By Errol Castens/NEMS Daily Journal
OXFORD – More than 100 people gathered Wednesday afternoon on the Lafayette County Courthouse grounds to voice their opposition to Initiative 26, the Mississippi Personhood Initiative, which will be on the Nov. 8 ballot.
If passed, 26 will define “person” in the Mississippi State Constitution as “every human being from the moment of fertilization, cloning or the functional equivalent thereof.”
Proponents of the measure say it would protect the unborn, while opponents warn of ramifications from judicial and legislative quagmires to the outlawing of oral contraceptives and intrauterine devices.
Speakers spoke from medical, legal and personal perspectives. Dr. Tom Fowlkes shared the Mississippi State Medical Association’s statement on the initiative, which says common obstetrical and gynecological procedures “could be interpreted as murder or wrongful death if Proposal 26 passes.”
One speaker whose three children were conceived with fertility treatments noted Initiative 26 presumably would put limits on the number of eggs that can be fertilized for an in-vitro procedure. She said any promise that in-vitro fertilization would still be legal under Initiative 26 would be like a pledge to keep driving legal while rationing gasoline to one gallon per month.
Cristen Hemmins, one of the plaintiffs in an unsuccessful suit to keep the measure off the ballot, spoke of her experience almost 20 years ago when she was kidnapped, raped and, as she tried to escape, shot.
“If Initiative 26 had been in place when this happened to me, I would have had no options,” she said. “If I had gotten pregnant, I would have been forced by the government to bear a child, which might have killed me physically and emotionally.”
Rally-goers emphasized their opinions with signs touting such positions as “In Moms We Trust,” “Keep Birth Control Legal” and, paraphrasing the University of Mississippi’s signature cheer, “Hotty Toddy Gosh Almighty – Keep Your Laws Off My Body.”
The rally was sponsored by Lafayette County Women for Progress Anti-26 Subcommittee, Mississippians for Healthy Families and Parents Against Personhood.