Voters in this heavily Roman Catholic city resoundingly rejected a city charter amendment Saturday that would have declared "human life begins at conception."

The "Human Family Amendment" was strongly backed by abortion opponents who placed the referendum on the ballot through a petition drive. For more than a year, abortion battles have consumed this Gulf Coast city of nearly 300,000. The city's name is Latin for "body of Christ."The proposal had the active support of Catholic Bishop Rene Gracida, who has excommunicated two abortion clinic employees and a doctor who performs abortions.

Of 30,007 voters who went to the polls, 18,487, or 62 percent, were opposed to the measure and 10,775, or 38 percent, favored it.

Among its opponents were Citizens United for Charter Integrity, whose treasurer, Helen Wilk, described the proposed amendment as "an effort to impose a personal religious belief on the city's citizens.