Reproductive Rights Advocates Urge Mississippi Voters to Reject “Personhood” Ballot Measure as State Supreme Court Declines to Decide Constitutionality

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(PRESS RELEASE) Following the Mississippi Supreme Court’s ruling today that it did not have the authority at this time to decide the constitutionality of a ballot proposal seeking to define life from the moment of conception, the Center for Reproductive Rights strongly urged Mississippi voters to reject the ballot measure.
The advocates say the measure would radically interfere in the doctor-patient relationship and prohibit women from making private, personal decisions about their health. The state Supreme Court, declining to rule on the case because the measure is not yet law, has cleared the way for the measure to appear on the ballot in November.
“We are disappointed that the court ruled that it could not decide the case at this point in time, but the fight against this unconstitutional measure is far from over,” said Suzanne Novak, senior staff attorney at the Center for Reproductive Rights, which filed the legal challenge against the ballot measure along with the ACLU and Planned Parenthood. “Mississippi voters now have the opportunity to speak out and soundly defeat a measure that could have implications far beyond women’s abortion rights—including prohibition of many common forms of birth control, and medical treatment for miscarriage and infertility.”
The initiative seeks to amend the Mississippi Constitution to define a “person” in the Bill of Rights to include “every human being from the moment of fertilization.” The measure has the potential to ban not only abortion—even in cases of rape or incest, or when a woman’s life is in danger—but also many forms of contraception and assisted reproductive technologies such as in-vitro fertilization (IVF).
In their legal challenge, the Center for Reproductive Rights, Planned Parenthood, and ACLU asked the court to declare the measure unconstitutional, arguing that under Mississippi law, the state Bill of Rights cannot be changed through the ballot initiative process.
“As a lifelong Mississippian, I am disappointed that this broad and intrusive measure has been allowed on the ballot,” said Cristen Hemmins, plaintiff in the lawsuit challenging the initiative. “I call on all voters to Vote "no" on #26, the government should not be interfering with the personal and private healthcare decisions of Mississippi families.”