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. tell it

    Come to Alabama. We are probably stupid enough to pass this.

    November 9, 2011 at 1:03 pm | Report abuse |
    • republicans are antiques

      you betcha !

      November 9, 2011 at 3:09 pm | Report abuse |
    • bspurloc

      since Miss doesnt care about JOBS Federal funding should be cut to this state for 1 year.

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

      bspurloc. Federal funding to all states should be eliminated.

      November 9, 2011 at 5:16 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Joey Isotta-Fraschini

    Have straw polls in all European countries, then publish the results in Mississippi and all other backward states in this country.
    Then publish the results of a straw poll in China, which is on its way to owning the USA.

    November 9, 2011 at 1:18 pm | Report abuse |
    • freeSouth

      Why do you think Mississippi is backward ? You sound backward to me.

      November 9, 2011 at 5:24 pm | Report abuse |
    • NoodleHat

      freeSouth: Because it is.

      November 9, 2011 at 5:46 pm | Report abuse |
    • Paul J

      Mississippi is backwards because they spend all their time looking at where they've been and not where they are going.

      November 9, 2011 at 6:24 pm | Report abuse |
    • swald91

      Paul J,
      No, that's everyone else that looks at Ms past. As evident on these comments.

      November 10, 2011 at 4:40 pm | Report abuse |
  3. banasy©

    Do you think that would help change the way people think?
    I don't.

    November 9, 2011 at 1:20 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Nadean

    Anybody if you could go back and abort your child, would you?

    November 9, 2011 at 1:20 pm | Report abuse |
    • Jim in San Mateo

      Stupid question.

      November 9, 2011 at 3:01 pm | Report abuse |
    • republicans are antiques

      they aren't talking about aborting a child..the issue is simply a fertilized egg

      November 9, 2011 at 3:11 pm | Report abuse |
    • Tracy

      I have two young children, and I would not go back and abort them if I had a choice; however, I terminated two pregnancies when younger, and I have never regretted those decisions. Having children and experiencing the magnitude of parenthood has only strengthened the value of my wise decision to wait to become a parent. My children have a wonderful father, and I am strong. I am firmly pro-choice since it is the only way to allow women and the men who impregnate them to make wise choices.

      November 9, 2011 at 3:14 pm | Report abuse |
    • pirate

      When they grew up to be teenagers…the most revolting creature on this planet.

      November 9, 2011 at 5:07 pm | Report abuse |
    • Paul J

      No, but that's a choice they have the right to make.

      November 9, 2011 at 6:26 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Nadean

    If you shoot PERSON OR PERSON'S did you abort them ?

    November 9, 2011 at 1:21 pm | Report abuse |
    • MV

      You are an idiot.

      November 9, 2011 at 3:59 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Portland tony

    I'm amazed that the initiative got as far as it did. With all the rhetoric about government intrusion into our private and social lives. From healthcare to taxation, From pollution standards to safe standards for baby cribs...it seems ludicrous for a government to dictate what goes on in a woman's uterus!

    November 9, 2011 at 1:25 pm | Report abuse |
  7. ekford

    Why did this fail?
    Because we are SICK of government running our lives!
    This is just another sneaky way for government to force us to think and react a certain way – the way the authors of this legislation wanted to control us.
    Its all about government control, not religious understanding.

    November 9, 2011 at 1:29 pm | Report abuse |
    • BB

      Thsi is not about Gov't control, but about Religious control. Keep your Fairy Tales to yourself and stop pushing your beleifs on others! I think ANY religious group that gets involved in politics should loose their tax exempt status!

      November 9, 2011 at 1:47 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Nadean

    So if a life is defined with the fusion thus bring about a life and INDIVIDUAL LIFE , then that life has a right to do what ever it wants with said life's OWN BODY, right ?

    November 9, 2011 at 1:30 pm | Report abuse |
    • Dave in Portland

      Nadean – Can you prove that there is conscious thought at the point of conception? Are there brainwaves? A Personality? Highly unlikely due to the lack of a developed brain. Therefore your argument is null and you are an idiot.

      November 9, 2011 at 6:37 pm | Report abuse |
    • CarlosinTx

      And if that OWN life later wants to NOT have a baby then that OWN Life should be allowed to have an abortion. See how that gets sticky...all the own life stuff. Yet, you arbitratily make the cut off someplace of your own choosing, and it is incorrect. Humans cannot be frozen. Yet embryos can, hmmmm how is that?

      November 9, 2011 at 9:10 pm | Report abuse |
  9. banasy©

    No. But if this amendment, with the ambiguous language, had passed – there might have been repercussions that would be just plain wrong.
    For instance, my two miscarriages may have put my in the criminal court system.
    And my daughter, who had a tubal pregnancy, had to have emergency surgery to save her life.
    Had she not had it, again, she would have died, and of course the baby would never had a chance at existence.
    She would have left the hospital, only to be thrown in jail; an exceedingly cruel way for the pro-lifers to get their point across.
    Things are not always black and white.
    The voters of Mississippi apparently agreed.

    November 9, 2011 at 1:33 pm | Report abuse |
    • sunburn

      My goodness ... today doctors do all they can to save both lives ... mothers and child ... please, stop with the reckless examples that hype up the issue! Call your local hospital and find out what was the last time they were faced with a situation like you describe. As for miscarriage ... no, obviously you would not be in court ... again, if you want to hype up the issue and inflame it then use these examples ... they are fruitless.

      Society will not punish a mother who loses a child to miscarriage...

      Using abortion for the rare cases of health for the mother are extremely rare … you must know this! What the issues is front and center is abortion on demand for birth control.

      For that matter why don’t we stop calling it an abortion issue! It’s not … it’s a birth control issue plain and simple!

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

      Hey Sunburn,
      So will there then be new tests that the state MANDATES women take aver day to prove they are not pregnant to do things such as drink? This is not only beyond stupid as a law, but if you want to talk about personhood, FIRST take it away from the corporations, before you start extending it to every tourist that may happen to come to Mississippi and screw and then end up with an anchor baby.
      You people are out of your minds.

      November 9, 2011 at 9:14 pm | Report abuse |
    • sunburn

      Boy or boy CarlosinTX ... does name calling help you? Do you find it satisfying to bash someone because you disagree with them? Are you uncomfortable with an on point discussion?

      If you find that "religious" individuals do no "moral" good ... as in creating hospitals, schools, universities, soup kitchens, women shelters and much more ... is that the point you are making? The religious do no good ... provide no good ... you are doing all of this on your own and are doing a much better job of it ... so you feel free to look your nose down at someone else? Sad!

      To pigeonhole this as a religious issue is creating hype ... it's not a “religious” issue! It's a pruritic society that is wrestling with all of this ... try to be helpful (if possible) and add some good discussion thoughts.

      November 9, 2011 at 10:46 pm | Report abuse |
  10. banasy©

    Oops, that was meant for Nadean's 1:20 post, sorry.

    November 9, 2011 at 1:35 pm | Report abuse |
  11. NYYpride

    In many ways it is funny to watch people fight and argue for countless hours as to when life begins when they have no way of ever knowing themselves

    November 9, 2011 at 1:37 pm | Report abuse |
  12. banasy©

    Who defined it that way, Nadean?

    November 9, 2011 at 1:37 pm | Report abuse |
  13. us1776


    If these religious i d i o t s cannot get this stupid "personhood" amendment passed in Mississippi then they will not be able to get it passed anywhere.

    Common sense reigns.


    November 9, 2011 at 1:39 pm | Report abuse |
  14. banasy©

    Oh, I'm not fighting anything, except the right to choose.
    You're absolutely correct, though.

    November 9, 2011 at 1:39 pm | Report abuse |
    • Kevin in Atlanta

      Been reading your post on here....just want to point out that there is a "reply" button you can press.

      Just an FYI...

      November 9, 2011 at 2:33 pm | Report abuse |
    • @Kevin

      Not is she's on a cell phone that doesn't support that format, and hers doesn't: she said that before. Oh, and you're welcome.

      November 9, 2011 at 2:56 pm | Report abuse |
    • @Kevin

      Since you're splitting hairs, wouldn't it be a button you can click?

      November 9, 2011 at 2:58 pm | Report abuse |
  15. anon

    I'm glad it failed to pass. I love how they have signs saying "we choose life" Well it is ironic because R vs W gave them the right to make that choice. What they want to do is take the choice from people. I think it is great that they believe in both their religion and personal beliefs not to have an abortion, but as an atheist I want to tell you stop forcing your beliefs upon me. I can care less about what god is telling you. Not to mention god has no place in the government. Hell even the bible differentiates between the laws of man and the laws of god so why are you trying to force this again? You people are just as bad as the Islamic fundamentalists that want to oppress women. It just dawned on me that the purpose of all religion is to oppress.

    November 9, 2011 at 1:41 pm | Report abuse |
    • durundal

      indeed. half of their conviction is likened to a punitive measure- good begets good and all that nonsense. Its like they live in a sterile world where everything is either 'good' or 'bad', and if it is unexpected or unwanted then it must be your punishment and you have to endure it. Life operates under far from ideal conditions: to dictate action for all walks of life without being able to think without using a deity as a crutch is hypocrisy. To think that they somehow know 'morality' better because they re-read an outdated book is beyond arrogance, and that they are somehow 'saved' by not having to think critically or question the world is disgusting.

      November 9, 2011 at 3:36 pm | Report abuse |
    • freeSouth

      Nobody is forcing their beliefs on you. Just stay out of Mississippi and you'll be fine.

      November 9, 2011 at 5:34 pm | Report abuse |
    • sunburn

      Roe vs. Wade created the so called right ... out of the blue ... it didn't exist before that.

      Doesn't make it any more real and true that the Dred Scott Decision ...

      November 9, 2011 at 9:16 pm | Report abuse |
    • CarlosinTx

      The problem with the mentally taxed religious crowd is that they think morality is based on a reward system. They have been brain washed into thinking that it is only a moral thing when the promise (acceptance into heaven) is the reward or it is not the moral thing to do by having the punishment of hell.
      Morality cannot be constructed based on reward/punishment. Moral acts are moral on their own. You either are moral or you are not. And to be moral for the sole reason of reward or punishment is not moral. So, religious zealots are not moral.

      November 9, 2011 at 9:19 pm | Report abuse |
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