"Be it enacted by the people of the state of Mississippi: Article 14 of the Mississippi Constitution of 1890 is hereby amended by the addition of a new section to read . . . The right to life begins at conception. All human beings at every stage of development are uniquel, created in God's image and shall have equal rights as persons under the law."According to Steve Crampton, Constitutional Attorney for the Liberty Council, the new Mississippi Personhood Amendment "does little more than recognize that life is created at conception." Personhood USA said that the initiative won't ban in-vitro fertilization or contraception, pre-empting arguments they expect from opponents.
However, Mason said in response to a press question, "what that means with in-vitro [is that] if that baby is created, that baby should not be killed." She said the amendment would outlaw in-vitro practices that involve the use of multiple fertilized eggs, wherein multiple eggs are fertilized to increase the chances of a pregnancy resulting. Doctors, she said, "would be cautious and not put quite so many [fertilized eggs] in there." The amendment would mean that the number of fertilized eggs would be limited to "just the number of babies that a woman is comfortable with being pregnant with."
The problem is, as Deep South Progressive explained during the debate in 2011, this is exactly the process that is used in order to give in-vitro fertilization a reasonable chance at resulting in a pregnancy:
[T]he process of in-vitro fertilization involves multiple microscopic eggs being fertilized in a lab in order for a couple to have a reasonable chance at getting pregnant. After three-to-five days, some of the eggs are transferred to a woman's uterus with the hope that one will implant and result in a pregnancy. But in the process, extra fertilized eggs are often left over; these eggs are frozen and stored in the event that further attempts at implantation are necessary. Some are damaged in the process, many are never used. But since the Personhood Amendment would define a fertilized egg as a legal 'person,' anything that endangers them, such as freezing, could be considered a criminal violation.Earlier today, Parents Against Personhood warned that even an amendment like the one now being proposed could not be implemented without essentially outlawing effective in-vitro.
Another problem involves the definition of "conception." Jennifer Mason clarified that, while "eggs aren't people," Personhood USA considers a fertilized egg a person even before implantation:
"We use the scientific definition for conception, which is the moment of fertilization, not implantation. At the moment of conception there is a new unique individual human being with eye color, hair color, gender, and much more determined. That human being exists before implantation."As the New York Times points out, there is no pregnancy until a fertilized egg implants. In fact, most fertilized eggs don't result in pregnancies. So by Personhood USA's definition, and by the implications of this new law, you would indeed have a person before you would have a pregnancy. This was a central problem in the previous debate, and it appears it will continue with this amendment, too.
Les Riley said that, even if the Jackson Women's Health Organization, Mississippi's last remaining abortion clinic, is closed because of Gov. Phil Bryant's recent laws that intentionally make it difficult for it to continue operations, the Personhood Amendment is necessary. Why? Riley explains:
"We understand that Planned Parenthood spent nearly $2 million in out of state funds to defeat this previous amendment . . . Now it's become more clear with the fact that the Hattiesburg Planned Parenthood operation has expanded their clinic and it appears they're planning to do clinical abortions in Hattiesburg if the Jackson clinic closes."It's an "insidious plot," Riley said.
Mississippians Against Personhood responds:
Ultimately, the wording of this amendment differs very little from the failed Initiative 26. It doesn’t “clear up any confusion”, at least not in the sense that the organizers mean. Voters didn’t oppose Initiative 26 because they didn’t understand the wording about “fertilization or the functional equivalent” — they voted against it because they had serious concerns about its unintended consequences for infertility treatment, pregnancy complications, and birth control.
By pointing at the enacting legislation as evidence of their intentions, Personhood Mississippi has made it perfectly clear that these are not “unintended consequences”, and that the new initiative would do exactly what we’ve always claimed Initiative 26 would have done: restrict doctors from being able to treat patients with infertility or serious pregnancy complications, and potentially impact some forms of birth control.
We appreciate their clarification of these important issues, and look forward to discussing them in depth with Mississippi voters over the next 18 months as we work to defeat this initiative.In 2011, the Personhood Amendment was defeated by a 58%-42% vote via ballot initiative. Jennifer Mason expects the initiative to appear on the 2014 election ballot, which is the earliest possible date it could be voted on. The 2013 deadline has passed.