Pro-choice forces seek to prevent referendum | Mississippi slated to vote on ‘personhood’

Cheryl Wetzstein|The Washington Times

Georgia was the first state in the nation where voters have said "Yes" to the Personhood question. Both states are hopeful to get the measure on the 2012 ballot.

Stepping into a growing national debate over abortion rights, the Mississippi Supreme Court heard arguments Monday about whether to allow a “personhood” amendment to remain on the ballot this fall.

If passed by Mississippi voters in November, Measure 26 would define a “person” in the state’s constitution as “every human being from the moment of fertilization, cloning or the functional equivalent thereof,” said sponsors Les Riley and Personhood Mississippi.

The amendment and others under consideration in other states are designed to effectively outlaw abortion and set up a potential challenge to the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision that struck down state laws against abortion in the United States.

Pro-choice supporters oppose Measure 26, and two Mississippi women, Deborah Hughes and Cristen Hemmins, are seeking to block the amendment from the ballot. Their case is supported by lawyers associated with the American Civil Liberties Union, Planned Parenthood Federation of America and Center for Reproductive Rights.

In an hourlong session Monday, Robert McDuff, a Jackson, Miss., attorney for the plaintiffs, told the nine justices that they were simply being asked to decide “whether the rules were followed” in having Measure 26 approved for the ballot.

The people of Mississippi voted in 1992 to create two ways to amend their state constitution: gather signatures to put an initiative on the ballot or have their legislature pass an amendment for voters to approve or reject, said Mr. McDuff.

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