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. yourmom

    Hopefully mass suicide is next for the people who want this. No tears shed for the demise of this group of Mor0ns.

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

      Only Democrats are that stupid. Remember Jim Jones..

      November 9, 2011 at 4:07 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Anti-propoganda

    Does anyone else think it's a load of horse hockey that they put a picture of a fetus on a billboard supporting the personhood of zygotes? If they were so sure there argument was valid, why not put a picture of a zygote on the billboard?
    I'll tell you why, because if they put a picture of a zygote on the billboard, everyone who saw it would say, "That's a single cell; it lacks neurons and therefore the possibility of conscious thought. What a stupid argument."
    When you have to mislead people into taking your side, it's time to start reconsidering why you stand where you do.

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

      OK Anti, In your infinite wisdom, when does life begin and what is your proof?

      November 9, 2011 at 4:04 pm | Report abuse |
    • Th

      Exactly!,

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

      steelerguin-it is not up to him-it is up to you to prove otherwise...silly goose.

      November 9, 2011 at 4:09 pm | Report abuse |
    • Anti-propoganda

      We're not talking about life. We're talking about consciousness. Yes, a zygote is a living cell, but is a bacterium. What makes humans capable of consciousness is our brains. I can't answer the question of when exactly a human organism achieves the level of consciousness to be deemed a human being, but I know that it sure as heck can't happen before even a single neuron is formed.

      How about you? In your negligible wisdom, were does consciousness begin and what is YOUR proof?

      November 9, 2011 at 4:14 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Charles Hughes

    Monty Python has produced the perfect reductio ad absurdum of the Personhood movement in the song "Every Sperm is Sacred" in the movie "The Meaning of Life." It should be required viewing for every supporter of this outrageous movement.

    November 9, 2011 at 4:02 pm | Report abuse |
    • high school biology first

      I think before appreciating Monty Python, one should at least consider completing high school biology to know that a sperm is not the same as a zygote. Then you'll know the "every sperm is sacred" song has absolutely nothing to do with the question of abortion.

      November 9, 2011 at 4:04 pm | Report abuse |
    • McJesus

      The problem with those that want to legislate jesus is that they don't care to learn or understand science.. because everything is clearly explained to them in the Bible. There are some 'wonderful' lessons in the Bible, as in heathens such as ourselves should be stoned to death for not listening to their invisible magic friend in the sky. Unfortunately I am not blessed enough to have schizophrenic conversations with voices in my head from the invisible sky daddy.

      November 9, 2011 at 4:08 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Prince de Silva

    Let women have the free will to decide .
    Right or wrong Faith/Karma or the gods will take care of this.
    Government please keep out of a womens life like the extreem muslim world.
    We need to move forward not backward

    November 9, 2011 at 4:02 pm | Report abuse |
    • McJesus

      They bark that they want a tiny non-intrusive government.. except when they want a huge legislative infrastructure to effectively play Spanish Inquisition and enforce their biblical doctrine.

      November 9, 2011 at 4:10 pm | Report abuse |
    • TomBigD

      Exactly. Keep the government out of the minute details of our lives.

      November 9, 2011 at 4:11 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Susan

    Everybody is talking about babies....what the Koch brothers see is cheap labor in coming years.

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

      ...or cannon fodder.

      November 9, 2011 at 4:04 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Matthew

    Any of you on here want to defend the 90%+ of abortions that are jsut done for convenience?

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

      How about you first defend your source for that statistic?

      November 9, 2011 at 4:04 pm | Report abuse |
    • sequoia

      Yeah, it's none of your damned business. How many unwanted children have you adopted? Zero. So STFU and take care of your own life.

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

      Yeah, don't have one if you don't want to and it is none of your business if someone else does.

      November 9, 2011 at 4:08 pm | Report abuse |
    • Tex71

      You think 90% of abortions are for convenience, you have obviously never talked to anyone who has really had an abortion. Ultraconservative motivational speakers who claim to have had dozens of "convenience" abortions just for fun and profit don't count.

      November 9, 2011 at 4:08 pm | Report abuse |
    • Andrea M

      Happily! It's a woman's right (along with the fathers if he's in the picture) to decide if they will be able to give the good life, care, and love every child deserves. If they can not, the kindest thing to do is abort or place for adoption instead of struggling with an unwanted child which they can not give the above mentioned things to. It's cruel to bring a child into a world where it is not properly loved and nurtured. If you find having a child "inconvenient" it typically means you are unwilling or unable to give that child proper care and love whether it's because you aren't emotionally invested or because you don't have the financial resources.

      November 9, 2011 at 4:13 pm | Report abuse |
    • Chris R

      What do you consider convenience?

      November 9, 2011 at 4:13 pm | Report abuse |
    • BD

      Do any of them directly affect your quality of life?

      Just one more person sticking their nose into someone else's business.

      November 9, 2011 at 4:15 pm | Report abuse |
    • Mick Studer

      Anyone on here want to explain why conservatives love to protect an unborn fetus – let me try – because without all these babies their own kids would have to fight in all these oil wars conservatives are so fond of – their position makes no sense – go insane trying to protect a fetus but not an 18 year old..............................absurd!

      November 9, 2011 at 4:15 pm | Report abuse |
    • Fookin' Prawn

      You're killing me, tough guy. In your last post, it was 80; now it's 90+. Bless your little dumba$$ heart.

      November 9, 2011 at 4:22 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Tex71

    Next for the movement will be mandatory female ge nital mutilation...when that gets voted down they will be promoting death penalty for fetuses who absorb their twins in the womb.

    November 9, 2011 at 4:03 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Tensai 13

    What's next? – oblivion I pray.

    November 9, 2011 at 4:04 pm | Report abuse |
  9. sequoia

    Matthew, stop LYING. The US population is growing, moron. We aren't interested in your fascist state where the government forces women to give birth against their will. Don't like it? Go live under the Taliban.

    November 9, 2011 at 4:04 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Andre the Giant

    The irony here is most people who are anti-abortion should not be allowed to reproduce.

    November 9, 2011 at 4:04 pm | Report abuse |
    • steelerguin

      You advocating forced sterilization? Hypocrite.

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

      Not going to happen. Corporate America still needs under skilled low wage labor in the US. Southern trailer parks are an excellent source for such corporate fodder. Even better.. they are against unionization and will gladly live on Chef Boyardee and McDonalds. After all.. they aren't living for this life, but for when they get to meet Jeeeeeeeeeesus and live on puffy cloud-tops with winged humanoids.

      November 9, 2011 at 4:14 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Barry

    I think most people were against the law but were scared to say so publicly for fear of what their neighbors would think.

    November 9, 2011 at 4:04 pm | Report abuse |
    • healbot

      I agree. That state is majority conservative and so the loud conservative feel confident about banging the drum. It is good to see that many people in Mississippi reflect on the issues and don't blindly vote along party lines.. Good for Mississippi.

      November 9, 2011 at 4:17 pm | Report abuse |
  12. ZippyPH

    Congratulations Mississippi, for not making your state the laughing stock of the nation...

    November 9, 2011 at 4:04 pm | Report abuse |
    • McJesus

      Unfort the laughing stock state status was already established a long time ago. Being among the poorest states is a direct extension of the state's high level of religidiocy. Don't expect any research scientists out of Miss. The highest income earners in the state are most likely the screwball faith healers soaking off the naive.

      November 9, 2011 at 4:17 pm | Report abuse |
  13. Well, well..

    I agree with the fact that these DUMMIES should be spending the $$ and time on helping the existing children that have BEEN BORN into this world that are disadvantaged. What use is all the hooplah if half of these "living eggs" turn out to be children living in poverty and squalor??? IDIOTS!

    November 9, 2011 at 4:05 pm | Report abuse |
  14. The Shephard

    I don't understand how some people could actually think that an egg is a person and should have rights. An egg has the potential to become life. A soul does not enter the body until it is born. Every woman should have the free will as GOD intended to do what is best. If it's wrong then that would be between the woman and GOD and his judgment, not some mere mortals who think they are so holier than thou.

    November 9, 2011 at 4:05 pm | Report abuse |
    • steelerguin

      Really? That baby is just a lifeless mass of cells until it is born and THEN, bingo, it's a person? Then the soul rushes in. Where is the soul hiding before the baby comes out? Ridiculous.

      November 9, 2011 at 4:11 pm | Report abuse |
    • Andrea M

      You're half right Steelerguin, it is just a lump of cells. If it can't survive outside it's mother, what else is it? The term parasite comes to mind, so take your pick, lump of cells or that. As for the soul, I'm not entirely convinced either way on the existence of the soul, but what science does tell us is that an infant comes with a set of instincts and that's about it. A personality, or soul develops as the child grows and begins to discover its world.

      November 9, 2011 at 4:18 pm | Report abuse |
  15. proudmemberofglobalzero

    First they have to become decent human beings themselves. If this law would have passed....I would have been dead on the table 23 years ago with two other children left without a mother.

    November 9, 2011 at 4:05 pm | Report abuse |
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