Election Day 2011, will Mississippi vote for the "personhood" amendment?

Christi Chandler, left, and Stacy Hawsey, both of Madison and supporters of the Personhood Amendment promote their initiative as they waver signs at drivers in the midst of last minute campaigning Tuesday, Nov. 8, 2011 in Madison, Miss. The Mississippi measure that would define life as beginning at conception was given a decent chance of approval. Passage would be the first victory in the country for the so-called personhood movement, which aims to make abortion all but illegal. Similar attempts have failed in Colorado and are under way elsewhere. (AP Photo/Rogelio V. Solis) (AP Photo/Rogelio V. Solis)

Christi Chandler, left, and Stacy Hawsey, both of Madison and supporters of the Personhood Amendment promote their initiative as they waver signs at drivers in the midst of last minute campaigning Tuesday, Nov. 8, 2011 in Madison, Miss. The Mississippi measure that would define life as beginning at conception was given a decent chance of approval. Passage would be the first victory in the country for the so-called personhood movement, which aims to make abortion all but illegal. Similar attempts have failed in Colorado and are under way elsewhere.
Christi Chandler, left, and Stacy Hawsey, both of Madison and supporters of the Personhood Amendment promote their initiative as they wave signs at drivers in the midst of last minute campaigning Tuesday, Nov. 8, 2011 in Madison, Miss.
(AP Photo/Rogelio V. Solis)

JACKSON, Miss. - Mississippi voters Tuesday will decide on Initiative 26 - the personhood amemendment - which would declare that life begins at fertilization. CBS News correspondent Randall Pinkston reports the vote could set a precedent for the nation.

Atlee and Greg Breland told Pinkston that they have the family they always wanted, but it wasn't easy.

"When I was 28-years-old, Greg and I were diagnosed with infertility," Atlee said. They used in vitro fertilization to conceive their 5-year-old twin girls. But Atlee worries the proposed state constitutional amendment, declaring a fertilized egg a person, could limit fertility treatments for other Mississippi couples.

"I don't want Mississippians to have to go Washington, D.C. or New York or California to have infertility treatment," she said.

Mississippi votes, when does life begin?

Possible limits on in vitro fertilization is one reason why many clergy in Mississippi oppose personhood. Even the Catholic church is neutral.

"We believe life begins at conception," said Bishop Joseph Latino. "But we do not believe in personhood being the means of defending that."

Doctors call Mississippi "personhood" initiative dangerous
The politics of personhood in Mississippi

Why not? "Because of some unintended consequences," Latino said. He was also concerned inevitable legal challenges to personhood will complicate long-time efforts to overturn Roe v. Wade, the Supreme Court decision that legalized abortion.

Watch Pinkson's report from Sunday night

But proponents like Terri Herring, believe the personhood amendment will allow state legislators to to outlaw all abortions in Mississippi - even in cases of rape and incest. "Will America step to the plate and begin to frame its laws in such a way that we protect unborn children?"

Continuing anti-abortion campaigns have been very successful in Mississippi. A woman seeking an abortion is required to wait 24 hours after getting an appointment, and she must be given the opportunity to see a sonogram. There is only one clinic left in the entire state where a woman can get a legal abortion.

That's one too many for Herring, a mother of three, and long active in anti-abortion politics. "The heart's beating at 18 days. If not fertilization, then when does life begin?"

That's a question voters in half a dozen or more states, including Florida, Ohio, and California, may face in next year's presidential election, if drives to put personhood on the ballot there succeed.

  • Randall Pinkston

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