Mississippi is an "enormously pro-life state," Gov. Haley Barbour said Wednesday, but he and other opponents to abortion rights in the state are nevertheless concerned about an anti-abortion amendment on the ballot there.
Next week, on November 8, Mississippi voters will vote on Initiative 26, otherwise known as the "personhood initiative," which would amend the state constitution to declare a fertilized human egg a "person." The one-paragraph initiative asks voters: "Should the term 'person' be defined to include every human being from the moment of fertilization, cloning, or the equivalent thereof?"
"I'm somebody that believes life begins at conception, that's one of the reasons I'm pro-life," Barbour said Wednesday on Fox News. "But a lot of pro-life people have problems with this particular language... There's concern this is ambiguous, even in an enormously pro-life state like mine, there is some concern about this."
Later on MSNBC, Barbour added, "I am concerned about some of the ramifications on in vitro fertilization, ectopic pregnancies where pregnancies [occur] outside the uterus and in the fallopian tubes. That concerns me, I have to just say it."
While the Colorado-based group behind the initiative, Personhood USA, is focused on abortion, several experts have spoken out about the amendment's potential unintended consequences. The initiative has no exceptions for pregnancies that result from rape or incest, or for life-threatening conditions such as ectopic pregnancies, as Barbour mentioned.
The Mississippi section of the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists said in a statement to its members, "This amendment is not just a Pro-Choice or Pro-Life amendment. It has numerous unintended consequences that will affect the care of our patients."
In a recent panel on the initiative, Stephen Crampton of Liberty Counsel, a Florida-based nonprofit that opposes abortion,the initiative.
"There is a moment when the chromosomes from a woman and the chromosomes from a man unite and form a unique, new individual," Crampton said. "The question, then, is simple: Is it fully human -- is he or she fully human? And is he or she alive? The answer to both of those questions is emphatically yes. As a society, it becomes incumbent upon us to take steps to recognize that fact and then to implement laws to protect it."
In Washington, Republican leaders of the House have putat the top of the agenda, but the recent has been arguably more significant. Anti-abortion advocates are hoping to prompt the Supreme Court to review Roe v. Wade by passing laws in the states that test the limits of the landmark case.
Barbour suggested today the "personhood" initiative may not be the best way to do that.
"Strategically, there's some national organizations that think this may mess up trying to get more pro-life policies adopted nationally," Barbour said on MSNBC. "The proponents seem to think this is a way to the Supreme Court. The opponents who are pro-life think this isn't a good way to go to the Supreme Court -- it may not help, it may hurt."