In a Nov. 4 email alert, the president of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission (ERLC) encouraged Mississippians to vote for the Mississippi Personhood Amendment in Nov. 8 balloting.
Land said in the email, "I believe you'll agree it is unjust and inaccurate to classify certain human beings as 'non-persons.' Amendment 26 will clarify this for the state of Mississippi and bring full legal protection to its unborn citizens.
"We hope you will take this important opportunity to join the citizens of Mississippi and defend the most vulnerable humans among us," Land said.
On the ballot, the proposed amendment will appear as Initiative Measure No. 26, which asks: "Should the term 'person' be defined to include every human being from the moment of fertilization, cloning, or the equivalent thereof?"
A "yes" vote would mean a voter wants the amendment to become part of the state constitution. If the amendment is ratified, the state constitution will have a new section saying: "The term 'person' or 'persons' shall include every human being from the moment of fertilization, cloning or the functional equivalent thereof."
Passage of Amendment 26 would be a significant victory for the young, nationwide personhood movement. No state has approved such a ballot initiative. Colorado voters defeated personhood initiatives in both the 2008 and 2010 elections.
Backers of such initiatives hope one will be used to revisit and strike down Roe v. Wade, the 1973 U.S. Supreme Court opinion that legalized abortion. Some pro-lifers have refused to support the personhood approach, contending it is an unwise strategic move under the current Supreme Court.
Abortion rights organizations have gone to court and campaigned to prevent the amendment from being enacted. The ACLU, Planned Parenthood and the Center for Reproductive Rights sued to keep the initiative off the ballot, contending it would violate the U.S. Constitution's Bill of Rights. The Mississippi Supreme Court, however, rejected the challenge in early September and ruled the proposal could be on the ballot.
The effort required the signatures of more than 89,000 Mississippians to qualify for the ballot. More than 106,000 signatures were certified.
Advocates for abortion rights have argued the amendment will make illegal the use of hormonal contraceptives, such as birth control pills, and in vitro fertilization (IVF). The amendment's backers, however, say it will not ban IVF or most forms of birth control pills, although it will outlaw the abortion drug RU 486.
Supporters of Amendment 26 deny it will legalize human cloning. There is no state prohibition on cloning, they point out. Backers of the amendment say it would prevent research cloning in which stem cells are harvested from cloned embryos, destroying the days-old human beings. They call for a state ban on all human cloning after the amendment's adoption.
The alert from Land went to Mississippians who subscribe to the ERLC's email newsletter. The ERLC cooperated with the Christian Action Commission of the Mississippi Baptist Convention in urging voters to support the amendment.
Tom Strode is Washington bureau chief for Baptist Press.
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