestingly enough, the word “abortion” won’t appear on the ballot in Mississippi at all. Instead, it will ask voters to redefine “person” to include “every human being from the moment of fertilization, cloning or the equivalent thereof.” Changing the definition could block access to abortion by making it equivalent to murder and would make no exception for rape, incest or when a woman’s life is at stake.
There appear to be a lot of unintended consequences the way the initiative is written. So much so that pro-life backers of the proposed legislation are mostly quiet. Governor Haley Barbour (R-Miss) already voted in favor of the measure but cited the initiative’s ambiguity. The Yes on 26 website lists supporters including politicians, religious leaders and medical professionals (though many doctors are speaking out against it).
So what does this all mean? Even if the initiative fails at the polls in Mississippi tomorrow, rest assured this won’t be the last you hear of it. Similar pieces of legislation are in the works in several states for 2012. That means politicians will be forced to take sides. In fact, Mitt Romney (R-Mass, and Presidential hopeful) recently announced his support for a constitutional ban on abortion based on the “personhood” model.