Anti-abortion group petitions for amendment

By Galen Holley/NEMS Daily Journal

TUPELO – A voter initiative with roots in Northeast Mississippi has made its voice heard in hopes of overturning a Supreme Court decision and outlawing abortion in the state.
Representatives from Personhoood Mississippi held an afternoon rally Tuesday at the office of Secretary of State Delbert Hosemann, where they presented a petition bearing more than 120,000 signatures.
The names represented people who believe that a fertilized egg constitutes a person, that life begins at conception. If validated, the signatures will be sufficient to get a state constitutional amendment on the ballot next year with that definition of personhood.
Personhood sponsor Les Riley of Pontotoc sees the concept of a person as the key in overturning Roe v. Wade, the 1973 decision in which the U.S. Supreme Court established a legal right to an abortion.
“The issue of exactly who or what counts as a person is a fundamental question that the original decision didn’t address,” said Riley, who, along with his wife, Christy, has 10 children.
Riley helped start the grassroots movement just over a year ago along with fellow members of Christ Community Church in New Albany.
The group exceeded the 90,000 signatures required by Feb. 13 in order to have the proposed amendment to the Mississippi Constitution appear on the 2011 ballot.
Abortion opponents in other states, such as Georgia, have undertaken similar efforts, and Riley is convinced that “courts don’t make laws; they decide disputes.”
Riley anticipates possible legal opposition of the proposal; however, he believes it’s up to the legislature to make laws and the courts to mediate between disagreeing parties.
He also insists this isn’t a political ploy to motivate conservative voters to get to the polls.
“People across the political spectrum have supported this,” said Riley, noting that petition signers include House Speaker Billy McCoy, a Democrat, and Lt. Gov. Phil Bryant, a Republican.
“This isn’t a partisan issue,” said Riley. “It’s a life issue.”

Contact Galen Holley at (662) 678-1510 or galen.holley@djournal.com.