Analysis of Mississippi Initiative 26 – Personhood Mississippi

July 7, 2009 0 By Pro-Life Dave

Initiative 26 Fatally Flawed
My Letter Concerning Leslie Riley (Sponsor of Initiative 26)
Leslie Riley’s Past Endorsement of Pro-Life Dave’s Personhood Amendment


Mississippi Initiative #26  –  Personhood Amendment
Actual Wording:

Section 33.  Person Defined.   As used in this Article III of the state constitution, “The term ‘person’ or ‘persons’ shall include every human being from the moment of fertilization, cloning, or the functional equivalent thereof.”

This initiative shall not require any additional revenue for implementation.

THE GOOD:  I credit the use of  i-thumbsup “fertilization” and  i-thumbsup “cloning” (which it would ban cloning).  These terms cover unborn children produced naturally and in once instance of non-natural reproduction, cloning.

THE BAD:  The use of “functional equivalent thereof.” i-flagred is an extremely vague phrase and opens up a wide path for judges to insert their opinion on what exactly that means.  Initiative 26, because of this phrase and because it fails to nail down specifics on other artificial methods of reproduction (besides cloning), it ends up allowing the killing of ‘some’ unborn children, thus violating God’s Law: Do not murder.  

See the article entitled: “What a successful Personhood Amendment looks like.”

THE UGLY:   1) Fails to include all unborn children.  2) It will be easily nullified because its not capable of overturning Roe v. Wade.  3) It is fatally flawed and doomed since it violates the basic Initiative provisions in the MS Constitution (click here).


  • For a personhood amendment IT DOES go a bit further than others introduced in the past two years but that’s all.
  • It does not include all unborn children nor does it include or mention others vulnerable in our society.
  • Their web site states:  The purpose of Initiative 26 …”is to protect all life, regardless of age, health, function, physical or mental dependency, or method of reproduction.”  Wow!  What a Great Ideal!  Unfortunately, those words never made it into their amendment.That type of language DID make into the Ultimate Human Life Amendment when it was written in 2005, and remains in the current Mississippi Initiative 24.  That’s why it’s called the “ultimate” because it protects all life, born and unborn, and addresses other vulnerable in our society including: the elderly, the handicapped, the infirmed, and more.  Written in 2005, and introduced as the first ever State Human Life or Personhood Amendment in U.S. History, the wording, design, and strategies contained in the  Ultimate Human Life Amendment simply remain unparalleled.

Major Error in Early Personhood Amendments

You need to be aware of a significant trend that occurred in early Personhood Amendments through 2008 that only focused on the definition of personhood from fertilization or conception.  This did not protect all unborn children because it did not address babies created by asexual, laboratory, and non-natural methods.  This can be seen in early Personhood Amendments like that of Michigan in 2006, Colorado in 2008, and in 2009’s Personhood Mississippi Amendment (Initiative 26).

There’s a technical reason for not using the term “conception”.  The medical term has changed in recent decades to only mean at the time of implantation, which occurs about 8 days after the beginning of life (fertilization).

The use of only the term “conception” or “fertilization” in an amendment would apply only to ‘natural’ man-woman creation methods and does not address non-natural reproductive methods at all.  Such non-natural reproduction includes the creation of embryos (babies) for experimentation, harvesting parts, stem cell research, cloning, and in vitro fertilization.  The use of only the term “conception” in an amendment does not cover the first 8 days of life and allows for RU-486, “the morning after pill” and other pharmaceutical abortions within the first week.

Personhood Mississippi’s Initiative 26 attempts to address some of these concerns above by using the term “cloning.”  Unfortunately it fails to nail down all other methods of artificial reproduction by not using clear and specific terms  (see Good Terms below) and by only including the very vague, non-specific, and highly interpretable phrase “or the functional equivalent thereof.”  If Personhood Mississippi’s amendment was to be enacted it would allow the killing of ‘some’ unborn children, thus violating God’s Law: “Do not murder.”

GOOD TERMS to Watch For:
“the term ‘person’ shall apply to all human beings” ― “regardless of method of reproduction, health, function, or condition of dependency”  ―  “All stages of biological development”  ―  from or including “fertilization” (the medical term ‘conception’ does not include the beginning of life).  If you find similar wording then your amendment is most likely covering all unborn children.  See examples of other state Personhood Amendments.

I can’t stress how important this point is:

IF it can’t overturn Roe v. Wade then it will be nullified.

For any State Human Life or Personhood Amendment  to be successful it must be capable of overturning Roe v. Wade.  Otherwise it can easily be nullified by a Federal Court.

Robert Muise of the Thomas More Law Center
reiterates this point:
“Without a direct challenge to Roe, any proposal to protect innocent human life from abortion is utterly meaningless.”

Initiative 26 fails this test significantly and does not contain the critical elements to overturn Roe.


Mississippi Initiative #26  – Personhood Amendment – Actual Wording:

Section 33.  Person Defined.   As used in this Article III of the state constitution, “The term ‘person’ or ‘persons’ shall include every human being from the moment of fertilization, cloning, or the functional equivalent thereof.”

This initiative shall not require any additional revenue for implementation.

Initiative 26 is Fatally Flawed! 

The use of “Section 33.” and “in this Article III” in the Initiative 26 wording is a clear attempt to insert itself into the Mississippi Bill of Rights (Article III), the last section being Section 32.  This intention is also clearly stated in their official filing letter: “Article III THE ADDITION OF A NEW SECTION.”  This clearly violates Section 273(5)a of the MS Constitution’s Initiative Amendment Process, which states:

(5) The initiative process shall not be used:
(a) For the proposal, modification or repeal of any portion of the Bill of Rights of this Constitution;

This is a real embarrassment for the sponsors of Initiative 26, Personhood Mississippi, and reveals a serious lack of thorough legal research conducted.  The only outcome for Initiative 26 is to be kick-out due to its clear violation of the Mississippi Constitution.  I discovered this in early May ’09 and shortly after learned that  attorneys for Personhood USA agreed with my assessment of this fatal flaw.

WEBSITE-bar-redMore Details on the Initiative 26 Controversy

ProLifeDave-logo2_150wIn early May 2009, Leslie Riley contacted me via e-mail trying to persuade me again to drop my amendment and come on board with their campaign.  In doing so he sent me a legal brief from the Liberty Counsel on Initiative 26 (Personhood Mississippi) and in reviewing the brief I discovered the fatal flaw.  I contacted Leslie Riley through e-mail to let him know.  In reply he said that inserting Initiative 26 into the Bill of Rights was their plan all along.  Leslie contented that this was a strategy designed by their constitutional lawyer, Steve Crampton, who wrote the final language of their amendment.

Leslie also stated that, “If you can convince us that your concerns about the Bill of Rights question or others are correct… we will drop our efforts… and support yours.”   Well, shortly after I brought this up, I found out that attorneys for Personhood USA had reviewed my concerns and had agreed with my assessment of this fatal flaw.

The quality of work is suspect, in my opinion (Pro-Life Dave), since it comes from those who in the past who have been a part of, and still may be a part of, an established institutional prejudice against establishing Personhood through a state constitutional amendment.  We’re not talking about outsiders here, but legal organizations and lawyers who have been working within the Pro-Life, Pro-Family, and Conservative movements.

The Personhood Mississippi, Initiative 26 language was designed by Steve Crampton, Vice President of Legal Affairs of the Liberty Counsel, an affiliate of Jerry Falwell’s Liberty University.  Steve is former head of the American Family Association (AFA) Law Center, based out of Tupelo, Mississippi and is admitted to practice law in Mississippi.  In early 2006, I (Pro-Life Dave) presented the AFA Law Center with the Ultimate Human Life Amendment (then Initiative 22) and the concepts behind state constitutional protection for the unborn and was summarily shunned because it went against established Pro-Life strategies.  I got no appointment, no hearing, no e-mail, no phone call — even though I was the President of the Gulf Coast AFA, an AFA affiliate, and also known to those who worked in the AFA Law Center.

What I found out was that I was up against an established institutional view which opposed any direct attack on Roe v. Wade and was in opposition to Personhood through a state constitutional amendment.  Secondly, the establishment believed to ‘really’ end abortion would take decades more.  As Jerry Falwell once stated: “I hope that my grandchildren will get to see the end of abortion.”

While more and more within the Pro-Life Movement are starting to wake-up to the Personhood strategy, the established prejudices, especially among pro-life lawyers and mainline pro-life leaders, must be taken into serious consideration when working with them, especially on personhood.