Arkansas Personhood Amendment (2012)

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The Arkansas Personhood Amendment may appear on the November 6, 2012 ballot in the state of Arkansas as an initiated constitutional amendment. The measure would define the word "person" in the Arkansas Constitution as the moment of "fertilization". The proposal was introduced by the newly formed ballot question committee Personhood Arkansas, according to reports. The group submitted their proposal during December 2011.[1]

The language of the measure reads as follows: "No innocent person shall be denied the right to life. With respect to the right to life, the word ‘person’ shall apply to all human beings, including the unborn, at every stage of their development."[2]


The following is information obtained from the supporting side of the measure:

  • Holly Austin, who helped found Personhood Arkansas, stated her reasons for finding the organization and backing the proposal: "A young lady at the age of 19, I faced an unplanned pregnancy. I was told by the doctor who confirmed my pregnancy that abortion would be the best thing for me to do that I had the rest of my life to live. That's why I'm so very personally involved in this movement, but I also can't go every single day knowing that every year in Arkansas 2,300 babies are lost to abortions, lives are lost to abortion."[3]

Other perspectives

  • Rose Mimms, executive director of Arkansas Right to Life, stated about a similar Mississippi ballot measure that was rejected during the 2011 elections: “Mississippi is the most pro-life state in the country. They have more protective measures than just about any other state that I know of. If they couldn’t pass it in Mississippi, I don’t think Arkansas has a very good chance either...I wish them the very best, but we won’t be joining their efforts. We’ve got our own work to do.”[4]

Path to the ballot

Supporters of the measure have until the July 6, 2012 petition drive deadline to collect the required 78,133 signatures needed to place an initiated constitutional amendment on the ballot in the state.

Attorney General rejection

On January 3, 2012, Arkansas Attorney General Dustin McDaniel rejected the wording of the proposal, stating that there was ambiguity. According to McDaniel, the measure was misleading when citing the relationship between the proposal and federal law. The ballot title allegedly did not make any mention that the impacts of the proposal would lead to a ban for the use of public funds for abortion.[5]

The group can re-submit their proposal for another review.


On January 11, 2012, the group in favor of the measure re-submitted the proposal to the Arkansas Attorney General. According to Personhood Arkansas’ Preston Dunn upon re-submission: “Our hope is that the AG’s office will act in good faith by offering support to those of us who want the democratic initiative process to work for everyone including those who are gravely concerned about the 4,532 preborn children killed in our state in 2010.”[6]

The measure was rejected again, but re-submitted by supporters for a third time. The ballot title of the initiative is as follows:[7]

Amending the Arkansas Constitution to recognize that all human beings, at every stage of development, share the same inherent and inalienable rights.

See also