Citizens in Mississippi, once, and Colorado, twice, have resoundingly rejected so called "personhood" measures that would have established the "pre-born" as separate legal persons under the law. There is increasing evidence that when people understand the broad reach of such measures, they vote them down. But what happens when prosecutors and judges misuse their power and "pass" such measures in disguise?
While people in Mississippi were considering Proposition 26 and deciding whether fertilized eggs and embryos would be treated as entirely separate legal persons, a prosecutor and courts were addressing the same question behind the scenes, where voters have no role or voice.
In 2004, the Mississippi Legislature broadened the state's homicide laws to define "human being" to include an "unborn child at every stage of gestation from conception until live birth." The fetal homicide laws in Mississippi, as around the country, were passed to address third-party violence against a pregnant woman that caused harm to the unborn. In Lowndes County, however, a prosecutor decided that this law could be used to punish a pregnant woman who suffered a stillbirth. The prosecution targeted an African-American teenager and chose a set of "facts" least likely to elicit sympathy: The prosecutor claimed that the stillbirth was caused by the teen's use of an illegal drug.
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