Mississippi Pro-Life Advocates Submit Signatures for Personhood-Abortion Amdt
by Steven Ertelt
February 17, 2010
Jackson, MS (LifeNews.com) — In Mississippi yesterday, pro-life advocates submitted more than 130,000 signatures to get a personhood amendment on the state ballot. The amendment would define an unborn child as a human being starting at fertilization, but some legal observers say it will be overturned.
The amendment is the fourth ballot initiative since 1992 to fulfill the requirement of 89,285 voter signatures.
Personhood Mississippi sponsored the ballot drive and volunteers have been collecting signatures since February of last year.
The group informed LifeNews.com today that 105,000 of the submitted signatures were certified as valid by 82 different County Circuit Clerks. More than 2,000 volunteers and over 1,000 churches helped with the campaign.
Lieutenant Governor Phil Bryant was present at yesterday’s press conference, helping to turn in the boxes of completed petitions.
Les Riley, a representative of the group, told LifeNews.com, "Despite the superfluous restrictions set before us, the people of Mississippi have spoken. With God’s blessing we have made history and exceeded the signature requirement by tens of thousands."
"In the next few days, we fully expect Secretary of State Dilbert Hosemann to approve our amendment, as we have exceeded all requirements by the State of Mississippi," Riley said.
Hosemann said he was delighted to get the signatures, according to WLOX.
"As someone who is personally pro-life, I admire our citizens’ statement regarding the preservation of human life and their commitment to this being part of our Constitution," he said. "I am pleased to receive the signatures today, and I commend the efforts of the thousands of Mississippians who circulated and signed the petition."
Turning in the signatures came days after the pro-life group filed a lawsuit against state officials in order to be able to get the amendment on the ballot. The lawsuit attempts to clarify the intent of the amendment.
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.
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 … Measure 26 will never appear on the ballot," he says.
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 spend so much time and money" on an effort that he believes is doomed to fail.
"What is the point in collecting signatures for an initiative that cannot ever appear on the ballot?" he asked.
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."
The amendment states: "The term ‘person’ or ‘persons’ shall include every human being from the moment of fertilization, cloning, or the functional equivalent thereof."
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