Fetus as Person Initiative Approved by Mississippi Judge

While attention for now is on Tuesday’s election, a battle over reproductive rights is already shaping up for next fall in Mississippi. A state circuit judge ruled yesterday that Initiative 26—part of the national anti-abortion Personhood USA campaign which seeks to grant fetuses legal status as persons—may be on the statewide ballot next year. The organization has lobbied for ballot initiatives in states across the country which would subject to popular vote the definition of life, which its supporters say begins at conception.

According to the Jackson Free Press:

“Plaintiffs carry a heavy burden in attempting to restrict the citizenry’s right to amend the Constitution,” Harrison wrote in the ruling. “Initiative Measure No. 26 has received more than the required amount of signatures to be placed on the ballot, and the Constitution recognizes the right of citizens to amend their Constitution.”

In July, Jackson attorney Rob McDuff, Planned Parenthood and the ACLU filed a lawsuit on behalf of two residents against Mississippi Secretary of State Delbert Hosemann for approving a 2011 ballot initiative asking voters to decide if the word “person” in the state Constitution will include “every human being from the moment of life, fertilization, cloning, or the equivalent thereof.” Personhood Mississippi, an anti-abortion group, collected 106,325 signatures supporting the initiative.

The lawsuit claims the initiative violates section 273 of the state Bill of Rights, which states that a voter initiative “shall not be used for the proposal, modification or repeal or any portion of the bill of rights of this constitution.”

Cliff Johnson, co-counsel to McDuff, said his party would appeal the ruling to the Mississippi State Supreme Court.

“While we are disappointed by today’s ruling, we remain confident that our legal position is correct and Measure 26 is unconstitutional,” Johnson said. “We have known from the beginning of this litigation that the Mississippi Supreme Court would have the final say in this matter.”

Mathew Staver, chairman of the Christian law firm of Liberty Counsel, which represents the Mississippi affiliate of Personhood, said, “The right to life is the right of all rights. Without the right to life, all other rights are illusory. The Declaration of Independence acknowledges that the right to life is the foundation of all rights. America needs to return to a culture of life.”