KATHARINE Q. SEELYE
New York Times
November 8, 2011
Voters turned a skeptical eye toward conservative-backed measures across the country Tuesday, rejecting an anti-labor law in Ohio, an anti-abortion measure in Mississippi and a crackdown on voting rights in Maine.
...one of the biggest surprises of the night was Mississippi’s rejection of a far-reaching and stringent anti-abortion initiative known as the “personhood” amendment, which had inspired a ferocious national debate.
Initiative 26 would have amended the state Constitution to define life “to include every human being from the moment of fertilization, cloning or the functional equivalent thereof.”
Supporters, including evangelical Christians, said it would have stopped the murder of innocent life and sent a clarion moral call to the world. They said they expected that passage in Mississippi would have built support for similar laws in other states.
Opponents, led by Planned Parenthood and the American Civil Liberties Union, said the proposal would have outlawed all abortions, including in cases of rape and incest and when the mother’s life was in danger; would have barred morning-after pills and certain contraception such as IUD’s; and could have limited in vitro fertility procedures.
“The message from Mississippi is clear,” Nancy Keenan, president of NARAL Pro-Choice America, said in a statement. “An amendment that allows politicians to further interfere in our personal, private medical decisions, including a woman’s right to choose safe, legal abortion, is unacceptable.”
The push for a personhood amendment split the country’s anti-abortion movement. Traditional leaders including the Roman Catholic bishops and National Right to Life opposed it on strategic grounds, fearing it would lead to a United States Supreme Court defeat and set back to their efforts to chip away at abortion rights.
Governor Barbour is a strong opponent of abortion rights but expressed skepticism about the amendment’s wording
“It’s unnecessarily ambiguous,” he told MSNBC on Tuesday. He also criticized the strategy of sending it to voters rather than to the Legislature — a blunder he attributed to people in Colorado, who wrote the measure — and said it would not be a good test case with which to try to overturn Roe v. Wade, the 1973 Supreme Court decision that legalized abortion. Nonetheless, Mr. Barbour said, he had supported the measure because he believes that life begins at conception.