WASHINGTON -- The Supreme Court of Mexico fell one vote shy of overturning Baja California state's "personhood" amendment on Wednesday night, ensuring that developing fetuses will continue to be considered legal persons under that state's constitution. The historic case that some Americans are calling Mexico's "reverse Roe v. Wade" could have a major impact on the U.S. personhood movement, legal experts say.
"There's an internal debate within the pro-life community here as to whether it's the right strategy at the right time to come out with a strong unapologetic stance that all human beings, regardless of their stage of development, are legal persons," said Gualberto Garcia Jones, legislative analyst for Personhood USA. "This decision in Mexico provides proof that it is a viable strategy that is working right now in other places. If it had gone the other way, we would have seen pro-lifers say, 'If it can't work in Mexico, it can't work in the U.S.'"
Since 2009, 18 of 31 Mexican states have passed measures extending legal personhood to embryos in reaction to the decision by the federal enclave of Mexico City to legalize abortion. The Mexican Supreme Court needed a supermajority -- eight of 11 votes -- to overturn the Baja California amendment, but only seven justices voted to overturn, which means that abortion will remain illegal in Baja California.
The U.S. personhood movement, which is most active right now in Mississippi, seeks to overturn Roe v. Wade and empower states to define embryos as legal persons under their respective constitutions. The problem, opponents say, is that granting legal personhood to embryos could have a host of other consequences, such as banning in vitro fertilization, stem cell research and certain forms of birth control.
Moreover, like the personhood amendments in Mexico, the amendment on which Mississippi voters are scheduled to cast a ballot in November would allow no exceptions for rape and incest victims or for cases in which the mother's life is in danger.
"Obviously there's no exception for rape and incest," Greg Sanders, executive director of Mississippi's personhood campaign, told HuffPost last week. "It's a human life, no matter how it's created."
The personhood movement is likely to face more resistance in the United States than in Mexico, whose overwhelmingly Roman Catholic population has historically opposed abortion. Colorado voters have twice rejected personhood amendments by a strong majority, but it's not clear how Mississippians will vote in November.
Garcia Jones, who has been closely following the Mexican Supreme Court case, said the U.S. movement should take a few tips from its neighbor.
"The fact that they weren't afraid to be very clear about their intent to define the pre-born in the constitution as a full human person allowed for an honest public discussion of what they're talking about," said Garcia Jones, "and that's the kind of strong legal strategy we need in the U.S."
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