The fate of that issue — which Catholic bishops declined to support — was one of the more closely watched votes in yesterday’s election. The amendment was resoundingly rejected.
Mississippi voters Tuesday defeated a ballot initiative that would’ve declared life begins at fertilization, a proposal that supporters sought in the Bible Belt state as a way to prompt a legal challenge to abortion rights nationwide.
The so-called “personhood” initiative was rejected by more than 55 percent of voters, falling far short of the threshold needed for it to be enacted. If it had passed, it was virtually assured of drawing legal challenges because it conflicts with the Supreme Court’s 1973 Roe v. Wade decision that established a legal right to abortion. Supporters of the initiative wanted to provoke a lawsuit to challenge the landmark ruling.
The measure divided the medical and religious communities and caused some of the most ardent abortion opponents, including Republican Gov. Haley Barbour, to waver with their support.
Opponents said the measure would have made birth control, such as the morning-after pill or the intrauterine device, illegal. More specifically, the ballot measure called for abortion to be prohibited “from the moment of fertilization” – wording that opponents suggested would have deterred physicians from performing in vitro fertilization because they would fear criminal charges if an embryo doesn’t survive.
Supporters were trying to impose their religious beliefs on others by forcing women to carry unwanted pregnancies, including those caused by rape or incest, opponents said.
Amy Brunson voted against the measure, in part because she has been raped. She also has friends and family that had children through in vitro fertilization and she was worried this would end that process.
“The lines are so unclear on what may or may not happen. I think there are circumstances beyond everybody’s control that can’t be regulated through an amendment,” said Brunson, a 36-year-old dog trainer and theater production assistant from Jackson.
Hubert Hoover, a cabinet maker and construction worker, voted for the amendment.
“I figure you can’t be half for something, so if you’re against abortion you should be for this. You’ve either got to be wholly for something or wholly against it,” said Hoover, 71, who lives in a Jackson suburb.