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Mississippi to vote on 'personhood'

"When do you believe life begins?" Johnny DuPree, Democratic candidate for governor of Mississippi, asked during a public debate on 14 October. The question was rhetorical, and DuPree's answer — not a surprise in one of the most socially conservative US states — was the same as that of his Republican opponent: "I believe life begins at conception."

On 8 November, Mississippi voters will not only decide who should lead the state, but also indicate whether they agree with the candidates about the status of embryos. The Initiative 26 ballot measure proposes to amend the state's constitution to redefine 'person' as "every human being from the moment of fertilization, cloning, or the equivalent thereof". If approved, the amendment would effectively bestow human rights on fertilized human eggs, making abortion illegal in the state in most, if not all, circumstances.

"The unborn child in the womb is scientifically proven to be a human being, and when it comes down to it we are a human-rights organization," says Jennifer Mason, communications director for Personhood USA, a national advocacy group based in Arvada, Colorado, and one of the initiative's backers.
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