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Mississippi rally to add personhood amendment to state’s constitution

The Mississippi State Supreme Court heard oral arguments today on whether or not the state’s voters can add a “personhood” amendment to the Mississippi Constitution.

An organization called Personhood Mississippi explains that if Ballot Measure 26 instituting a personhood amendment is approved, all human beings in the state would be afforded equal rights and protection under the law from the time of conception – effectively outlawing abortion, cloning and human embryo research in a way that would “challenge [the U.S. Supreme Court decision] Roe v. Wade at its very core.”

Over 106,000 certified signatures petitioned to have the measure placed on the ballot for the Nov. 8, 2011, election.

“When passed, Measure No. 26 to the Mississippi Constitution would define ‘person’ to include ‘every human being from the moment of fertilization, cloning or the functional equivalent thereof,’” explains Brad Prewitt, executive director of the American Family Association. “This simple definition would not only bring the legal definition of personhood into line with what the overwhelming majority of Mississippians already believe, but would also be consistent with current law on crimes against pregnant women and the unborn.

“The unborn, whether naturally or artificially created, would then have the same legal rights that others already have,” he added.

The ballot measure, however, is now facing a lawsuit brought by the American Civil Liberties Union and Planned Parenthood, among others.

According an Associated Press report, the ACLU and Planned Parenthood legal team is arguing that Measure 26 effectively changes the state constitution’s Bill of Rights, an improper use of the Mississippi initiative process that put the personhood amendment on the November ballot.

Backers of the amendment, however, told the court they are merely trying to define “person” as it is used in the Bill of Rights, not make changes to it.

“You can’t protect [a 'person'] unless you know what it is,” Stephen Crampton, attorney for the amendment supporters, told the AP. “This sets a definition in the law. It is quite modest in its scope. It is not out to abolish, amend or repeal of the Bill of Rights.”

Prewitt added in a statement, “Recognizing the grave threat a favorable Mississippi vote in November poses to the interstate abortion trade, the ACLU and Planned Parenthood have sent in their heavy-hitter national litigation team to try to deny Mississippians their right to vote on November 8 and declare that in Mississippi, under God, the unborn are persons, possessed of that same ‘unalienable right’ to life as our Founders recognized in the Declaration of Independence.

“While we will not comment on how the court might rule, we are confident that the court appreciates the weightiness of this matter, the popular support it has received, and the serious attention personhood deserves, as we prepare for the general election just five months from now,” Prewitt said. “As we await the ruling, Vote Yes on 26 will continue to faithfully press ahead, praying that our work to protect the unborn might bear fruit, and that our State of Mississippi might take that first step nationwide to stop abortion and to choose life over death.”

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