Tuesday was election day and for those who don’t know a “Personhood amendment” to the state constitution was on the ballot in Mississippi. This amendment would have defined the concept of legal personhood as starting at “the moment of fertilization, cloning or functional equivalent thereof.” The primary intent was to ban abortions, but this amendment would also have impacted the legality of some forms of birth control and the effectiveness of in vitro fertilization.
The voters of Mississippi made it clear that they want nothing to do with such extreme measures. In a 58% to 42% majority they voted against the personhood amendment. A similar amendment went up for a vote in Colorado in both 2008 and 2010. The results were even more clearly defined, 73% in 2008 and 70% in 2010 voted against personhood. In South Dakota, blanket abortion bans, though not through personhood initiatives, has also been voted down twice. Voters throughout these states have made it clear that they want abortion to be legal and they certainly don’t want their access to birth control limited.
Yet supporters of such personhood amendments are continuing their efforts and are working on getting them added to the 2012 ballot in Florida, Ohio, California, Oregon, Montana, and Nevada. They are attempting this at the national level as well. At present there are three separate bills floating around the U.S. Congress that would grant personhood at the moment of fertilization. The bills at the national level are not amendments to the U.S. Constitution as the state level attempts are amendments to the state constitutions, but they would have the same effect. Ban all abortions, regardless of how the pregnancy occurred (i.e. rape or incest) as well as pregnancies that impact the life or well-being of the pregnant person. They would also impact access to effective birth control and in vitro fertilization.
Though these measures have the support of conservative politicians, it is clear they do not have the support of the people of the U.S. If voters in Mississippi, one of the most extreme, anti-sex conservative states in the country couldn’t stomach the implications of a personhood amendment, it seems unlikely one would be successful elsewhere in the U.S.