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Voters in Mississippi on Tuesday rejected a state constitutional amendment defining the unborn as persons, but pro-life observers expect the similar amendments to show up on many state ballots next November. Not all pro-life advocates supported the effort, reigniting the debate over the best ways to pursue pro-life legislation at the state level.

Mississippi's proposed amendment would have defined "person" as "every human being from the moment of fertilization, cloning or the functional equivalent thereof."

Personhood USA has filed efforts to include similar personhood amendments on 2012 ballots in Nevada, California, Oregon, and Ohio. Similar initiatives are in process in Oklahoma, Arkansas, Wisconsin, Michigan, Alabama, Ohio, North Dakota and Colorado, where amendments are gathering petition signatures, sitting in steering committees, or waiting for legislative approval for a referendum.

Phyllis Schlafly's Eagle Forum publicly opposed Personhood USA's initiatives in several states in 2009, calling it a hurtful gimmick.

Personhood amendment supporters this year included Family Research Council and the American Family Association, but groups such as Americans United for Life (AUL) and the National Right to Life Committee (NRLC) distanced themselves.

Americans United for Life was "officially neutral" on the Mississippi ballot issue, according to senior counsel Clarke Forsythe, but he said the amendment lacked clarity. "The language leaves itself open to being attacked for prohibiting things that it doesn't," he said, referring to warnings by critics that the amendment could impact birth control and in vitro fertilization (IVF). Forsythe says that critics might have a point. He believes the lack of legislative history behind the ...

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November 2011

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