Image: Adam Browne, Debbie Browne
Rogelio V. Solis  /  AP
Adam Browne, right and his wife Debbie Browne, hold signs supporting a proposed amendment to the Mississippi state constitution on Tuesday, Nov. 8, 2011 in Jackson, Miss.
updated 11/9/2011 2:18:10 PM ET 2011-11-09T19:18:10

Abortion opponents say they're still pursuing life-at-fertilization ballot initiatives in six other states even though voters in the Bible Belt state of Mississippi rejected the conservative measure.

Abortion rights supporters praised the vote, saying the measure went too far because it would have made common forms of birth control illegal and would have forced women to carry unwanted pregnancies to term.

The White House called it a victory for women and families.

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"The president believes that extreme amendments like this would do real damage to a woman's constitutional right to make her own health care decisions, including some very personal decisions on contraception and family planning," President Barack Obama's spokesman Jay Carney said in a statement.

If it had passed, the "personhood" proposal was intended to prompt a legal challenge to Roe v. Wade, the 1973 Supreme Court decision that established a legal right to abortion. A Colorado-based group, Personhood USA, is trying to get the measure on 2012 ballots in Florida, Montana, Ohio, Oregon, Nevada and California.

Voters in Colorado have already rejected similar proposals in 2008 and 2010. Keith Mason, a co-founder of the group, said they might try again in Mississippi, too.

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"It's not because the people are not pro-life," Mason said of the failed ballot measure. "It's because Planned Parenthood put a lot of misconceptions and lies in front of folks and created a lot of confusion."

Planned Parenthood Federation of America said in a statement that Mississippi voters rejected the amendment because they understood it was government going too far.

The measure "would have allowed government to have control over personal decisions that should be left up to a woman, her family, her doctor and her faith, including keeping a woman with a life-threatening pregnancy from getting the care she needs, and criminalizing everything from abortion to common forms of birth control such as the pill and the IUD (the intrauterine device)."

The so-called personhood initiative was rejected by more than 55 percent of Mississippi voters, falling far short of the threshold needed for it to be enacted.

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The measure divided the medical and religious communities and caused some of the most ardent abortion opponents, including Republican Gov. Haley Barbour, to waver with their support.

Opponents said the measure would have made birth control, such as the morning-after pill or the intrauterine device, illegal. More specifically, the ballot measure called for abortion to be prohibited "from the moment of fertilization" — wording that opponents suggested would have deterred physicians from performing in vitro fertilization because they would fear criminal charges if an embryo doesn't survive.

Opponents also said supporters were trying to impose their religious beliefs on others by forcing women to carry unwanted pregnancies, including those caused by rape or incest.

Amy Brunson voted against the measure, in part because she has been raped. She also has friends and family that had children through in vitro fertilization and she was worried this would end that process.

"The lines are so unclear on what may or may not happen. I think there are circumstances beyond everybody's control that can't be regulated through an amendment," said Brunson, a 36-year-old dog trainer and theater production assistant from Jackson.

Buddy Hairston, 39, took his 8-year-old triplets to a precinct outside Jackson to hold signs supporting the initiative.

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"Unborn children are being killed on a daily basis in our state and country, and it's urgent that we protect them," said Hairston, a forestry consultant.

Mississippi already has tough abortion regulations and only one clinic where the procedures are performed, making it a fitting venue for a national movement to get abortion bans into state constitutions.

The state's largest Christian denomination, the Mississippi Baptist Convention, backed the proposal through its lobbying arm, the Christian Action Commission.

"We mourn with heaven tonight over the loss of Initiative 26, which would have provided the hope of life for thousands of God's unborn babies in Mississippi," said the commission's director, the Rev. Jimmy Porter. "Instead the unborn in Mississippi will continue to be led down on a path of destruction to horrible deaths both inside their mothers and in laboratories."

The bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Mississippi and the Mississippi bishop of the United Methodist Church opposed the initiative.

Bishop Joseph Latino of the Catholic Diocese of Jackson, a church traditionally against abortion, issued a statement neither supporting nor opposing the initiative. The Mississippi State Medical Association took a similar step, while other medical groups opposed it.

Copyright 2011 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Video: Hope, yet warning signs for the Democrats

  1. Closed captioning of: Hope, yet warning signs for the Democrats

    >>> in the politico briing, what do tuesday's election results mean for 2012 ? in ohio , voters overwhelmingly struck down a law that limited collective bargaining for public employees, but also voted against a key part of the president's healthcare law, the individual mandate. in mississippi , voters defeated an amendment that would have likely many forms of s and contraception. but in bellwether virginia , a tight race in the 17th district remains too close to call. provisional ballots being counted today. we have a political reporter with us. let's look at the reports and what signals you see from the electorate in the various states, particular what we saw in mississippi and ohio .

    >> i think the main message is voters rejecting overage from both sides. you saw that result, striking result in ohio being voters said the kur tailing of collective bargaining rights went too far, but also rejecting parts of the healthcare law. and down in mississippi , a republican governor was sweeping his way to victory. voters crossing over and voting against this personhood measure, even drilling to a state senate race in arizona where voters recalled russell pierce who was the senate president and sponsor of the controversial immigration proposal. so all across the country, voters reigning in and taking hold of their politicians and their issues.

    >> this is obviously a big win for the labor movement . is it also a warning signal for governors like scott walker and rick scott around the country and of course for kasich in ohio ?

    >> i think so. if you looked at governor kasich's comments last night, he acknowledged this was a signal. he said he was going to go back to the drawing board , have to think about this. so he was very conciliatory in rhetoric last night, but the labor movement is already saying actions speak louder than words. will kasich try to broker a deal. what will it mean for scott walker . they are trying to fund raise off the victory in ohio saying donate to us to recall scott walker , so the movement is still trying to capitalize on this going forward.

    >> i know in virginia they're still counting provisional ballots , is it likely republicans will get control of the state senate ? this would be a big victory for governor bob mcdonald .

    >> they have provisional ballots to count. looks like the virginia republicans will pick up two seats, make it a tie, give republicans the tie breaking vote there. overall, a mixed result for president obama and tim kaine looking to 2012 there because the battle ground counties in the state of virginia were very, very close. we're talking 86 votes, one percentage point. parties reading too much into this are probably mistaken.

    >> thanks, dave for that political briefing. a grab bag of results from last night.


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