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. Capy

    If that passed, then the following would be true.

    If you got in a car accident, and bumped into a van transporting fertilized eggs (for IVF, etc). If that cause those to break open, you could be tried for mass murder AND convicted....probably put to death

    November 9, 2011 at 3:38 pm | Report abuse |
    • Epacific

      Very good point. The "Thank You" picture on their website should have had a picture of a fertilized egg. But they didn't do that because then people would realize how ridiculous this proposition was.

      November 9, 2011 at 3:45 pm | Report abuse |
    • Richard

      Just to add to that every time a woman had a miscarriage, which occurs in 20% of all pregnancies) the family would need to take the ball of cells and have a funeral because you just can dispose of a "person".

      November 9, 2011 at 3:45 pm | Report abuse |
    • Ken

      especially since everyone these days reads the letter of the law instead of intentions. Reminds me of that old Brady episode where Greg is made to live by exact words. Legal trickery is dumb.

      November 9, 2011 at 3:47 pm | Report abuse |
    • johnqpublic

      how would the law view someone who crossed state lines for an abortion?

      November 9, 2011 at 3:49 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Forehand

    I find it ironic that all of these protestors are trying to get support for the idea that conception is when a person begins. Yet on all their protest posters, they have pictures of advanced fetuses and newborns. Why you ask? Could it be that if they put a picture of a recently fertilized ovum would lead the majority of people to say, "What the f*** is that? Of course that's not a person..." People wouldn't react to such a picture because it doesn't look like a person, because it's not a person, undermining their entire stand. And for all you folks reading this screaming potentiality, sorry. Just because a cacao bean has the potential to be a delicious chocolate bar, doesn't mean it doesn't taste horrible before it's processed.

    November 9, 2011 at 3:38 pm | Report abuse |
    • Epacific

      Exactly. Same goes for the picture on their website. Goes to show what idiots they are.

      November 9, 2011 at 3:46 pm | Report abuse |
    • Richard

      All the news reports say they are trying to give a fetus personhood. When a egg is fertilized it is called a zygote and this stage lasts for 8 weeks. The it is called a fetus. These idiots want to call a zygote a person. A zygote is a small ball of cells. Most miscarriages occurs when the zygote is transforming into a fetus at about 8 weeks.

      November 9, 2011 at 3:49 pm | Report abuse |
    • Rick in CO

      But no one is answering the larger question of when life does begin. No rational person in America believes it's fine to cut the head off a full-term baby as it is emerging from the birth canal. And we know that a majority of Americans are against defining conception as the moment life begins because of the implications of that decision. But we're just eliminating the extremes without any real effort to find an answer. It's like we're back in 1787 trying to figure out if slaves count as half a person, 3/4ths of a person or 3/5ths of a person.

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

      That's what ya call marketing

      November 9, 2011 at 5:35 pm | Report abuse |
  3. emdub

    funny how these people that hate government most want the government to control women the most.

    November 9, 2011 at 3:38 pm | Report abuse |
    • sunburned

      I agree with you completely. I've never had so many people tell me they believe in a small government ... as long as the small government gets full control of my uterus.

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

    If Mississippi, of all states, tells you something you're trying to do is idiotic.....maybe you should consider a new hobby.

    November 9, 2011 at 3:38 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Jeb

    What's next?

    Republicans go back to the drawing board to figure out how to force their beliefs on the rest of us.

    November 9, 2011 at 3:38 pm | Report abuse |
    • Richard

      Mississppi should try taking care of the babies they have. The state children are grossly obese, under educated and have a higher infant mortality rate than almost any other state. Why do they want more?

      November 9, 2011 at 3:51 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Answer

    If the group is strong in their beliefs, then they should cement their cause internally, and not try to push it on the state as a whole. Their mission should not cross the lines between religion and law. If they continue to push too hard, it will only lead to their direct extermination, since religions are a dangerous existence and sooner or later will not be tolerated.

    November 9, 2011 at 3:38 pm | Report abuse |
  7. krs

    iIf this had passed, would women who miscarried have to go to trial to prove they did everything perfectly during their pregnancy?

    November 9, 2011 at 3:40 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Jay-B


    does that look like a person to you?

    November 9, 2011 at 3:40 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Lee

    Why don't people mind their own business instead of trying to force their views on others? If you don't want an abortion, don't have one. Your beliefs SHOULD NOT rule the lives of others. Remember, there are other religions and beliefs in America NOW and if you don't shut up, THEY will be placing THEIR VIEWS on YOU! For the record, I am not a big fan of abortion, but it is NOT MY RIGHT to govern the lives and beliefs of others. It is THEIR BUSINESS!

    November 9, 2011 at 3:40 pm | Report abuse |
  10. johnqpublic

    if this measure could not pass in mississippi, i can't believe there is any state in america where it would pass.

    November 9, 2011 at 3:40 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Sam

    how about all the sperm and eggs in the sperm banks and egg banks. what are they? may be they should call it prepersonhood?......what about spaying and neutering dogs and cats....is that okay?....Mississippi? well well well....what do you know? back to the stone-age.

    November 9, 2011 at 3:41 pm | Report abuse |
  12. confused

    So I'm confused. Why is it okay for the government to require drivers to get car insurance, but there's such backlash for the obama-care initiative to require people to get health insurance. And if its NOT okay for government to set laws for health insurance because its "overreaching", how is it okay for government to step in and set laws that say women can't have abortions? I know this is slight off topic but I've had this question for a while, and this seemed the place to pose it.

    November 9, 2011 at 3:41 pm | Report abuse |
    • Richard

      Its because the people on the right only want their view reflected to the "thinking people".

      November 9, 2011 at 3:54 pm | Report abuse |
    • Fookin' Prawn

      You're confused because it makes zero sense. It's about a certain faction in this country wanting it their way no matter what.

      November 9, 2011 at 3:56 pm | Report abuse |
  13. bspurloc

    JOBS JOBS JOBS enough with the forcing your religion on people.....

    November 9, 2011 at 3:41 pm | Report abuse |
    • Kiki

      They'll employ people by creating an army of mutaween.

      November 9, 2011 at 3:45 pm | Report abuse |
  14. Walter

    The implications were huge and almost endless. For example, could a woman put 20 fertilized eggs in the deep freeze and claim 20 dependents on her income tax? Since the state legally has the right to intervene between a parent and child in order to protect the child, could the state dictate lifestyle to pregnant females? Would a pregnant female have to notify the state that she is pregnant? And in the case of a miscarriage, would a death certificate have to be issued?

    November 9, 2011 at 3:42 pm | Report abuse |
    • Richard

      This sounds like a good idea. Of course only half of Americans pay tax anyway.

      November 9, 2011 at 3:54 pm | Report abuse |
  15. LB

    These right-wing types want to ban birth control. They think the pill counts as abortion because it MIGHT interfere with the implantation of a fertilized egg. They won't be happy until everyone has 20 kids like the Duggars.

    November 9, 2011 at 3:42 pm | Report abuse |
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