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CRR Opposes Mississippi’s Personhood Initiative: Measure Would Put Mississippi Women’s Health and Safety at Risk

The Center for Reproductive Rights opposes Mississippi Proposed Amendment 26, which seeks to amend the Mississippi Constitution to define a "person" in the Bill of Rights to include "every human being from the moment of fertilization." The measure intends to make fertilized eggs, embryos and fetuses "people" under Mississippi law. Amendment 26 could ban many forms of contraception and assisted reproductive technologies such as in-vitro fertilization, as well as all abortions-even in cases of rape or incest, or when a woman's life is in danger.

Amendment 26 is intended to completely and absolutely ban abortion, with no exceptions. Such a ban would directly conflict with the United States Constitution. The Supreme Court of the United States has clearly held that constitutional rights do not extend to fetuses or embryos and that neither legislatures nor courts can rely on a particular theory of when life begins to prohibit a woman from exercising her right to terminate a pregnancy prior to fetal viability. Such a law is so extreme no state has ever enacted one like it-indeed, voters in Colorado rejected similar measures on the state's 2008 and 2010 ballots.

The amendment also could affect a wide range of other medical care, including many common forms of contraception, in-vitro fertilization, stem cell research, and medical treatment of pregnant women. Hormonal contraception that may prevent the implantation of a fertilized egg, such as IUDs, could be banned. Physicians would likely stop performing in-vitro fertilization, in part because the process involves the creation of some embryos that are ultimately discarded or damaged.

In addition, this amendment could create a legal quagmire for any doctor who needed to provide medical care to a pregnant woman if that care might endanger an ongoing pregnancy, as it could criminalize any conduct that might harm a fetus. Pregnant women who suffered complications or miscarriages could be subject to criminal investigations and possibly jail time for homicide, manslaughter or reckless endangerment. Moreover, because so many laws use the terms "persons" or "people," the amendment would also impact thousands of unrelated laws, leading to unforeseeable and unintended consequences.

The Center for Reproductive Rights strongly opposes this proposed amendment, which would unconstitutionally restrict women's ability to control their reproductive lives, and encourages Mississippi voters to vote No on Amendment 26 on November 8, 2011. For more information, please visit Mississippians for Healthy Families at http://VoteNoOn26.org/.