SALEM -- Oregon voters may face a question similar to the one rejected by voters Tuesday in Mississippi.
The Mississippi initiative asked voters if life begins at conception. That state constitutional amendment would have been the first victory for the so-called "Personhood" movement, which aims to make abortion illegal.
Kelly LeClaire from Portland filed an initiative petition with the Oregon Secretary of State’s office on July 20, 2011.
If passed, this initiative would amend Article 1, section 46 of the Oregon Constitution.
LeClaire wants the change to read: (1) No person shall be denied the right to life. (2) With respect to the right to life guaranteed in this section of the constitution, the word “person” applies to all human beings, irrespective of age, race, gender, health, function or condition of dependency, including their unborn offspring at every stage of biological development, including fertilization.
Both sides agree that making a fertilized human egg a “person” would mean the “person” would get the same protections as anyone else. It would also outlaw abortion and many forms of contraception.
Some in Portland, like Bill Diss, think the change is long overdue. “In the scheme of human rights it makes sense that the youngest humans should be protected," Diss said.
The idea has come up repeatedly in Oregon over the past decade and Diss has worked on the issue but never made it too far. But with the traction gained from an actual vote in Mississippi, the “Personhood” amendment may eventually get on the ballot in Oregon.
It’s a threat that Oregon Planned Parenthood takes seriously.
“Absolutely. Yeah I think it would have a chance here,” said Amy Hojnowski, political director for Planned Parenthood Oregon.
“Well it's scary. It’s a dangerous initiative and I think people don’t fully understand all of the consequences. So it would require a really big campaign to try to educate Oregonians about all the ways in which this would impact women's lives," Hojnowski said.
Both sides agree the initiative would ban abortions, even in the case of rape or incest.
“In rape and incest it’s still a child,” explained Diss. "And you know there's not a death penalty for the father of the rape, there shouldn't be a death penalty for the baby."
Organizers have already gathered 1,000 signatures in Oregon.
And the issue of the ballot title which tells voters what the amendment means and what effect it would have on existing law has been argued in front of the Oregon Supreme Court. There is no timeline for a decision.
The documents are available on the Secretary of state’s Office Web site.