In November 2011, 58 percent of Mississippi voters made their voices unequivocally heard when they said "No" to Initiative 26. Pushed by Personhood Mississippi (which was co-chaired by then-gubernatorial candidate and now governor Phil Bryant), the initiative proposed to change the state constitution to provide citizenship rights to fertilized human eggs.
Opponents of the initiative pointed out--rightly--that women had too much at stake with such a change. Setting aside the morality-based arguments for or against abortion, the language of Initiative 26 was so broad that nearly every aspect of women's reproductive health could have been negatively affected.
Passage of such an initiative could mean the end of many forms of hormonal or barrier birth control. It could unnecessarily complicate, delay or eliminate medical treatment for infertility and for life-threatening pregnancies. Depending on lawmakers' interpretations, such a measure could even criminalize spontaneous abortions--miscarriages--that occur naturally in as many as 75 percent of all pregnancies, often before a woman knows she is pregnant.
Mississippians were not confused when they voted against the measure.
Right on schedule, Mississippi Personhood is back with a new, revised version of the initiative and a new ally in the game: the American Family Association.
If you're not familiar with the AFA, we urge you to read what the Southern Poverty Law Center says about this group. Read the hate-filled statements of Bryan Fischer, the group's director of issues analysis. In 2010, the SPLC named the American Family Association to its growing list of anti-gay hate groups, although sexual identity is far from the only issue Fischer rants about. In between prayers to Jesus, Fischer has denigrated African American people and Muslims, among others, and even blamed the separation of church and state for the Newtown, Conn., massacre.
Ann Reed, the "sponsor" of the new personhood initiative in Mississippi, is married to Jeff Reed, producer of Bryan Fischer's radio
Odds are that backers of this new initiative will gather the required 107,216 signatures
(12 percent of the number of votes for governor in the last race) to put the issue on the ballot again in 2015.
They have changed the words, but the intent is exactly the same.
Why change the wording? Reed and Personhood Mississippi's Les Riley believe Mississippians are too stupid to understand big ole' words like "fertilization" and "cloning." That's why, they say, voters said no to 26. They will understand "conception," which appears in the new initiative.
Despite changing the language, the new initiative amounts to exactly the same ends: limiting women's rights and endangering women's health. Mississippians were not stupid or confused in 2011. They won't be in 2015, either.
For more, visit jfp.ms/personhoodlanguage.