Deborah Hughes & Cristen Hemmins v. Delbert Hosemann, Secretary of State of Mississippi


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Filing date: 07/06/2010

State: Mississippi, USA

Plaintiff(s): Deborah Hughes &amp, Cristen Hemmins

Center Attorney(s): Suzanne Novak

Co-Counsel/Cooperating Attorneys: Robert McDuff, Cliff Johnson, Eve Gartner (PPFA), Alexa Kolbi-Molinas (ACLU), Bear Atwood (ACLU of MS)

Description: This suit is to prevent proposed ballot Measure 26, which would define a “person” in the Mississippi Bill of Rights to include “every human being from the moment of fertilization,” from reaching the MS Legislature and the ballot because it is unconstitutional to amend the MS Bill of Rights via initiative.

Summary: Plaintiffs are challenging the validity of the action of the Secretary of State Delbert Hosemann in verifying a petition that would allow for an initiative (Measure 26) to be put in front of the Mississippi Legislature and on the November 2011 ballot. The proposed ballot measure, if passed, would define a “person” in the MS Bill of Rights to include “every human being from the moment of fertilization,” and this would change the meaning of 10 provisions in the Bill of Rights. However, a provision of the MS Constitution prohibits modifying the Bill of Rights through this initiative process. Thus, Defendant Hosemann’s actions directly violate the MS Constitution, and the initiative should not be allowed to go to the voters. If incorporated into the Constitution, this definition could force the government to ban certain contraceptive methods and abortion, even in the case of rape or incest. In early October 2010, a hearing was held on the Motion of Plaintiffs for Judgment on the Pleadings, followed by a denial by Judge Malcolm Harrison a few weeks later.  We appealed to the Mississippi Supreme Court.  The parties filed briefs in the first half of 2011, and oral argument was held on June 6. On September 8, 2011, the Court vacated the trial court’s judgment and dismissed our complaint without prejudice on ripeness grounds, and the initiative will now go on the Mississippi ballot this November.