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. detada

    It failed because, whether one supports abortion rights or opposes it, declaring a fetus a living person as a means to make abortions illegal, is an insult to the intelligence of most Americans.

    November 9, 2011 at 4:40 pm | Report abuse |
    • Russ

      What would YOU call a fetus? a kitten?

      November 9, 2011 at 4:44 pm | Report abuse |
    • Big Al

      Sperm is technically alive. Why not make masturbation illegal?

      November 9, 2011 at 4:50 pm | Report abuse |
    • Jess C

      Next they'd want to get tax exemptions for their fetuses and embryos...is there no end?

      November 9, 2011 at 6:13 pm | Report abuse |
  2. HT

    As if the government should make the moral decision for others when they get an accidental pregnancy. What a silly contradiction to republican ideals.

    Calling it murder also begs the question: Is it WRONGful killing? Unlike a fetus, people know what they will miss out on if their life were to suddenly end in the hands of a killer. If bringing up that child means 9 long months and bringing a child into a world where their future is at the mercy of a couple adopting them (instead of adopting somebody else), then I'd rather let the woman make that moral decision, not the government.

    November 9, 2011 at 4:41 pm | Report abuse |
    • UhYeaOk

      Then let the woman pay for it. My tax dollars shouldn't have to pay for someone elses abortion.

      November 9, 2011 at 4:42 pm | Report abuse |
    • rk

      My tax dollars shouldn't help some one in a road accident as well... just like abortion.. UhYeaOk...

      November 9, 2011 at 4:57 pm | Report abuse |
    • whoeversaid9

      UhYeaOk – where does it end? I disagreed with the Iraq war from day 1, so can I get the government to make sure my tax dollars are only spent in Afghanistan? I've never driven in Oregon; can I get a refund of any of my taxes spent on roads in Oregon? I believe in the death penalty, so I don't want my taxes going to prisons that house someone sentenced to "life without parole"; let's stop spending tax receipts on prisons. I don't want my tax dollars to pay for an 80-year-old's erection, so Medicare should not cover Viagra or Cialis, right?

      November 9, 2011 at 5:00 pm | Report abuse |
    • Kevin

      Since NO tax dollars are used for abortion, I guess you have your wish, you are not paying for it.

      November 9, 2011 at 5:14 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Sanity

    If a fused zygote is a person, then do the following apply:
    1) Can we file the zygote as a dependent on our tax return?
    2) Is it a US citizen? If non-immigrant visitors conceive on US soil, but return home to deliver the baby, will the baby be a US citizen?
    3) If a couple is trying to have a baby, but the fused egg does not implant, do they have to have a funeral every month they have don't have a successfully implanted fetus?
    4) Will "egg salad" now have to be called "chicken salad"?

    November 9, 2011 at 4:41 pm | Report abuse |
    • us1776

      Perfect !!

      .

      November 9, 2011 at 4:42 pm | Report abuse |
    • Jason

      Well said!!

      November 9, 2011 at 4:44 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Pan3

    Equal rights to the unborn?
    What happens to that unborn if it turns out gay?
    That's what I thougt...
    Typical Christian hypocrites.

    November 9, 2011 at 4:41 pm | Report abuse |
    • UhYeaOk

      What a stupid comment, but then again your a typical non Christian eh Pan3? Moron....

      November 9, 2011 at 4:43 pm | Report abuse |
    • Fookin' Prawn

      Yeah, I posted earlier that these same weirdos will invent an early term test next to see if the fetus is gay. At that point, they'll be pro-abortion all the way.

      November 9, 2011 at 4:47 pm | Report abuse |
  5. John macintyre

    Conservative morons that need to get a life themselves

    November 9, 2011 at 4:41 pm | Report abuse |
    • UhYeaOk

      Practice what you preach, moron.

      November 9, 2011 at 4:43 pm | Report abuse |
  6. bezerkur

    Wow. Most of these comments confirm that God really is dead and Satan has won. You think our progress in science can explain everthing huh? You think discovering the G particle was the final straw? Our lives and this planet was a gift and if you truely know the cosmos you would know even in the vastness of the universe our unique origin is very rare and possibly happening only once. I cant explain what God is or which religion comes the closest. But when I watched my child being born my doubts were answered.

    November 9, 2011 at 4:42 pm | Report abuse |
    • Jason

      "being born" is the key phrase...

      November 9, 2011 at 4:45 pm | Report abuse |
    • jessica

      Bottom line is that what I choose in regards to reproduction is between God, my partner and I ... and the government need keep out of it. God allows his children the freedom choose right or wrong and only he will judge me.

      If the Evangelicals have their way the United States will be religious freedom for all as long as you conform to Christian Thoecratic Rules.

      November 9, 2011 at 4:51 pm | Report abuse |
    • Bobmma

      Personal experiences do not prove that god exists. The birth of you child may have had an impact on your belief system, but it doesn't prove anything to me.

      November 9, 2011 at 4:55 pm | Report abuse |
    • Tare

      You don't have to believe in God, nor the Devil, nor even personhood at conception, in order to feel the beauty and awe of children, life and nature. In the vastness of the universe life may not be rare at all and we may never know if it is or not exactly because of the vastness of the universe. I find your comments to be Berzerk!

      November 9, 2011 at 5:06 pm | Report abuse |
    • whoeversaid9

      bezerkur – I am a Christian, and I am prayerfully pro-choice. It's a simple question of faith. You either believe God is omnipotent, or you don't. If God truly wants a child to be born, doesn't He have the power to touch her heart, or speak to her as he spoke to Mary, and convince her that having the child is right? I think so. Besides, how do you know God doesn't want some women to abort their pregnancies? He is all-knowing and all-powerful, so maybe He knows the best thing for that women and the fetus is to abort the pregnancy. He would certainly know better than the right wing nuts pushing this "personhood" nonsense.
      And to answer the inevitable comment about free will abrogating the will of God, I say Mary had free will. Joseph had free will and could have had Mary stoned. God can touch people and affect their free will when and where He wants. Any woman's relationships with her fetus and God is her business, not anyone else's. You want to prevent abortions? EDUCATE PEOPLE ON CONTRACEPTION!

      November 9, 2011 at 5:12 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Jeff Frank ( R - Ohio ) "Right Wing Insanity"

    "Life begins in a thought"...... "Oh 'cmon baby it feels so good." "Lets do it just this one time." Yada yada yada. Birth control is $$$ BILLIONS of dollars acting on these very thoughts, a lot of the time without conscience. Then states like Mississippi get in a pickle trying to have a sembelence of "animal control". And really, this IS what it boils down to. People DO NOT want to take responsibility for thier actions, so they expect the government to find a way to cheat fate "for them". "If you feel reluctant to plant the seed, then don't do the deed.

    November 9, 2011 at 4:42 pm | Report abuse |
    • nwi

      Ya, well, we are all here because of millions of years of seed planting without much thought. And thoughtless seed planting will continue as long as life exists. Sanctimonius diatribes won't change that.

      November 9, 2011 at 4:47 pm | Report abuse |
  8. ekrit

    What's next is more failures for the religeous right who want to this contry to run by tha baaaaaaaahble!
    That is a good thing!

    November 9, 2011 at 4:42 pm | Report abuse |
  9. tiladx

    I'm not a religious person, nor am I anti-religious. I'm not strictly pro-life, nor am I strictly pro-choice. I am glad this measure was defeated. If an embryo is to be declared a "person" with all the rights of a "person," then that would leave a lot of fertility clinics in a very precarious position. They don't implant eggs then fertilize them in the womb, they implant embryos that have already begun cell division. Any unneeded embryos would have to be disposed of, which would be mass murder under this amendment. A lot of other situations could result in charges of murder, including the federally protected process of abortion (which I personally believe is used far too much as birth control).

    November 9, 2011 at 4:43 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Tex71

    Next move will be a bill defining condom usage as "conspiracy to prevent personhood".

    November 9, 2011 at 4:43 pm | Report abuse |
    • tiladx

      The Catholic Church already frowns upon condom use, so this shouldn't be too far off. :(

      November 9, 2011 at 4:45 pm | Report abuse |
    • Jason

      Or everytime a man spills his "seed"...

      November 9, 2011 at 4:47 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Cin

    What is next? God only knows...but I wish they would crawl back into the religious zealot holes they crawled out of...

    November 9, 2011 at 4:43 pm | Report abuse |
    • UhYeaOk

      I'm sure there is room in your hole...

      November 9, 2011 at 4:44 pm | Report abuse |
  12. nwi

    They've harped on Roe v. Wade and the tyranny of the Supreme Court for so long. Can't do that here, and in one of the most conservative states, nonetheless.

    November 9, 2011 at 4:44 pm | Report abuse |
  13. Meow

    Dang, and I was looking forward to a world with a shutload more Mississippians

    November 9, 2011 at 4:44 pm | Report abuse |
  14. mehh

    How do you define the death of a person? It should be the opposite for the definition of a life. Typically death is a non functioning brain, no heart beat, not breathing, etc.

    November 9, 2011 at 4:44 pm | Report abuse |
  15. Chris

    Anyone out there notice the hypocrisy of the" right"? All unborn life is precious..,and the Govt. should protect it. That is until That baby is born. Then that baby is own his/her own. When that child grows up and needs health insurance but his low wage employer won't provide it..well the Govt. can,t help you there. If he /she wants to organize to get better wages and benefits...forget it. College.. good luck! BTW , Ole Miss has the largest number of uninsured children and is tied with Texas for largest percentage of Minimum wage jobs.

    November 9, 2011 at 4:44 pm | Report abuse |
    • Ali

      I noticed. And thank you for being sane.

      November 9, 2011 at 4:55 pm | Report abuse |
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