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. Full rights for sperm and egg before they meet

    Every sperm is sacred.
    Every sperm is great.
    If a sperm is wasted,
    God gets quite irate.

    Let the heathen spill theirs
    On the dusty ground.
    God shall make them pay for
    Each sperm that can't be found.

    Every sperm is wanted.
    Every sperm is good.
    Every sperm is needed
    In your neighbourhood.

    Hindu, Taoist, Mormon,
    Spill theirs just anywhere,
    But God loves those who treat their
    Semen with more care.

    From "The Meaning of Life", Monty Python

    November 10, 2011 at 12:28 am | Report abuse |
    • A.Person

      That's cute, love Monty Python. However, it is the zygote (not sperm) that is the issue here; it is the zygote (aka fertilized egg) that many people don't comprehend because they don't have a grasp of basic science. The people pushing "personhood" for zygotes think a zygote is a person. A zygote is two cells but those two cells won't multiply AND survive unless they attach to a uterus and even then often may not divide and multiply to become an embryo.

      November 10, 2011 at 2:08 am | Report abuse |
  2. Phil4523

    There seems to be a lot of hate and bigotry coming from one side of the argument....and its not the conservatives.

    November 10, 2011 at 12:33 am | Report abuse |
    • Dean

      If the conservatives didn't try to force their beliefs down everyone throats all the time, there would be more acceptance.

      November 10, 2011 at 12:36 am | Report abuse |
    • Summ1DIal911

      Phil I would agree with you.. Fighting ignorance and bigotry with ignorance and bigotry never won anything.. I have been keeping an eye on this forum and these people are dogging Mississippians out like we had a personal choice to put this on our ballot yesterday.. I wish these people who are slamming MS'pians realize we VOTED IT DOWN... You people are no better than the redneck racists that once harassed blacks during the Civil Rights era. Maybe you should move here with the rest of your kind if that is what you really think about us..

      November 10, 2011 at 12:46 am | Report abuse |
    • Phil4523

      Oh is that what has caused a group that prides theirselves on being open minded, look at all the facts and make an educated decision turn into the kind of people that belittle groups of people because of their ideals and faith? Because we try to force our beliefs down everyone's throat? Last I checked Its called a democracy.....they were just putting it up for a vote as best I can tell.

      November 10, 2011 at 12:54 am | Report abuse |
    • Phil4523

      .....and before you start in on me. I will admit trying to have an intellectual debate while typing on a touchscreen phone is not the best idea :)

      November 10, 2011 at 1:02 am | Report abuse |
    • Schmedley

      So Dean, you're trying to say that MoveOn, Code Pink, and other liberal groups don't try to force their views on others? News to me...

      November 10, 2011 at 2:09 am | Report abuse |
    • borisjimski

      The South lost; get over it.

      November 10, 2011 at 5:03 am | Report abuse |
    • Dragonwind

      A zygote is a collection of 'human' cells that are the precursor to the formation of a 'human' but...

      Until that group of cells can survive by itself outside the womb, it isn't a person, it is just a group of cells on life support. End the life support and you end the group of cells life.

      Furthermore.. I question anybody who allows their personal religious/spiritual beliefs to let them think for a single moment that they have some 'right' to tell others how to live their lives.

      As I have said before, a Christian is told to be a Light of Faith, an Example of Belief, NOT to be the arbitrator of others lives or beliefs. Christians are told to live their lives as God commands to show OTHERS how to live their lives. They are not told to force their beliefs or faith onto others.

      In fact Jesus himself specifically gave instructions to the Apostles when he sent them out, if you are accepted, bless the home, if you are rejected, dust off your shoes and go about your way (paraphrased).

      Stay out of other peoples bodies. YOU have no right to be there

      November 10, 2011 at 7:30 am | Report abuse |
  3. jimmy cracorn

    I hope what happens next is that both side give up the ideological fighting and work to better our country through compromise.

    November 10, 2011 at 1:16 am | Report abuse |
  4. A.Person

    KEEP YOUR BIG INVASIVE GOVERNMENT LAWS OFF & OUT OF MY BODY, MY DNA & MY CHROMOSOMES YOU SELF-RIGHTEOUS HYPOCRITES.

    November 10, 2011 at 1:52 am | Report abuse |
  5. Phil

    Pardon the poor grammar. A babies DNA, at conception, is different than a mothers therefore a baby is not its mother therefore a baby is not part of its mother therefore a mother doesn't have a right to take another life as a matter of convenience. True a baby has some genetic material as the mother, but the same is true of the father and yet he has no "legals" rights to protect it. Just because two living being are attached does not make them one living being. You don't call conjoined twins one person because one has the liver on his side and the other doesn't. It's no different with pregnancy.

    November 10, 2011 at 1:53 am | Report abuse |
    • Phil

      And another thing if a baby is not alive then is it dead, undead, or is there a new special category in-between or during this time is the baby no different then a rock? In my opinion there are only two justifiable reasons for abortion: if the baby will die early because of some painful debilitating disease in which case it would be a merciful death or if it would put the life of the mother in jeopardy in which case it would be up to the mother to decide who to save.

      November 10, 2011 at 2:23 am | Report abuse |
  6. msadr

    I'm a christian. But I've never considered this issue to be a matter of religion at all. Wise people evaluate the facts in light of whatever philosophy they live by -whether religious or humanist. Foolish people refuse to see the facts and go with whatever some famous religious or atheist person tells them. What I see from the "personhood:" folks is foolishness and has nothing to do with religion. A fetus at 6 weeks doesn't even have a brain. A fetus, prior to the moment contractions set in, has never had a single conscious though. it is entirely unaware of it's own existence, least of all yours. Recent scientific studies have proven that the brain of the fetus is switched off until it's born. It exists in a perpetual coma until birth. It's a vegetable. Therefore, it can't be considered a person any more than the pepper plant on my back porch, which also reacts to stimuli. Instead of evaluating THESE FACTS in light of their religion, they would rather project their own thoughts and feelings onto a thoughtless numb lump of living tissue and say it's a person. They are evaluating a LIE in light of their religion. The religion isn't the problem.

    November 10, 2011 at 1:58 am | Report abuse |
    • Brooke

      Thank you.

      November 10, 2011 at 2:24 am | Report abuse |
    • mary

      wow you are stupid.. that is in no way true. good try though.

      November 10, 2011 at 2:57 am | Report abuse |
    • Phil

      DNA still says it's human brain or no brain. A pepper is still living without a brain and so can a human.

      November 10, 2011 at 2:58 am | Report abuse |
    • ASchickl

      @Phil You are so far behind, you think you're first. Stop taking my freedoms from me so that you can feel more free yourself.

      November 10, 2011 at 5:00 am | Report abuse |
    • Phil

      @ashickl sorry, but your freedom to take life should come second to the life of another human being. How selfish that you would consider taking a life as a matter of convenience.

      November 10, 2011 at 1:23 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Jimbo

    Don't get me wrong, I respect life and all but seriously this is and can be a precursor of federalism. Most importantly then what? The important thing to look at here is granting rights to Zygote witch is the very frist thing the cell becomes after conception "spearm meets egg". Now lets put this into a situation.
    1. If a pregnant woman was driving a car 10/mph over the speed limit and crashed. The witnesses and first officer on the sceen determined the wreck was due to speeding. The woman went to the hospital for her injuries and during a blood test they found out she was pregnant. Due to the trauma her body has sustained to the abdomin her body naturaly aborted the Zygote.

    In this situation would the woman be charge with murder or manslaughter concerning this bill?
    This is some serious stuff to consider, think about it in many other situations....

    November 10, 2011 at 2:24 am | Report abuse |
    • Phil

      So you're asking if a women should get in trouble if her reckless behavior leads to a death? Did you know you can be charged with manslaughter if you hit a car and a pregnant women miscarried? Same thing only the pregnant women caused it.

      November 10, 2011 at 3:34 am | Report abuse |
  8. Dustin

    This is a lot of BS. I live in MS and just about everyone I know was against amendment 26, so the talk about it being expected to pass apparently wasn't being told in my neck of the woods. I'm thankful to have friends who care, and vote for what they believe.

    November 10, 2011 at 2:59 am | Report abuse |
  9. yannaes

    Yes to Life!

    November 10, 2011 at 3:17 am | Report abuse |
    • nate

      Yes to revolution. This country needs change. Government needs to stop over stepping into my personal life. This measure is just further intrusion.

      November 10, 2011 at 3:32 am | Report abuse |
  10. thebeerdude

    We need to protect persons in the "hood" before we protect persons under the hood.

    November 10, 2011 at 3:58 am | Report abuse |
  11. Super-D

    If they worried half as much about people as they worried about microscopic lumps of cells, this country would be in much better shape.

    November 10, 2011 at 4:04 am | Report abuse |
  12. dougaussie

    RED NECKS and fundamentalist are suffering pharisee disease. They are standing around Jesus while he helps the woman caught in the act of adultery, ready to stone her. WAKE UP CHRISTIANS. Jesus said "if my kingdom were of this world my followers would fight for me.." What does that tell you. Are you going to change people from the inside in their hearts or just push senators to bring in laws that appease your pharisical worship of god.

    November 10, 2011 at 4:13 am | Report abuse |
  13. ASchickl

    If you look at the demographics, statistics and facts for religious conservatives and people who seek abortions, this is what you find:

    1-The majority of people who seek abortions live near, at, or below the poverty line (collecting welfare).
    2-In Mississippi, the majority of people living at or below the poverty line belong to some minority group (mostly African American).
    3-Religious conservatives support less government involvement (e.g. less legislation and mandates)
    4-Conservatives generally oppose welfare assistance and government "handouts"
    5-Jesus supported welfare assistance
    6-Religious conservatives support Jesus

    So basically, Personhood USA (a religious conservative group) is saying to the young black woman on welfare who seeks an abortion, "NO! You can't have an abortion. We are going to use the government to take away YOUR freedoms so that WE feel more free. Then, we are going to vote to cut your welfare benefits so that you have even less money to take care of yourself in your struggling time. Then, you can have the precious gift from God that is your unwanted baby and you can take care of it yourself. Just like Jesus preached."

    November 10, 2011 at 4:49 am | Report abuse |
    • MattGMD

      @ ASchickl –

      Very good points and well said. One result of the recent efforts of the radical right is conservatives supporting policies that are clearly against their own self-interest. Politicians suggesting the retirement age be changed to between 65 – 70 depending upon which politician. People really in favor of having to work several more years before eligible for soc security? The list goes on.

      November 10, 2011 at 8:11 am | Report abuse |
  14. cosmicsnoop

    "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. And state by state the people are rejecting your view. I live in Florida, half the people are from the enlightened north. Good Luck passing that here.

    November 10, 2011 at 6:02 am | Report abuse |
  15. libfreak48

    Personhood USA, a small group of people extreme even within the anti-abortion movement, will continue its efforts to try to shove their extremism down the rest of our throats no matter how many times our society says no.

    November 10, 2011 at 7:09 am | Report abuse |
    • Dragonwind

      They just need to be aborted.

      November 10, 2011 at 7:51 am | Report abuse |
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