A radical proposal to define life from the moment of fertilisation has been defeated by voters in Mississippi following a hard fought campaign. The foetal personhood amendment, which would have banned all abortion and many forms of birth control, would also have jeopardised fertility treatment and potentially criminalised miscarriage.
The measure, known as Initiative 26, proved too extreme even for highly conservative and anti-choice Mississippi, with 57% of voters opposing the move and 43% voting in favour.
Pro-choice campaigners were able to mobilise opposition to the amendment by highlighting the problems it would cause if put into practice. There would have been no exceptions for cases of rape or incest nor in cases of non-viable pregnancy or where the woman’s life was in danger.
The defeat of the Mississippi amendment is a key victory for the US pro-choice movement. If the proposal had passed it would paved the way for a Supreme Court challenge to Roe v Wade, the legal basis for abortion in America.
In response to the victory White House Press Secretary Jay Carney said:
“Last night’s vote was a victory for women and families…The President believes that extreme amendments like this would do real damage to a woman’s constitutional right to make her own health care decisions, including some very personal decisions on contraception and family planning.”
In spite of the defeat, anti-choice campaigners have vowed to continue with their efforts, with Personhood USA pushing for similar legislation in other states.