Last week Right Wing Watch reported on the success of anti-choice activists to place a “Personhood Amendment” on Mississippi’s 2011 ballot to coincide with the gubernatorial election. The radical group Personhood USA hopes to use the so-called “Personhood Amendments” to criminalize abortion, common forms of birth control, stem cell research, and even in-vitro fertilization, by giving legal rights to fetuses and embryos.
Major anti-choice organizations including the National Right to Life Committee have generally shied away from “Personhood Amendments” due to the extreme nature of the measure and the fringe Personhood USA. Colorado voters rejected three different Amendments from Personhood Colorado by wide margins, with the 2010 measure failing with less than 30% of the vote.
Activists in Mississippi, however, have made great headway in receiving support from the Religious Right and the GOP. Leading Religious Right groups and Republican politicians, including the American Family Association (AFA), Liberty Counsel, and Congressman-Elect Alan Nunnelee, have backed Personhood Mississippi’s efforts. Mississippi’s Republican Lt. Governor and gubernatorial candidate Phil Bryant has embraced the Personhood Initiative as well. Bryant, when announcing his bid for governor on the AFA’s radio program, claimed that “one of my goals in public life is to end abortion in Mississippi, so we’re going to work really hard on that.” A vocal and ardent supporter of the “Personhood Amendment,” Bryant called the initiative “another way of trying to stop abortion in Mississippi and simply allow once and for all the opportunity for the people to say we want to do that and we feel so strongly about it that we want to add it to our Constitution.”
Today, Personhood Mississippi (the state affiliate of Personhood USA) will be hosting a rally in Jackson to celebrate the measure’s inclusion on the 2011 ballot, and Bryant is scheduled to speak at the event.
But who is behind Personhood Mississippi and the Personhood Amendment’s sponsor?
The head of Personhood Mississippi is right wing activist Les Riley, a featured blogger of the group Christian Exodus, which has “goal of forming an independent Christian nation that will survive after the decline and fall of the financially and morally bankrupt American empire.”
Christian Exodus had attempted to move thousands of supporters to South Carolina in order to “form a biblically inspired government and secede from the United States,” and also has close ties to the separatist and Neo-Confederate League of the South. Christian Exodus also is encouraging adherents to move to Panama and Idaho in order to build theocratic settlements.
Lt. Governor Bryant said he wanted to “personally thank Les Riley” for his work, and Les Riley told AFA Radio that Mississippi’s Personhood Amendment is “the biggest news in the pro-life movement in twenty years” because it will not only eradicate reproductive rights in Mississippi but also set up a challenge to Roe v. Wade in the Supreme Court.
As the “Personhood Amendment” movement finds more allies and greater support in the Religious Right and Republican Party, its extremist leaders and radical beliefs have not changed.