November 9, 2011

Mississippi Rejects Personhood Amendment

mississippiMississippians may have elected an extremely conservative Republican governor and approved a voter ID amendment last night, but at least we rejected the "personhood" amendment. Zygotes will not be considered persons in Mississippi, and the Christian extremist groups will have to spend more money to convince voters to legislate their odd form of morality.

The pro-26 efforts were well funded by the American Family Association and loudly supported by many Southern Baptist pastors. Visible signs of support (e.g., billboards and yard signs) were everywhere. And yet, polls taken right before the vote showed that it was too close to call even though many of us here were convinced that 26 would pass. So what happened?

The opponents of 26, led by Planned Parenthood and the ACLU, seemed to arrive somewhat late to the debate. However, I think this was only because their efforts were concentrated enough that some of us did not see their presence until a few weeks before the vote. They were there; they were simply working smart.

A few days before the vote, I saw something I have not seen once in the last 10 years here in Mississippi: student activism breaking out on campus. Student groups mobilized to set up tables around campus and distribute literature to inform potential voters what was at stake with Initiative 26. Wherever crowds of students were sure to gather, someone would be there handing out flyers. Activity on Facebook exploded as Mississippians for Heathy Families reached out to students and gave them effective ways to volunteer.

I've often wondered what it would take to jolt Mississippi's college students out of their apathy and into activism. It turns out that threatening to end reproductive freedom in a manner that might have banned some forms of birth control and criminalized miscarriages did exactly that.

To all who were involved in opposing Initiative 26 in Mississippi and in publicizing the dire implications of the legislation elsewhere, I say thank you!