Supporters of women's rights won a decisive victory in Mississippi in yesterday's elections, rejecting the “Personhood Amendment,” which dictated that the term “person” shall include “every human being from the moment of fertilization.” With 96 percent of precincts reporting, 58 percent of voters voted against the measure. And with ultra-conservative Mississippi rejecting the measure, it could mean the end for that initiative for good: “If it can’t pass here, it’d be hard to pass anywhere,” said John Bruce, who teaches political science at the University of Mississippi.
"Personhood" supporters had hoped that passing the state amendment could pave the way to challenge and overturn the landmark 1973 Supreme Court "Roe vs. Wade" ruling, the decision that legalized abortion. But the bill has now been rejected in three consecutive elections—Colorado in 2008 and 2010, and the very conservative Mississippi in 2011. “The message from Mississippi is clear,” Nancy Keenan, president of NARAL Pro-Choice America, said in a statement. “An amendment that allows politicians to further interfere in our personal, private medical decisions, including a woman’s right to choose safe, legal abortion, is unacceptable.”
Those against the "personhood" initiative raised concerns that not only would abortions be illegal for victims of rape and incest—as well as women whose lives are in danger—but it would also essentially ban birth control and in-vitro fertilization. One woman who had three children via IVF and voted against the amendment said to the Clarion-Ledger, "Oh, my gosh, as a mother who struggled and fought to have a family through in vitro fertilization, the idea that this could be taken away from women like me was terrifying. To know that voters stood up for the right of women to have a family this way and to use the forms of birth control we want ... it's just amazing."
The Center for Reproductive Rights' president Nancy Northup said, “Today’s vote is a huge victory for anyone concerned about protecting our constitutional rights against erosion. And it sends an unequivocal message to proponents of these measures - that the American people, no matter the political perspective, will not stand for such blatant attacks on the health and constitutionally protected rights of women in this country.”
Even Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour, a strong opponent of abortion rights, had criticized the wording of the bill, and the strategy by supporters to use it to bring the fight to the Supreme Court: “It’s unnecessarily ambiguous...That ambiguity is striking a lot of pro-life people here as concerning,” he said on MSNBC.