It's too early to tell how they have fared, but one that has profound consequences for contemporary abortion ethics and jurisprudence is a measure in Mississippi that seeks to define a person as existing from the moment of conception.
No court has ever defined a person this expansively before. Ezra Klein writes this in the Washington Post:
A new poll underscores just how close Mississippi is to passing the country’s first “personhood” law, which would define life as beginning at conception. Public Policy Polling finds that, hours before tomorrow’s vote, 45 percent of voters supported the amendment, while 44 percent opposed it.Actually, Klein is mistaken here. He repeats a canard that has plagued the abortion debate ever since the 1970s. It's clearly not a debate about when life begins. No life scientist or medical doctor would ever claim otherwise. Life doesn't "begin," it's a continuum going back to the first life forms appearing on the planet. The ovum and sperm are living cells produced by living men and women. When they fuse they form a conceptus which is itself a living entity, and it continues to live throughout its development.
The question the personhood law is really designed to address, however it might be worded, is the question of when this living organism becomes a person. This is significant because under our constitution persons have a right to life. The Fifth Amendment states:
No person shall .... be deprived of life, liberty, or property without due process of law.If this ballot issue passes it will have enormous ramifications not just for abortion but a number of other practices as well:
“Things can definitely go either way tomorrow,” said Public Policy Polling director Tom Jensen. “The stakes here are huge. This is really the most interesting thing on the ballot tomorrow anywhere in the country.”We'll know soon enough whether it passes.
The Mississippi ballot has incredibly important legal implications: no state has ever given an embryo constitutional rights and, legally, it’s not quite clear what happens when you do. There is a lot of speculation that it could outlaw infertility treatments and birth control, while almost certainly banning abortion. If passed, the Mississippi law would near certainly bait a legal challenge that could wind its way up to the Supreme Court.