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Mississippi Supreme Court Hears ‘Personhood’ Arguments

By Jeffrey Hess | Published 06 Jun 2011 05:00pm | comments

The Mississippi Supreme Court is now deciding if a proposed "personhood" amendment to the state constitution can be on the ballot in November. MPB's Jeffrey Hess reports that the court heard arguments from both sides Monday afternoon.

Supporters of the proposed constitutional amendment...known as a "personhood" amendment because it seeks to legally define life as beginning at conception...collected signatures to get the issue on this November's ballot.

Two women quickly sued to stop the amendment, claiming that it would alter the state Bill of Rights.

Their lawyer, Robert McDuff, told the Court on Monday that according to the state constitution only the state legislature can authorize a vote on an amendment that changes Mississippi's Bill of Rights.

"The proposed measure violates the Mississippi constitution which provides that if you are going to propose or modify a portion of the Mississippi Bill of Rights, the way to do it is by persuading the elected representatives of the people to put it on the ballot," McDuff said.

Attorney Steve Crampton with Liberty Council defended the proposal, arguing that defining the word "person" would not change the state Bill of Rights in any material way.

"Their position results in absurdity. Under their construction of the terms at issue here, even to try to fix a simple typographical error, even a missing comma, would be something that the people no longer have the right to do," Crampton said.

For supporters of the amendment, who filled the rows in the Supreme Court chamber, "personhood" is an attempt to outlaw abortion in the state.

Amendment support Kendal Boutwell says every life should be protected.

"Every life has value. In slavery, people were discriminated against because of their color, now people are discriminated because of their size. It is no different in a lot of ways, it is the same. Where it was color, now it is age," Boutwell said.

The judges did not make a decision Monday...it is not clear when they will rule on whether or not the amendment can be on this fall's ballot.

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