What happened to and what's next for failed personhood measure?
The personhood movement has gained traction nationwide and has been represented at the annual "March for Life" event in Washington.
November 9th, 2011
12:58 PM ET

What happened to and what's next for failed personhood measure?

In the weeks leading up to Mississippi's vote on whether to declare a fertilized egg a person and grant it full rights, nearly everyone was saying the measure was sure to pass.

It was considered the perfect place to mount what could have been a historic challenge to abortion laws: After all, Mississippi is the most anti-abortion, religious and conservative state, according to a Gallup Poll. It was supposed to give a boost to the nationwide movement of the Colorado-based nonprofit Christian group Personhood USA, which is attempting to get the measure on the ballot in several other states.

The measure had all of the momentum within the state, with both the Democratic and Republican nominees for governor endorsing it.

But on Tuesday, voters rejected the measure.

So what exactly happened?

There were a few theories floating around Wednesday morning after the measure was defeated. (The Clarion-Ledger said with 96% of precincts reporting, the vote was 58% to 42% against the measure.)

1) People began asking questions about the language of the amendment.

Many of those opposing the bill who spoke to CNN said there simply had not been enough discussion about what the amendment would actually do. Women we spoke to said they felt this was government overreaching to begin with, but they weren't even sure how far-reaching it would be because the language was so ambiguous.

They wanted to know: What are the implications? What will it mean for women's reproductive rights? What does it mean about the decisions a woman can make with her doctor? Will it mean women will be at the mercy of the state when it comes to everything from taking certain birth control pills to trying to conceive if a couple is infertile? What happens to those fertilized eggs for IVF treatments if they aren't used? And would people be facing prosecution if they did any of those things?

Certainly, as opponents suggested, the vague language of the bill and the unknown implications could have been part of what swayed voters.

Many of those questions were dismissed by those in support of the bill, saying they were merely scare tactics. All they were trying to do was give equal rights to the unborn, supporters said, the same ones afforded to the mother.

2) Media organizations from across the country descended on Mississippi in the week before the election to cover the controversial issue.

The national media spotlight added to the conversation around the measure and certainly gained attention for the movement. As coverage ramped up, the scales seemed to start tipping. A measure that was expected to pass easily now was really stirring up debate. Legal experts began discussing the implications, contending the amendment would violate federal law as outlined by the Roe v. Wade ruling.

Columnists across the globe began weighing in on the amendment itself, what it meant for the abortion debate overall, and whether they felt this was the right way to go about a change.

Members of the media also began speaking to some key figures from prominent churches who were anti-abortion, but said they still couldn't endorse the measure because they feared the bill might be so ambiguous or far-reaching that it could actually hamper the ability to take down Roe v. Wade and it could actually strengthen its standing.

3) Key figures voiced concerns right before the election.

In the day before the election, polls were the closest they had ever been, with a Public Policy poll showing that 44% opposed the constitutional amendment and 45% supported it. That meant there was a key 11% of voters who were undecided on the issue and a media campaign was directed their way. Grass-roots efforts from the group No on 26 picked up with the support of the ACLU and Planned Parenthood.

But there are many who suggest that comments from outgoing Gov. Haley Barbour in the middle of last week  could have been part of what swayed the vote. As the debate about the proposed amendment bubbled to the national level, the fiercely conservative governor came out and did something not many expected: He expressed that he was undecided about the issue, saying it was "too ambiguous."

Then, on Friday, Barbour came out and publicly said that even though he still had some concerns, he believed that life did begin at conception, and had cast his ballot.

But for some, that undecided statement, from a very anti-abortion man, was a signal that the measure might be in trouble.

The Christian Science Monitor published an article on why support waned as Election Day neared. Their subhead read: "Reservations by the medical community and even Gov. Haley Barbour ahead of Election Day have made a dent in support for a Mississippi measure that would confer 'personhood' on fertilized eggs."

What happens now for personhood movement?

Those behind the Mississippi measure, and the nationwide movement for "personhood," have said that they will continue their efforts to give equal rights to the unborn from the moment of conception.

"Personhood USA understands that changing a culture and changing a country will not happen with one election, and so it is not unexpected," a statement on their website reads. "We thank the over one quarter of a million Mississippians who voted for Amendment 26. We vow to continue on this path towards affirming the basic dignity and human rights of all people because we are assured that it is the right thing to do, and we are prepared for a long journey."

That long journey may not take long to continue. While Mississippi was expected to be the best chance at passing the measure, there are still plenty of other states taking up the cause, including nine that will have it on the ballot during the 2012 presidential election. They include the key states of Florida and Ohio.

"State by state, and election by election, we are taking critical steps towards defending the right to life of all human beings, every person, and ending the dangerous and deadly practice of abortion," the group said. "The time has come for America to stop treating the unborn as property to be disposed of as we see fit. We are thankful that lives were saved and hearts were changed through the Yes on 26 campaign, and we are prepared to do it again in multiple states across the nation."

Yes on 26, the state group in Mississippi working with Personhood USA, had removed almost all of their videos and language from their website as of Wednesday morning. All that remained was a lone photo of a fetus, shown below, with the words Thank You, for those who supported the measure.

The website for Yes on 26 has replaced most of their campaign literature with this photo.

But if Personhood USA's statement is any indication, the fight against Roe v. Wade and the battle to redefine "personhood" will continue across the nation. Personhood USA says it expects to have the measure back on the ballot in Mississippi a second time, as it did in Colorado.

"We recognize that the right time to end abortion in Mississippi is now, and that is why the citizens of Mississippi will attempt a personhood ballot measure again and again, if necessary until every person’s life is protected," the group said.

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Filed under: Abortion • Mississippi • U.S.
soundoff (1,721 Responses)
  1. RedSea

    What a pack of morons

    November 9, 2011 at 3:56 pm | Report abuse | Reply
  2. Phil

    If these people really cared about children, they'd adopt one of the unwanted kids that are already here.

    November 9, 2011 at 3:56 pm | Report abuse | Reply
    • shay

      Thank You!!!!! i agree 100%

      November 9, 2011 at 3:59 pm | Report abuse |
    • GetReal

      Right! I don't see them lining up to do that. They walk the other way.

      November 9, 2011 at 4:01 pm | Report abuse |
    • sassypants

      Why don't you?

      November 9, 2011 at 4:07 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Benjamin

    I'm against killing unborn babies = I'm against abortion.

    November 9, 2011 at 3:56 pm | Report abuse | Reply
    • Phil

      A 4 week old fetus is not a baby... It has gills and a tail and isn't aware of anything.

      November 9, 2011 at 3:58 pm | Report abuse |
    • Tom

      Phil is not a person... It has gills and a tail and isn't aware of anything.

      November 9, 2011 at 4:00 pm | Report abuse |
    • reason

      If It is unborn, IT is not a baby.

      November 9, 2011 at 4:06 pm | Report abuse |
    • sequoia

      Fine. Don't have an abortion. Otherwise it's none of your business.

      November 9, 2011 at 4:07 pm | Report abuse |
    • Well, well..

      Tom, you are a prime example of just how dumb half of America's population has become.

      November 9, 2011 at 4:07 pm | Report abuse |
    • Tom

      Well,well ....you are not a person... you have gills and a tail and aren't aware of anything.

      November 9, 2011 at 4:10 pm | Report abuse |
  4. dickcheney

    What a bunch of uneducated, brain-washed, religion-fed m or ons

    November 9, 2011 at 3:57 pm | Report abuse | Reply
  5. shay

    why dont these people start with the mothers who kill their newborns, then put them in the garbage and make sure they are charged with murder.

    November 9, 2011 at 3:58 pm | Report abuse | Reply
  6. RayJacksonMS

    Keep these Colorado freaks out of Mississippi. We don't want them here.

    November 9, 2011 at 3:58 pm | Report abuse | Reply
    • Mindlayr

      You should say religious freaks not Colorado freaks. Most of us here do not support this movement.

      November 9, 2011 at 4:05 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Craig C

    Where does the movement go now? Nowhere. If it doesn't pass in Mississippi, it's not going to pass. People today are too connected, too informed for this idiocracy to pass.

    November 9, 2011 at 3:58 pm | Report abuse | Reply
  8. MightyMoo

    So where will this group of people fighting for the rights of the unborn be when the unborn become the unwanted children looking for adoption? What are we going to do to feed all these people as well since there are now 7 billion humans on this planet and it's becoming a messier place each day to live?

    November 9, 2011 at 3:59 pm | Report abuse | Reply
  9. Snoopy

    Pro-lifers have clearly never tasted succulent human veal before.

    November 9, 2011 at 3:59 pm | Report abuse | Reply
    • bristoltwit palin... America's favorite dancing cow

      Mmmmmm.... succulent human veal...

      November 9, 2011 at 4:02 pm | Report abuse |
  10. hollander

    I'll tell you what really happened; in public, people are big pro-lifers, but once behind that voting booth curtain, they remember the abortion they had, or the birth control they use. No one is there to judge them. They are free to vote their conscience.

    November 9, 2011 at 3:59 pm | Report abuse | Reply
  11. The Dude

    Christians get more abortions than anyone. They just don't tell their husbands

    November 9, 2011 at 4:00 pm | Report abuse | Reply
  12. RonFromNM

    Glad this was defeated and wish these people would take a hike. We have 7 billion people in the world and multiple impending resource shortages. There's no shortage of human life, no need to extend the definition to a fertilized egg. Next they'll be banning contraception and calling semen a fetus.

    November 9, 2011 at 4:00 pm | Report abuse | Reply
  13. MP in VA

    Why is it that, on the one hand, conservatives believe that government should be limited in scope because they are inherently untrustworthy when it comes to making decisions for people, yet, this same government can be entrusted with control my wife's uterus?

    November 9, 2011 at 4:01 pm | Report abuse | Reply
  14. minnie

    And what about miscarriage? How would a woman manage to prove a negative, i.e. that she had done nothing to cause it?
    Would I have been hauled from the hospital to the police station?

    November 9, 2011 at 4:01 pm | Report abuse | Reply
    • Kiki

      In some places that happens now...and if you have an ectopic pregnancy they just watch you d i e.

      November 9, 2011 at 4:03 pm | Report abuse |
  15. Sanity

    "Personhood". What a great PC term. The left must be furious that it cam from the right.

    November 9, 2011 at 4:01 pm | Report abuse | Reply
    • minnie

      This old lefty thinks "personhood" sounds silly.

      November 9, 2011 at 4:03 pm | Report abuse |
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