Mississippi voters rejected a ballot initiative that would have made the state the first in the U.S. to ban abortion by declaring that life begins at conception.

The so-called personhood bid lost today by a margin of 58.6 percent to 41.4 percent, with 52 percent of precincts reporting, according to the Associated Press. The amendment to the state constitution would have redefined the term “person” to include “every human being from the moment of fertilization, cloning or the equivalent thereof.”

The measure would have bestowed legal rights on fertilized eggs and cut off access to abortion by equating it with murder, making no exception for rape, incest or when a woman’s life is in danger. Medical groups warned it might have criminalized contraception and miscarriages while limiting access to treatments such as in-vitro fertilization.

Activists on both sides had expected the amendment to pass and spark years of litigation that would have stalled or prevented its implementation. The issue divided anti-abortion advocates. Catholic Bishop Joseph Latino of Jackson, for example, had expressed concern that success in Mississippi might backfire and lead to judicial reaffirmation of abortion rights.

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