The Stem Cell Action Coalition is calling on Mississippi voters to reject Amendment 26, also known as the “personhood” amendment, at the ballot box on Nov. 8. Like many of the initiative’s critics, the Coalition argues that the passage of Amendment 26 could have a host of unintended consequences and prove problematic for Parkinson’s, diabetes and blindness research.

Though personhood supporters argue that they only seek to ban abortion, many opposed to the amendment say it could have dire consequences on both birth control and in vitro fertilization procedures. If human life is defined as beginning from the moment of conception, say critics, then freezing an embryo could technically be considered child abuse.

The Stem Cell Action Coalition worries that Amendment 26 would prevent the pursuit of medical research utilizing human embryonic stem cells.

“Microscopic cells in a lab dish, that by a couples’ decision, will never be implanted in a womb, should not be defined as ‘people’,” said Bernard Siegel, J.D., spokesperson of the Coalition and executive director of the Genetics Policy Institute, in a press release. “If Mississippi aspires to become a center for biomedical research and biotechnology, then Initiative 26 surely sends the wrong message to the world.”

Though many criticize embryonic stem cell research for its links to cloning, it serves as an important tool for drug discovery, regenerative medicines and cell therapies for damaged tissues and organs.

Personhood amendments similar to the one in Mississippi, which has been criticized by even staunch pro-life advocates, have cropped up across the country — including in Florida, Ohio and Nevada.

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