Mississippi voters will be allowed to decide on a ballot measure that defines “personhood” from the moment of fertilization, the Mississippi Supreme Court ruled last week. The measure could potentially outlaw abortions, birth control, in vitro fertilization and stem cell research across the state.
Measure 26, which will bypass the legislature and go straight to a popular ballot vote, redefines the term “person” as it appears throughout Mississippi’s Bill of Rights to include “all human beings from the moment of fertilization, cloning or the functional equivalent thereof.” The American Civil Liberties Union of Mississippi, Planned Parenthood and the Center for Reproductive Rights filed a lawsuit against the proposal earlier this year, not based on its content or constitutionality, but because Mississippi state law says a ballot initiative cannot be used to change the Bill of Rights.
The Mississippi Supreme Court rejected the lawsuit in a 7-2 ruling, saying that it had no power to review any ballot initiative before the actual vote takes place.
“We didn’t lose on the merits of the case, but what’s disappointing is that it means the measure does go on the ballot that could later be held unconstitutional,” said Alexa Kolbi-Molinas, an ACLU attorney on the case.
Les Riley, the founder of Personhood Mississippi, whose primary mission is to get Measure 26 passed, told HuffPost that he believes the ballot initiative is legal and valid because it does not alter the state constitution, but simply defines a particular word in it that should have been defined by the Supreme Court in the 38 years since Roe v. Wade.