A Mississippi lawmaker has introduced a bill that would define life as beginning at fertilization, marking the latest attempt to pass “personhood” legislation in the state, despite the previous failed attempts there and around the country.
Personhood legislation has been introduced in several state legislatures and in Congress over the past few years. The intent of the legislation is to classify fertilized eggs, zygotes, embryos, and fetuses as people in order to grant them full legal protection, including the right to life from the moment of conception.
The law would criminalize abortion with no exceptions, and effectively ban many forms of contraception, in vitro fertilization and other reproductive health-care measures.
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Personhood legislation or ballot initiatives have failed to pass in states around the country. Ballot measures to amend the state constitutions to include personhood language in both Colorado and North Dakota failed to pass by wide margins during the November 2014 elections.
Personhood ballot measures and legislation have also failed to pass multiple times in Mississippi.
Initiative 26, which would have amended the state constitution by adding personhood language, was roundly rejected by Mississippi voters in 2011. A campaign to put a personhood initiative on the ballot in November 2015 ended unsuccessfully last May when organizers failed to turn in petitions with the required number of signatures.
Lawmakers in recent years have passed several laws and introduced more to restrict access to abortion in Mississippi. Republican Gov. Phil Bryant has said it is his goal to “end abortion” in the state. This year, state Sen. Phillip Gandy (R-Waynesboro) introduced SB 2138, which would increase the minimum waiting period before someone can have an abortion from 24 to 72 hours.
HB 1309 has been referred to the house judiciary committee, where it awaits further action.