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. Ms Atheist

    A woman's total autonomy over her own body must be preserved at all costs. This is America, land of the free. Leave my body alone. Period. Prochoice IS prolife.

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

      I LOVE you. I totally agree. Why are these people always pressing their ignorant views against us? First they hate black people, then gays, then mexicans, now women? When will it end.

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

      So the baby is yours entirely and the man has so say right??? Then dont go asking for child support

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

      @Dontbeahypocrite: Yep, a woman's right over her own body is not superceded by anyone. Period. And who needs child support if there's no baby? @YourMom: Thanks. 😉

      November 9, 2011 at 3:51 pm | Report abuse |
    • Your Mom

      When men have the right to tell women what to do with their bodies then women will be able to tell men what to do with their semen. I love how the religious people are the ones that molesting the children too, maybe that's why they want to make abortions illegal?

      November 9, 2011 at 4:02 pm | Report abuse |
    • mickey1313

      I agree as far as the government goes. I think it should be equally the man and womans right, if the man has no say, then child suport should be a thing of the past. But certanly the government has no legal say at all in the matter.

      November 9, 2011 at 7:53 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Dana Hite

    I'm not sure why government interference is bad when it comes to preventing corporations from stealing the farm, but it's perfectly ok when it comes to telling women how to manage their bodies. Can we get our government focused on what it's supposed to do, which is create a level playing field, and out of our personal lives?

    November 9, 2011 at 3:42 pm | Report abuse |
    • mickey1313

      agreed, but the difference is the government as it is now DOES work how it is suposed to, keeping its cronies the top 1% in control of all while letting the 99% rot.

      November 9, 2011 at 7:56 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Matthew

    How is abortion anything other than a direct and massive assault against our country's future? I'm not arguing womens rights or the bible or anything else here – I'm going back to the very specific issue that, when you have 50 million abortions...most for reasons of personal or financial convenience...you're inflicting some sort of serious harm on the future of our society

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

      Yeah... the population is really suffering...

      November 9, 2011 at 3:44 pm | Report abuse |
    • pat carr

      LOL, yeah i'm sure we need 50 million more children here

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

      Only in the sense that it keeps unwanted children out of the system and helps to control the massive over-population issue.

      November 9, 2011 at 3:49 pm | Report abuse |
    • tom

      How can you possibly say that? We are approaching 7 BILLION people on this planet. You do the math and figure out how your grandchildren will eat, have jobs or even access to clean water? What will happen in 50 years when there are 14 BILLION on the planet? You need to think a littyle more about this!

      November 9, 2011 at 3:51 pm | Report abuse |
    • chris

      our future is in Jeopardy because we have 50 million LESS unwanted births/botched back-alley abortions ??

      November 9, 2011 at 3:53 pm | Report abuse |
    • Craig C

      You say that abortions are seriously harming out future, but I disagree. Abortions being had by women because they aren't financially stable, mature enough to mother a child, or whatever other reason may very well be doing the future a favor. Children who grow up in an unstable and ill – prepared environment are much more likely not to receive a full education or to become criminals.

      And to say that a person is a person at the moment of conception is ridiculous. Consciousness does not exist at the moment an egg is fertilized.

      November 9, 2011 at 3:54 pm | Report abuse |
    • Cynthia

      Matthew, you are more than welcome to give birth. Until men do, leave the decision of women to do what they want or need to do with their own bodies to them. Since you are a male, work to make life better for the babies and children that are already here. Prove that you care about life by your support of the people already living and struggling in the now.

      November 9, 2011 at 3:55 pm | Report abuse |
    • mickey1313

      read a book fool. the world can naturally sustain a population of 4 billion, we are 7 billion, we need everyone who cannot aford to have kids to be steiralized. It should be a felony to have childeren if you do not have the means to take care of them.

      November 9, 2011 at 7:57 pm | Report abuse |
  4. enuff

    people protest to much...you protest if it is daytime,night time,someones butt is flat,to high taxes,someone makes to much,or more than you,stop the war,give me more,give me a house for free,why dont you crybaby protesters get a flippin job and do something worthwhile. you look like the same morons that did this in the 60s.

    November 9, 2011 at 3:42 pm | Report abuse |
  5. wcnea567

    Why can't conservatives do the things they preach. They talk about spending cuts but they spend all kinds of money trying to make laws they like. Many conservatives don't even believe in human laws they believe only in God's laws. Once the baby is born they would reject any kind of assistance to the mother expecially if the mother was poor. Rich mothers may get tax breaks and other government assistance.

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

      Because doing the things they preach would require their minds to evolve which is something they don't believe in either, evolution.

      November 9, 2011 at 4:04 pm | Report abuse |
  6. cj

    Just remember that God can choose to abort all of mankind any time that He chooses which, according to the direction the world is heading, should be very soon.

    'For those who have much more shall be given but to those who have little even that which they have shall be taken away'

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

      take a hike

      November 9, 2011 at 3:49 pm | Report abuse |
    • tom

      There is no god, you fool!

      November 9, 2011 at 3:52 pm | Report abuse |
    • Craig C

      lol get out of the comment thread if you're going to throw around quotes from a 2,000 yr+ old mostly fiction book

      November 9, 2011 at 3:57 pm | Report abuse |
    • Fookin' Prawn

      The sooner the better.

      November 9, 2011 at 3:59 pm | Report abuse |
  7. pat carr

    Conservatives hate government until it suits their social issues

    November 9, 2011 at 3:43 pm | Report abuse |
    • Your Mom

      Of course, that is why they changed the bible to suit their needs to. They say they preach 'Gods' word. I think if there was a 'God' he would come done and smack them all. I really doubt that he is that hateful.

      November 9, 2011 at 4:05 pm | Report abuse |
  8. ever4lasting

    The government has any right to make medical decisions for someone else. A medical decision should be between family and the doctor.

    November 9, 2011 at 3:43 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Bearced

    Why are the same people that want to end abortion the first ones in line to back the death penalty? Seems a bit hypocritical to me, especially considering the amount of innocent people put to death in the name of justice.

    November 9, 2011 at 3:44 pm | Report abuse |
    • Matthew

      because people being put to death took someone else's life.

      November 9, 2011 at 3:44 pm | Report abuse |
    • Ms Atheist

      @matthew, so we shoild kill all the women who dare have abortions?

      November 9, 2011 at 3:48 pm | Report abuse |
    • cecilia

      finally someone else who believes the same about the death penalty and abortion. also the same people who would deny woman's rights do not want to even consider assisting the poor and hunger children in America or educate our children or provide health care for them – it is amazing to me how the right claims to be the super Christians and never do anything that is Christ like.

      November 9, 2011 at 3:50 pm | Report abuse |
    • sequoia

      It's Big Government Conservatism. They want the most oppressive and intrusive government imaginable...they just want it on their terms.They want a government so powerful over citizens that the government can literally murder people and force women to give birth against their will (and dictate who can marry whom, etc.). Basically, think Taliban.

      November 9, 2011 at 3:54 pm | Report abuse |
    • Your Mom

      TRUTH!

      November 9, 2011 at 3:57 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Randall Flagg

    If you don't believe abortion should be legal, than don't have one. Otherwise leave the rest of us alone. I think that's the message the voters are trying to send.

    November 9, 2011 at 3:44 pm | Report abuse |
    • ME

      That's not an irrational statement unless you replace "abortion" with "murder" and "have" with "commit". Not that I'm Pro-Life, but the statement falls flat to those that believe abortion is murder.

      November 9, 2011 at 3:51 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Aristocles

    It was too much, too soon. Jumping from "partial birth abortion ban" to "personhood amendment" was too big a gap to bridge right now. It needs more time. Still, this was pretty close compared to the last two times we tried. Next time it might be different, thanks to the much wider coverage in the press, and the greater attention given to it.

    November 9, 2011 at 3:44 pm | Report abuse |
    • Garry

      CLOSE?? 58% to 42%..NOT EVEN..the people of Mississippi KNEW what they were doing when they rejected it! This mobement should be stopped and stopped NOW! To hell with the ultra, ultra conservative GOP.

      November 9, 2011 at 3:49 pm | Report abuse |
    • Will S

      Next time you won't even get enough signatures to get it on the ballot...

      November 9, 2011 at 3:54 pm | Report abuse |
  12. Guester

    Funny how anti-government conservatories are until they want to force people to act a certain way.

    November 9, 2011 at 3:44 pm | Report abuse |
  13. johnqpublic

    they need to stop pretending that the problem is abortion. this is a societal problem of unwanted pregnancies and that is where they should be focus their attention. abortion is simply a symptom of the problem.

    November 9, 2011 at 3:44 pm | Report abuse |
  14. Southern Girl

    I knew the amendment was in trouble a couple of days ago when I asked by 74 year old sister who lives in south Mississippi how she was going to vote. She is very Christian and very pro life. She said she was going to vote against it. Thank God for people who have strong beliefs but good ole common sense.

    November 9, 2011 at 3:44 pm | Report abuse |
  15. Jack Jackson

    It failed because EVEN PEOPLE IN MISSISSIPPI are not that stupid.

    November 9, 2011 at 3:44 pm | Report abuse |
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