The North Dakota House of Representatives has passed the first personhood amendment in the United States, 57-35. Read more
Washington D.C. -- Pro-abortion bedfellows, Planned Parenthood and the ACLU, are teaming up across the country to interfere with the right of citizens to petition the government, on behalf of the preborn, for a redress of grievances.
On Wednesday, Planned Parenthood President Cecile Richards sent a fundraising letter to abortion proponents noting that “this ballot initiative is about more than just one state. Anti-choice activists hope that a win in Mississippi will lead to a national movement.” Richards boasts that they have “stopped similar efforts in other states,” and pleads for “help to stop this dangerous ballot initiative.”
Planned Parenthood tried, unsuccessfully, to thwart the Mississippi personhood effort by filing suit last year portending that the amendment would alter the state’s Bill of Rights, a move prohibited by state law.
In the majority opinion the State Supreme Court would have no part of it. Justice Randy G. Pierce wrote:
“The dissent worries that Measure 26 ‘seeks to modify the definition’ of ‘person or persons’ as they appear in the Mississippi Constitution. But those terms have never been defined. Therefore, Measure 26 cannot modify a definition that does not now exist.”
In just three weeks, Mississippians will decide whether or not to recognize the rights of persons not yet born by defining the term “person” to “include every human being from the moment of fertilization, cloning or the functional equivalent thereof."
“They’re starting to show signs of desperation,” said Keith Mason, President of Personhood USA, an organization assisting the grassroots personhood groups. “Personhood is a growing and thriving movement. Planned Parenthood knows exactly what the consequences will be—Roe v. Wade defeated and an end to the abortion profiteering.”
The latest attack is in Nevada where the abortion allies are challenging two personhood measures--one proposed by the Nevada Pro-life Coalition. A judge ruled against the Nevada groups last year citing the “single subject rule” which requires that amendments be limited in scope to a single issue. A 2008 Planned Parenthood lawsuit in Colorado on the same grounds failed.
“Of course it was broad, but it was a single issue,” said Chet Gallagher, President of the Nevada Pro-life Coalition. “It’s a human rights issue--a measure designed to include a people group who have been perpetually discriminated against and killed. Can you imagine a judge ruling that extending personhood to African-Americans after the Civil War was not a single issue?”
The Nevada Pro-life Coalition’s recent proposal leaves no room for doubt by specifically addressing the foundational right to life. It reads:
“Unalienable right to life of every prenatal person is protected. The intentional taking of a prenatal person’s life shall never be allowed in this State. For the purpose of this section only, the term 'prenatal person' includes every human being at all stages of biological development before birth.”
“If Planned Parenthood and the ACLU believe that by affirming the single principle of one's right to life we are running counter to the people’s right to petition, they are sorely mistaken,” continued Mason. “They lost in Colorado, they lost in Mississippi, and they will lose in Nevada.”
The question of when life begins may be given needed clarity this November as voters in Mississippi are asked to render judgment on an initiative that would define “personhood.”
The amendment would, if enacted, add “The term ‘person’ or ‘persons’ shall include every human being from the moment of fertilization, cloning, or the functional equivalent thereof” to the state constitution.
Mississippi citizens collected over 130,000 signatures, 40,000 more than were needed to qualify it for the Nov. 8, 2011 ballot.
According to Keith Mason, the president of Personhood USA—a group backing the initiative—its purpose “is to guarantee the equal and inalienable rights of every human being, no matter their age or any number of accidental characteristics such as race, gender, disability, or method of reproduction.”
The measure is drawing strong support across the state, with some polls showing an excess of 80 percent support for it. It has also been endorsed by Lt. Gov. Phil Bryant, who is running for governor, Attorney General Jim Hood, and both of their opponents in the general election. It also enjoys wide bi-partisan support among candidate for the state legislature.
Opposing Initiative 26 are the state’s chapter of the Planned Parenthood Federation of America and the American Civil Liberties Union, which are making a procedural case against it—a tactic the state Supreme Court rejected—rather than arguing that it is unconstitutional or in some way runs counter to the United States Supreme Court’s ruling in Roe vs. Wade which legalized abortion on demand through the ninth month of pregnancy.
In fact, say supporters like Mason, the language of the initiative could pull the rug out from under Roe. Writing for the majority, Justice Harry Blackmun wrote, “If this suggestion of personhood is established, the appellant’s case [for decriminalized abortion], of course, collapses, for the fetus’s right to life would then be guaranteed specifically by the Amendment.”
The effort is part of a larger, global movement to define when life begins in an effort to undercut the case for legalized abortion. Should the measure in Mississippi succeed then the debate here in the United States would take on a whole new life.
Jackson, Miss. -- Supporters of a Mississippi ballot measure that would amend the state constitution to define the word “person” to include the preborn and recognize the equal rights of every human being are reporting rampant theft and vandalism of campaign signs across the state.
Pelahatchie resident Buddy Hairston relayed that a 4 foot by 6 foot sign at his local church had been knocked over by the vandals. “It took some serious force to bend the metal posts,” he said.
A southern Mississippi gas station was forced to call the police when a woman attempted to destroy a large Yes on 26 campaign sign that had been erected on the property. “She just got out of her car, walked up to it, and started tearing it apart,” reported Personhood Mississippi Director Les Riley. “When police arrived, she told them that she was ‘exercising her First Amendment right to free speech.’
”Pro-life volunteers also took notice of a post on a Facebook page in which an opponent boasts that while she and another person were “leaving Desoto County” they had taken it upon themselves “to take every sign we saw down.”
“We welcome vigorous debate. That's what this country was founded upon. However, theft, vandalism, and intimidation efforts are not acceptable,” stated Riley. “Perhaps, if those who would resort to such tactics would realize there will be consequences, they might not do it.”
On the same Facebook comment thread, an attorney from Chicago replies “That is AWESOME!” and expresses her relief that she is able to vote in Mississippi while residing in Illinois. “I am so glad I vote at home in Mississippi still so I can help get rid of this nonsense,” it reads.
Riley says they group reported the comment to the Voter Fraud Division, but asks that supporters remain vigilant and continue to report all suspected cases of fraud to the Mississippi Secretary of State’s Office.
“Planned Parenthood and the ACLU’s attempts to have the Mississippi Personhood Amendment removed from the ballot failed, and the pro-abortion proponents are showing signs of desperation,” said Personhood USA President Keith Mason. “They’re realizing that the abortion era is almost over, but our message that every human being is a person, and every person has a right to live, will not be silenced.”
Fresh off a win at the Mississippi Supreme Court, backers of a so-called “Personhood Amendment” are looking forward to making their case to voters.
On Nov. 8, voters across the state will decide whether or not to amend the Mississippi constitution so that in the words of the proposed amendment, “The term ‘person’ or ‘persons’ shall include every human being from the moment of fertilization.”
A number of pro-choice groups, including the ACLU and Planned Parenthood, sued to keep the initiative off the November ballot. In ruling to allow it, the Mississippi Supreme Court held, “Just as this Court cannot prohibit legislators from offering proposals in the House or Senate, this Court cannot impede voters from submitting proposals through the voter initiative process.” The Court did not address the content of the ballot initiative.
Opponents warn that the measure will radically interfere with women’s most personal healthcare decisions. “This measure is harmful to women,” Brian Atwood, legal director of the ACLU said.
Atwood characterized the proposed amendment as something that could “severely limit women’s access to birth control, in vitro fertilization and life-saving medical procedures.”
Keith Mason, president of Personhood USA, said those claims are simply false.
“We are planning to take these arguments head-on in Mississippi,” Mason says. He also argues that many of the groups that oppose measures like the one in Mississippi stand “to profit” from abortion, and that accounts for at least part of their motivation.
Although a similar ballot measure has failed twice in Colorado, Mason is optimistic about success in Mississippi.
“Around 80 percent of the electorate is pro-life,” Mason said. “The only way we could see defeat in Mississippi … is if folks just sit at home and do nothing.”
Though it was among the losing parties at the Mississippi Supreme Court, the Center for Reproductive Rights believes it will ultimately prevail. It is urging voters to defeat the Personhood Amendment and warning, “This measure should raise all kinds of alarms.”
Should voters approve the measure, legal fights are guaranteed and opponents feel confident the content of the amendment will not survive legal scrutiny.
Supporters plan to forge ahead. They hope to have Personhood Amendments on at least a dozen state ballots by Election Day 2012.
by Shannon Beamhttp://www.foxnews.com/politics/2011/09/12/supporters-personhood-amendme…
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Planned Parenthood loses bid to stop Mississippi pro-life personhood amendment
by Jeremy Kryn
JACKSON, MS, September 12, 2011 (LifeSiteNews.com) – The Mississippi Supreme Court on Thursday rejected an appeal by Planned Parenthood to keep a “Personhood Amendment” off the November 2011 general election ballot.
Mississippi’s Personhood Amendment 26 would amend the Mississippi Constitution to define the word “person” or “persons” to “include every human being from the moment of fertilization, cloning, or the functional equivalent thereof.”
“With the first two hurdles overcome, only the third hurdle of Election Day remains for us to claim victory in our state’s personhood movement,” said Yes on 26 Executive Director Brad Prewitt. “We need Mississippi’s prolife public officials, pastors, and patriots to stand up and be counted in the days ahead as we seek to become the first state in the nation to grant civil rights to the unborn.”
The national pro-life organization Personhood USA collected more than 106,000 certified signatures in favor of putting Measure 26 on the November ballot. This was despite Mississippi Attorney General Jim Hood’s interpretation of the law that resulted in an early cutoff date, which prevented a number of signatures from being counted.
According to Mississippi law, for an initiative measure to be placed on the ballot, a minimum of 89,285 certified signatures must be gathered, with at least 17,857 certified signatures from each of the five congressional districts as they existed in the year 2000. This required number of signatures represents 12% of the total number of votes cast for Governor in the last gubernatorial general election.
In July of 2010, Planned Parenthood, the Center for Reproductive Rights, and the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) filed suit to disallow Mississippi voters from voting on the Mississippi Personhood Amendment, claiming that it was an improper attempt to modify the Bill of Rights. The Hinds County Circuit Court and now the State Supreme Court, with a 7-2 vote of the justices, have rejected their challenge.
“Our law provides that this court cannot interfere with the legislative act of the people, just as this court cannot interfere with the attempt of the Legislature to pass a law,” Associate Justice Randy Pierce said in the majority opinion.
Associate Justices James Kitchens and Leslie King said in their dissent that the measure is an attempt to add “a new section” to the Mississippi Bill of Rights, not possible through a ballot measure.
An ACLU representative called Measure 26 “extreme.”
“This initiative is extreme and could severely undermine women’s access to birth control, in-vitro fertilization and life-saving medical procedures,” said ACLU of Mississippi legal director Bear Atwood.
A Colorado initiative that would have given personhood status in the state constitution to all human beings “from the beginning of biological development” made it onto the state ballot but failed the popular vote in 2008 and in 2010.
By Bill Mears, CNN
September 9, 2011 7:47 p.m. EDT
(CNN) — Voters in Mississippi will be given a chance to decide whether life begins at conception, a controversial abortion-related ballot initiative that the state’s highest court has refused to block.
The Mississippi Supreme Court late Thursday allowed Measure 26, also known as the Personhood Amendment, to appear on the state ballot November 8. The decision was a rejection of a lawsuit filed by the ACLU and abortion-rights groups.
The 7-2 ruling said those groups had not met the legal burden required to restrict the right of citizens to amend the state constitution.
“We cannot invade the territory of the legislature or the electorate to review the substantive validity of a proposed initiative, and thereby, we will honor the maxim embodied in the constitutional mandate of separation of powers,” said Justice Randy Pierce for the court.
He said any challenges to the constitutionality of such statutes can come only after they are enacted or approved by voters.
The measure would amend the constitution to extend “personhood” to the unborn, likely rendering abortions illegal in the state if upheld.
Anti-abortion forces hope the amendment, if passed, would ultimately be appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court, providing another opportunity for the justices to overturn the landmark Roe v. Wade decision legalizing abortion.
“Although our opponents were beaten in this lawsuit, we know that they will not stop in their desperate attempts to deny the obvious truth that life begins at conception and that every life deserves to be protected in the law,” said Steve Crampton, general counsel of the conservative legal group Liberty Counsel. “Not only Mississippians, but all Americans, should support this commonsense amendment.”
A coalition of abortion-rights groups — including Planned Parenthood Federation of America and the Center for Reproductive Rights — expressed disappointment in the opinion.
“A measure will be on the ballot that will allow the government to dictate what is a private matter that’s best decided by a woman, her family and within the context of her faith. Mississippi voters should reject this intrusive and dangerous measure,” said Nsombi Lambright, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Mississippi.
Mississippi is the only state with a “personhood” initiative on the ballot this year. Similar measures are being planned for next year in Florida, Montana and Ohio, say supporters. Efforts it at least five other states are in the planning stages.
The state high court also allowed separate ballot initiatives on eminent domain and voter identification.
The property rights initiative would block the state from taking private land and giving it to another person or business. Eminent domain has traditionally been used to acquire a citizen’s land for such projects as transportation and infrastructure improvements, but the U.S. Supreme Court has recently given local governments the power to use eminent domain for private economic development.
The other measure endorsed by the Mississippi court would require voters to present state-issued identification when they vote.
The “personhood” case is Hughes v. Hosemann (2010-1949).
State Supreme Court clears path for issue to be on November ballot
Posted: September 09, 2011
1:30 am Eastern
By Bob Unruh
© 2011 WND
Mississippi rally to add personhood amendment to state’s constitution
The Mississippi Supreme Court today cleared the way for voters to decide on a “personhood” ballot initiative in November that would threaten the state’s abortion industry and the U.S. Supreme Court’s Roe v. Wade decision that nullifed state laws banning abortion.
An organization called Personhood Mississippi explains that if Ballot Measure 26 instituting a personhood amendment is approved, all human beings in the state would be afforded equal rights and protection from the time of conception. The law would effectively outlaw abortion, cloning and human embryo research in a way that would “challenge Roe v. Wade at its very core.”
The measure had been challenged by abortion interests who contended that voters were not allowed to “change” the definition of “person.”
But Justice Randy G. Pierce said that assertion was incorrect.
“To be clear, it is the province of this court to interpret the meaning of the Mississippi Constitution, and no opinion issued by this court has interpreted the meaning of the word ‘person’ as it is used throughout the constitution,” he wrote. “The dissent worries that Measure 26 ‘seeks to modify the definition’ of ‘person or persons’ as they appear in the Mississippi constitution. But those terms have never been defined. Therefore, Measure 26 cannot modify a definition that does not now exist.”
(Story continues below)
The concept of declaring an unborn infant a person under the law to defeat the abortion industry comes from the original Roe v. Wade decision itself. The court in 1973 noted that should the “personhood” of the unborn be established, then they would be protected by the constitutional provisions afforded everyone.
The Mississippi court’s opinion said, too, that the court in Mississippi “cannot interfere with the legislative act of the people, just as this court cannot interfere with the attempt of the legislature to pass a law.”
“Nothing in our constitution as it exists today gives this court the authority to review the validity of a proposal prior to its enactment, which is exactly what plaintiffs request this court to do. This court is without power to interfere with pre-election proposals, because to do so may place the administration of government at the footstool of the judiciary,” the ruling said.The American Civil Liberties Union and Planned Parenthood lost their legal challenge at the district court level and then again at the state Supreme Court.
The one-sentence amendment reads, “The term ‘person’ or ‘persons’ shall include every human being from the moment of fertilization, cloning or the functional equivalent thereof.”
“We believed that the court would uphold the rights of Mississippi voters, and we are thankful that they have done so,” said Keith Mason, president of PersonhoodUSA. “Mississippians volunteered thousands of hours of their time to ensure that voters would have the right to vote on this prolife amendment, and their voices should be heard.”
More than 106,000 certified signatures were turned in to place the measure on the ballot for the Nov. 8 election.
“When passed, Measure No. 26 to the Mississippi Constitution would define ‘person’ to include ‘every human being from the moment of fertilization, cloning or the functional equivalent thereof,’” explained Brad Prewitt, executive director of the American Family Association. “This simple definition would not only bring the legal definition of personhood into line with what the overwhelming majority of Mississippians already believe, but would also be consistent with current law on crimes against pregnant women and the unborn.
“The unborn, whether naturally or artificially created, would then have the same legal rights that others already have,” he said.
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Miss. court upholds election on ballot initiatives
JACK ELLIOTT JR., Associated Press
JACKSON, Miss. (AP) — An amendment that seeks to define life as beginning at conception and one about eminent domain can appear on the Nov. 8 general election ballot, the Mississippi Supreme Court ruled on Thursday.
A majority of the nine justices reinforced a 2000 ruling that said they cannot rule on the constitutionality of measures until voters or legislators have had a chance to pass them. The court dismissed challenges filed by opponents.
Eminent domain is the process that government uses to take private land for projects ranging from road construction to industrial development. The proposed amendment would prohibit state and local government from taking private land to give to another person or business.
An initiative to require people show proper ID to vote also will be on the ballot. The state Election Commission meets Friday to finalize the sample ballot that will be sent to counties.
“Over 100,000 Mississippi citizens expressed their desire to have a voice on the Personhood and Eminent Domain constitutional initiatives. The Supreme Court has decided to allow the initiatives to stay on the ballot. Voters will now determine whether these initiatives will be part of our constitution,” Secretary of State Delbert Hosemann said in a statement.
Two Hinds County circuit judges had earlier rejected opponents’ arguments against the amendments dealing with life beginning at conception or “personhood” and eminent domain. The judges said each had gotten the proper number of signatures to be placed on the ballot. The judges did not address the constitutional issues raised in either lawsuit.
“This court is without power to determine the constitutionality of a proposed statute, amendment, or initiative prior to its approval by the Legislature or electorate,” wrote Justice Randy Pierce in a 7-2 decision.
While abortion has been central in the debate about personhood, those in the lawsuit have clashed over whether it oversteps the boundaries for proposed state constitutional amendments.
Groups that support abortion rights — Planned Parenthood Federation of America and the state and national chapters of the American Civil Liberties Union — helped sue.
“A measure will be on the ballot that will allow the government to dictate what is a private matter that’s best decided by a woman, her family and within the context of her faith. Mississippi voters should reject this intrusive and dangerous measure,” said Nsombi Lambright, executive director of the ACLU of Mississippi.
Others — such as Pro-Life Mississippi, the American Family Association and the Mississippi Baptist Convention — support it.
Keith Mason of Arvada, Colo., co-founder of Personhood USA, said Mississippi is the only state with such an amendment on the ballot this fall. He said people are gathering signatures in Montana, Florida and Ohio to try to put nearly identical initiatives on ballots in 2012. He said similar efforts will start soon in Colorado, California, North Dakota, Nevada and Arkansas.
Mason said the Mississippi personhood amendment could lead to a challenge of Roe v. Wade.
“This will send shockwaves around this country, then around the world,” Mason said Thursday in Mississippi.
An attorney for proponents said his group needs to “celebrate this hard-won victory, but tomorrow we roll up our sleeves and return to work.
“Our opponents are discouraged, but not yet ultimately defeated,” said Stephen Crampton. “They will be back, spreading fear, confusion, and dire ‘sky-is-falling’ warnings about this simple amendment, and we must be ready to rebut their baseless charges and set the record straight.”
Pierce also said in his opinion that the Supreme Court couldn’t review a constitutional question that was not addressed by the Hinds County court.
Opponents were asking the court to rule on whether a proposal was constitutional before it had been adopted into the constitution, he said.
“As a matter of judicial policy, this court does not issue advisory opinions. Moreover, this court has found that advance opinions will not be issued to remove alleged clouds or uncertainties from proposed statutes or constitutional amendments,” Pierce said.
Justice Jim Kitchens, in a dissent joined by Justice Leslie King, said he believed the personhood proposal was an attempt to modify the Bill of Rights.
The politically powerful Mississippi Farm Bureau Federation sponsored the eminent domain initiative and gathered signatures to place it on the ballot. Supporters have said the amendment will protect property rights.
Opponents were led by businessman Leland Speed. He is director of the Mississippi Development Authority, but said he was acting as a private citizen, not as a public official, when he legally challenged the measure.
Speed said Mississippi does not have a history of an abuse of property rights or eminent domain for economic development. Speed said the amendment, if passed, would take power away from the courts to determine what is public use for economic development. He said it also would prevent the Legislature, the governor and local officials from getting together to pursue economic development for the state.
Justice Ann Lamar, writing for the majority in an identical 7-2 decision, said the court would not issue an improper advisory opinion. Lamar said the court also would not be rushed into deciding the constitutional merits.