JACKSON — Opponents say they are angry that Mississippi lawmakers are considering proposals to declare life begins at conception, months after voters rejected a similar constitutional amendment.
Several bills would also put new restrictions on abortion in a state that already requires a 24-hour waiting period before any abortion can be performed and parental consent for a minor seeking the procedure.
Clinton resident Fran Peacock said yesterday at the Capitol that lawmakers are declaring “war on women” with new proposals that would recognize legal rights for fetuses.
“You should be furious,” Peacock, 32, told about 30 people at a news conference. “Even though the people of Mississippi voted against personhood, our lawmakers tried to pass this and 28 additional bills against our will and without our consent. This is war on women. Mississippians must contact your state senator, your state representative and Gov. Phil Bryant and remind them that ‘No’ means ‘No.'”
House Concurrent Resolution 61, by five Republican House members, is a constitutional amendment that would define “person” as “all human beings from conception to natural death.” The resolution says the new proposal could not be construed to prohibit in-vitro fertilization, life-saving medical procedures or “contraceptives or other methods of birth control that do not kill a person.”
Senate Concurrent Resolution 555, by Republican Sen. Joey Fillingane of Sumrall, is a proposed constitutional amendment that says it would be the policy of Mississippi to “protect the life of every unborn child from conception to birth, to the extent permitted by the federal Constitution.”
Both await consideration in committees, although Fillingane has said doesn’t expect his resolution to advance.
The “personhood” amendment last November, Initiative 26, would’ve declared life begins at fertilization. It was rejected by 58 percent of voters amid concerns that it would hamper in-vitro fertilization or ban some forms of birth control.
Terri Herring of Madison, national director of Pro Life America Network, said yesterday she believes voters were misinformed by Planned Parenthood and other groups that spent money to defeat the life-at-fertilization amendment.
“There were concerns that were maybe valid concerns, but now we have to look beyond those concerns and find a solution,” Herring said Thursday of the defeated ballot initiative. “Certainly, the solution is not to say that 58 percent of the people in Mississippi are not pro-life. Because you can ask any lawmaker — there’s not a lawmaker in this House that does not run on a pro-life platform. That’s not by mistake. That’s because they know that Mississippi is pro-life. So what we’re doing is looking for other ways to engage the public that will not stir up the in-vitro fertilization couples that certainly deserve to have children.”
Michelle Colon of Jackson said people understood what they were voting on.
“I said what I had to say on Nov. 8. I said, ‘Hell, no’ to 26, along with 58 percent of Mississippi voters,” said Colon, 39. “That was women, men, black, white, young, old, mothers, fathers and teenage girls.”
Among the other proposals awaiting consideration is House Bill 857, sponsored by Republican Rep. Alex Monsour of Vicksburg, which is called the “pain-capable unborn child protection act.” It would ban abortion starting at 20 weeks’ gestation unless the pregnant woman is in danger of dying or faces “serious risk of substantial and irreversible physical impairment.” The standard gestation for a full-term pregnancy is 40 weeks.