Mississippi Pro-Lifers File Lawsuit to Get Personhood Amendment on Ballot
by Steven Ertelt
February 2, 2010
Washington, DC (LifeNews.com) — A Mississippi pro-life group has filed a lawsuit against state officials in order to be able to get a personhood amendment on the state ballot. Such an amendment would declare that unborn children are persons starting at conception and could overturn laws allowing abortion or human cloning.
Personhood Mississippi filed suit against Attorney General Jim Hood and Secretary of State Delbert Hosemann in their official capacities.
The group has been working since February of last year to collect signatures for a ballot access initiative that would put an amendment before state voters in 2011.
The amendment states: "The term ‘person’ or ‘persons’ shall include every human being from the moment of fertilization, cloning, or the functional equivalent thereof."
The lawsuit, which will be filed by attorney Stephen Crampton today, attempts to clarify the intent of the amendment and give volunteers the full twelve months to circulate petitions as outlined by statutes and the County Clerk the time needed to correctly validate the signatures.
"We are confident that we are well on our way to putting Personhood on the ballot," Personhood Mississippi sponsor Les Riley told LifeNews.com today. "This lawsuit is simply to ensure that the valid signatures are recognized by the state. Our volunteers have worked hard to submit so many valid signatures, and we want to ensure that every voice is heard."
Riley said the need for a lawsuit arose when a large portion of valid signatures were wrongly discounted by some County Circuit Clerk’s offices.
"I noticed that my father’s signature was marked as invalid, yet he is a registered voter and his information was correct," amendment supporter Buddy Hariston told LifeNews.com.
"This prompted me to obtain my county’s voter database, and I was shocked to see that about three out of every four discounted signatures were actually legitimate. It seems that the County Circuit Clerk’s office has too short a timeframe to complete the verification process with precision," he added.
Personhood Mississippi has until February 12, 2010 to get 89,285 valid signatures.
But not every pro-life advocate is on board with the strategy and one attorney worries the entire effort will be struck down in courts.
Paul Linton, a prominent pro-life attorney, tells LifeNews.com he doesn’t think the amendment will ever get before Mississippi voters.
He explains that the under the express terms of the Mississippi Constitution, the Bill of Rights cannot be amended by the initiative mechanism.
"Thus, even if the necessary signatures are obtained by the February 12th deadline, which is doubtful, Measure 26 will never appear on the ballot," he says.
As such, Linton predicts that "even if the proponents of Measure 26 gather enough signatures to place the initiative on the ballot, it will be struck from the ballot by the Mississippi Supreme Court because the subject of the initiative lies outside the scope of the permitted uses of the initiative mechanism."
Linton says it ‘would be exceptionally embarrassing to the pro-life movement in Mississippi to continue with the signature gathering process. What is the point in collecting signatures for an initiative that cannot ever appear on the ballot?"
The court may even strike down the amendment process under the lawsuit Personhood Mississippi filed, using Linton’s logic.
"It could happen after the signatures have been gathered and before it is placed on the ballot. Or it could happen after it is voted on," he writes. "But one thing is certainInitiative Measure No. 26 will never become part of the Mississippi Constitution. The Bill of Rights cannot be amended via the initiative process."
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