JACKSON, October 28, 2011 (LifeSiteNews.com) - A constitutional referendum in Mississippi to declare all unborn children persons, which has the potential to permanently impact the national abortion debate, is on its way to become the first successful referendum of its kind in America, according to pro-life leaders.

Proposition 26, which will appear on this year’s November 8 ballot, would declare as persons “every human being from the moment of fertilization, cloning or the equivalent thereof.” Although similar measures have failed in other states such as Colorado, leaders supporting the Mississippi measure say that the climate in their state is far more favorable towards personhood.

“It looks like it’ll be the first one to pass in this country,” Personhood USA founder Keith Mason told LifeSiteNews.com. Mason says that only one lawmaker in the state has opposed the measure, while it has found broad support among others. Lieutenant Governor Phil Bryant, who is also running for governor, is co-chair of the local personhood campaign.

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In February 2010, Personhood Mississippi submitted over 130,000 signatures supporting the ballot initiative, well over the 89,285 it required, with an all-volunteer campaign fueled by over 2,000 individuals and 1,000 churches. An effort by Planned Parenthood and the ACLU to have the measure removed from the ballot was denied by a state circuit court judge in October 2010.

Personhood USA states that, across America, over 990,000 signatures have been collected in favor of personhood.

With only weeks until election day, the personhood fight has come to a head in the Magnolia State: personhood supporters reported on October 14 widespread vandalism against their signs, including one 4’x6’ sign at a church that was forcibly twisted from its metal supports. Elsewhere, owners of a southern Mississippi gas station called police when a woman attacked a Proposition 26 sign there.

“She just got out of her car, walked up to it, and started tearing it apart,” reported Personhood Mississippi Director Les Riley. “When police arrived, she told them that she was ‘exercising her First Amendment right to free speech.’”

The effort to battle down the personhood argument also hit national media this week: a New York Times editorial on Thursday blasted the effort to “grant to fertilized eggs the legal rights and protections that apply to people,” calling it “among the most extreme assaults in the push to end women’s reproductive rights.” The editors also lamented that, considering the numerous pro-life laws already passed in Mississippi, “there is a real possibility that voters will not react as wisely” as Colorado voters.

Other pro-abortion activists meanwhile slammed the “egg-as-person” initiative as an attack on “women’s rights” to end all others: Allison Korn of National Advocates for Pregnant Women compared local opposition to the measure to the communal response to rebuild in solidarity after Hurricane Katrina.

Several pro-life leaders and groups, including National Right to Life, have not endorsed the personhood strategy, fearing that the sweeping effort could prove a serious setback to the right to life movement if it is successfully challenged in court, particularly at the U.S. Supreme Court.

The only thing every side seems to agree upon is that the measure represents a dramatic challenge to the current tenor of America’s abortion debate.

Major media and pro-abortion lobbies have pointed out that the outcome of the vote could have significant implications in an area normally untouched by the abortion debate: routine birth control methods such as the IUD or “emergency” contraception, which can end the smallest of human lives.

“Personhood could represent the most audaciously successful reframing of the national abortion debate yet – in which pro-choicers have to fight over whether forms of birth control are abortion, as opposed to ensuring a woman’s right and access to reproductive choice,” wrote Irin Cameron on Salon.com Wednesday.