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. mique

    The next logical move would be for the supporters of this intrusion into women's rights to not have an abortion themselves. The second logical move would be to start adopting as many of the unwanted children found in foster homes as they possibly can afford without asking the government for any help in raising, housing, feeding, or providing medical care. That should just set their moral hearts a singin' praise for all their good deeds.

    November 10, 2011 at 8:06 am | Report abuse |
    • Candy

      mique Gosh how I loved your post. I could not have said it better. Thanks

      November 10, 2011 at 9:21 am | Report abuse |
    • Garry

      Very well said, but of course they just want to control women..NOT raise or adopt their children!

      November 10, 2011 at 9:49 am | Report abuse |
    • ctermu

      the government intrudes into decisions of our bodies daily.

      And I agree we should all pitch in to help unwanted children in need.

      But at the same time as a society we must realize that certain moral norms are not relativel, especially taking innocent life

      November 10, 2011 at 10:46 pm | Report abuse |
    • Sivo

      I'll second that.

      February 7, 2012 at 12:35 pm | Report abuse |
  2. crabman

    what religion is behind this -– any guess

    November 10, 2011 at 8:08 am | Report abuse |
    • mickey1313

      due to the foolish nature of the bill, it can only be the christians.

      November 10, 2011 at 7:59 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Dirk

    Ultimately this bill would have gone to the U.S. Supreme Court and they would have had to strike it down. Once again people like to think they are the only ones with a conscense and have any morals and therefore they are right.

    November 10, 2011 at 8:28 am | Report abuse |
  4. trigtwit palin... America's favorite tard baby

    What kind of life do you think I will have ? All I do is drool.

    November 10, 2011 at 8:49 am | Report abuse |
  5. Garry

    "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.

    Please for all of us , just GO AWAY with your BS and scary tactics...crawl back under your holy rock and disappear!

    November 10, 2011 at 8:52 am | Report abuse |
  6. MarkinFL

    "that is why the citizens of Mississippi will attempt a personhood ballot measure again – and again, if necessary"

    The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.

    -Albert Einstein

    November 10, 2011 at 9:25 am | Report abuse |
  7. Dott

    What is it with people who take all this time and energy trying to rule what women do with their own body? We can now own property, vote and make almost as much money as a male. We will never give into being a man's incubator to have his baby and allow him to dictate to us what we will and won't do. That was the stone age. No Longer. Don't believe in abortion – OK with me – just don't have one. If I have too many kids to try to support and even after using all efforts not to have another then discover I am going to have mouth to feed. I will be standing in line at the abortion clinic. So just shut up about this and worry about yourself and the state of this nation. MY body MY decision. Nuff Said!

    November 10, 2011 at 9:28 am | Report abuse |
  8. Amazed but not amused

    Hmmm,.... isn't interesting that the same people who want to end abortion also want to ensure there is never universal health care, and that the social safety net is dismantled to balance the budget. They are also opposed to minimum wages and legislation establishing the rights of collective bargaining.

    You will have that child!!!! But don't ask for any assistance raising it!!!! If you cannot do it yourself, it's your fault!!!!!

    November 10, 2011 at 9:32 am | Report abuse |
  9. Freda

    How can this stand be a religous thing? If we believe in God, and I do, then we want to allow God to give us guidelines on how to live our lives and I do. However, some so called Christians, after trying unsucessfully to become pregnant, prayers didn't work, will go to any length to conceive. They will go against God's will for their lives and buy that baby via means of fertilization in a petre dish. It does not even have to be their own egg or the husband's sperm. Then can without the aid of God deliver litters of babies. Christians you can't have it both ways either obey God's will for you or leave others alone to do what they wish to do about having an unwanted child. Nothing is more precious than a loved baby and nothing is more sad than one who is not wanted, neglected, starved and often killed after drawing their first breath. .

    November 10, 2011 at 10:28 am | Report abuse |
    • mickey1313

      I will start by admiting, im an athiest, and habve no use for religon. That said, I agree with there hypocracy. I am 100% for opening up abortion, and to Federally make illigal ALL FORMS of FERALITY measures. There are plenity of childeren in the world, if you cannot have one, then adopt.

      November 10, 2011 at 8:10 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Josh

    It wouldn't matter if "personhood" passed or not- those who needed abortions would have still gotten them. Just because you ban something doesn't mean that people will stop doing it. Look at Prohibition- it was drafted in a moral panic and was supposed to stop everything from crime to domestic abuse. Instead, it lead to the rise of organized crime since people were willing to pay lots of money for illegal liquor. To tell you the truth, if I had a wife who needed an abortion, I'd rather her have one in a sterile office with a doctor who knows what they're doing than with some dirty hobo in a back alley using a coat hanger.

    November 10, 2011 at 10:54 am | Report abuse |
  11. Bill

    All this "control" from the very folks who insist on getting the government out of our everyday lives! This is over the top; If these folks don't want an abortion or to be able to use birth control, then just don't do it! Abortion is a nasty issue at it's best but trying to legislate it is hopeless and people aught to be focussing their efforts nation and world wide on encouraging family planning...BIRTH CONTROL. Untold problems and misery would be prevented.

    November 10, 2011 at 11:53 am | Report abuse |
    • Autymn D. C.

      Learn how to spell its and ought.

      November 13, 2011 at 10:40 am | Report abuse |
  12. Cardinal Fang

    1 in 5 pregnancies miscarry, with the majority occurring before 12 weeks.

    If all fertilised eggs are to be considered people from the moment of conception, presumably that would mean that the state would have to hold an inquest to determine cause of death for every single miscarriage (like happens will all other unexpected deaths). And presumably if the mother did anything that may increase the risk of having a miscarriage (e.g. smoking, drinking, conceiving when older than 35) , presumably the state would have no option but to prosecute each and every one?

    November 10, 2011 at 6:14 pm | Report abuse |
  13. alsmeer1

    Life does begin @ conception. the baby's heart begins to beat within 10 days.

    "The father had syphillus.
    "The mother had TB.
    "They had four children already.
    "One was blind.
    "One was born dead.
    "One was a deaf mute.
    "One had TB.
    "The mother was pregnant with her fifth child.
    "Almost without exception, the medical students indicated that they would recommend abortion.

    "The lecturer then stated, 'Congratulations! You have just killed BEETHOVEN!'"

    yes, this was the family Beethoven came from. if abortion had been back then, and mom sought one, then today we would be w/o the music of this great man. how many other great men and women will never be known or have that chance.
    Abortion is murder, pure and simple to all but the amoral.

    November 11, 2011 at 1:37 pm | Report abuse |
    • Autymn D. C.

      Abortion isn't illegal; therefore, abortion isn't murder, liar.

      Why doesn't life "begin" earlier or later than conception? There was always life.

      November 13, 2011 at 10:39 am | Report abuse |
  14. DeGuyz in Mississippi

    By their own admission, the state has lost track of countless children in foster care. That said, the state left thousands homeless after Hurricane Katrina and virtually leave their poor without. Those enrolled in the state medicaid program may be lucky enough to see a doctor or a specialist (if they can afford the trip to Jackson, but can't afford the medications. This most recent move to add even more children to an impoverished state that can't take care of what they already have leaves one to question the motive.

    November 22, 2011 at 9:54 pm | Report abuse |
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