Lawsuit filed to block personhood initiative from Mississippi ballot

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July 20, 2010

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JACKSON, Mississippi: The Mississippi Life Begins at the Moment of Fertilization Initiative isn't scheduled to appear on the Mississippi statewide ballot until 2011 but already the certified initiative is facing a lawsuit attempting to block it from the ballot.

On July 15, 2010 Jackson Attorney Robert McDuff filed a lawsuit against the state of Mississippi on behalf of two Lafayette County residents (Deborah Hughes and Cristen Hemmins).[1][2]

In a statement, McDuff said, "This lawsuit is brought to preserve Mississippi's Bill of Rights. This Initiative specifically attempts to modify the Mississippi Bill of Rights by changing the word "person" to include a fertilized egg. Like the Bill of Rights to the United States Constitution, the Mississippi constitution states that 'the initiative process shall not be used...for the proposal, modification or repeal of any portion of the bill of rights of this constitution.'"[1] McDuff argues that the change could lead to government interference in the doctor-patient relationship and may lead to numerous lawsuits against physicians. Steve Crampton, an attorney for the Liberty Counsel who helped circulate petitions for the proposed measure, said the McDuffs arguments are "speculative."[3]

In response to the lawsuit, Personhood Mississippi's Les Riley, the sponsor of the amendment, said, "This is clearly a preposterous lawsuit, intended to interfere with Mississippi citizens’ right to vote, and to protect Planned Parenthood’s abortion cash cow. Planned Parenthood and the ACLU are seeking to protect Planned Parenthood’s one billion dollar a year profit, while Mississippi voters are seeking to protect innocent life. We intend to fight this suit, defending our rights as Mississippi voters and the most basic right of preborn children, the right to life."[4]

Secretary of State Delbert Hosemann, the defendant in the case, said he supports the proposed amendment. In reaction to the lawsuit, Hosemann said, "I believe Mississippians do have the right to amend their laws and the constitution by the initiative process followed by an open vote of the electorate. I think that’s what the Legislature intended." Attorney General Jim Hood is scheduled to defend the state in the lawsuit.[3]

A trial date has not yet been scheduled.

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