Nightly News | November 08, 2011
BRIAN WILLIAMS, anchor: It is Election Day today and voters in Mississippi are considering what amounts to a ban on abortion and strict new rules about birth control and fertility treatments. The ballot initiative there would redefine the word "person" to say that life begins at the moment of fertilization. Our report tonight from NBC 's Janet Shamlian .
JANET SHAMLIAN reporting: What many consider a private decision is playing out in the most public of venues.
Unidentified Woman #1: No on 26!
SHAMLIAN: From city streets to suburban churches...
Unidentified Man: Choose life.
SHAMLIAN: ...the latest battle over reproductive rights is coming to a head in Mississippi .
Unidentified Woman #2: And there's so much at stake in this election for women and families.
SHAMLIAN: What's been called the Personhood Amendment or Initiative 26 would declare a fertilized egg a person and the destruction of that egg an act of murder. If passed, it would limit some forms of birth control, methods of infertility treatments, and ban abortion.
Ms. FREDA BUSH: It will restore a culture of life in Mississippi .
SHAMLIAN: Supporter Freda Bush says there would be no exceptions for rape or incest.
Ms. BUSH: Regardless of how the baby is conceived, the baby does not deserve death because of its conception.
Ms. ATLEE BREELAND (Parents Against MS 26): All right. There's your banana.
SHAMLIAN: Atlee Breeland is concerned about the impact on infertile couples. Her children were conceived through in vitro fertilization. The amendment could have a major impact on IVF , outlawing the freezing or destruction of unused embryos, now common practice. Critics say the initiative could punish couples who suffer from infertility.
Ms. BREELAND: I absolutely do not want the government telling me what my medical treatment options are. That's for me and my doctor to decide how we build our family.
SHAMLIAN: Supporters say IVF could continue, but a couple's fertilized embryos would have to be used or given up for adoption. With some of the strictest abortion laws in the nation and just one abortion clinic serving the entire state, Mississippi is favorable ground for the amendment; and if it passes here, it's likely to fuel similar movements in places like Ohio , Michigan and Florida , with the battle being waged in front yards and on the local news.
Unidentified Woman #3: How has one paragraph become so divisive?
SHAMLIAN: An issue that's deeply divided Mississippi and may have an impact well beyond state lines. Janet Shamlian , NBC News, Jackson, Mississippi .