Gov. Barbour Explains Why Failed "Personhood" Initiative He Supported Was A Bad Idea

November 09, 2011 9:42 am ET — Kate Conway

Mississippi Gov. Haley BarbourGov. Haley Barbour (R-MS) has been popping up on various television stations for the last week or so explaining all the rather serious problems with Mississippi's anti-abortion "personhood" ballot initiative, which failed in yesterday's statewide vote. Last Friday, however, we learned that Barbour had elected to vote in favor of the amendment, citing his conviction that life begins at conception.

Yesterday, as voting proceeded across his state, Barbour was still scampering around the media enumerating exactly why this measure was a bad idea with bad origins and possibly very bad outcomes. But for some inexplicable reason, he stopped well short of advising his fellow Mississippians against voting yes on all those bad things.

Underlying Barbour's concerns is the whole problem with putting hot-button issues to a ballot initiative. Whereas the legislature and the courts have the time and expertise to iron out the wrinkles in legislation, public opinion is swayed by misinformation and rumors and, perhaps, by and, perhaps, by large amounts of money from interest groups bent on convincing Mississippians that their pro-life beliefs compel them to vote for this initiative).

Here's one thing Barbour had to say about the issue yesterday on Fox News:

BARBOUR: This was put up by a bunch of people in Colorado. They couldn't pass it in Colorado. They chose to come to Mississippi because we are one of the most pro-life states in the United States. Yet they came with a process to amend the bill of rights of the Mississippi Constitution. This should've been done in the Mississippi legislature. This should've been done through the regular process. You shouldn't have Mississippians with ten days to go before the elections coming to learn what the exact wording is because there are many many pro-life people in Mississippi besides me who have come out against this or have expressed their concerns.

Those are some pretty serious concerns about the whole process, and some pretty compelling justifications for voting no. Yet Haley Barbour voted yes, despite also acknowledging during the interview that the initiative is "ambiguous" and "confusing."

Barbour should have voted against this measure, if not specifically because of his concerns about the amendment's overreach or its consequences for in vitro fertilization or its ambiguity or even its lack of an exception for rape and incest (all issues he raised), then to set an example for his fellow citizens of Mississippi as they found themselves in a difficult position. He should have shown them that their religious and moral convictions need not require them to vote for a provision that could undermine their access to medical care, their right to seek fertility treatments, and the wellbeing of their daughters.

Fortunately, it looks like the majority of Mississippi's residents have better sense than Haley Barbour.

Watch the interview:

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