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. buddget

    Maybe they will get a hint that, the rest of us don't want a bunch of Theocracts running our lives.

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

      Well said.

      November 9, 2011 at 3:52 pm | Report abuse |
    • pat carr

      Yeah where is that "religious persecution" now?

      November 9, 2011 at 4:45 pm | Report abuse |
  2. WAAWDNFWDNS

    Religious zealots pose one of the biggest threats to our freedoms.

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

      Very, very true. These same zealots condemn Muslims, but are as radical as Muslim terrorists.

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

      Actually, the biggest threat to our freedoms comes from the Private Banks.

      November 9, 2011 at 3:56 pm | Report abuse |
    • Sean

      I disagree Nick. Big banks want to control your money. Theists want to control your money and your mind.

      November 9, 2011 at 3:58 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Sean

    Evangelicals are always pushing their twisted sense of morals on others.
    Not today.
    Mississippi you finally have something to be proud of.

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

      The next step by supporters of the ammendment will be to disenfranchise those who voted against the measure.

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

      If by disenfranchise you mean burned at the stake. I agree.

      November 9, 2011 at 3:56 pm | Report abuse |
    • nheckt

      Are you retarded? Twisted sense of morals?? Here it is plain and simple so even you can understand this. How much money is spent on medical and research to preserving life a year? Any hospital or any city any location? How much money is spent on ending life? Basic morals say preserve life at any cost. Save some money and go jump off a brideg Loser!!!

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

      @ nheckt
      Typically hypocritical response from a thumper. Would jebus tell me to jump off a bridge because I disagreed with him? Anyone who thinks they should force THIER morals on other is indeed twisted. Please make your next comment a bit more ‘plain and simple’ you write like you’re drunk.

      “How much money is spent on medical and research to preserving life a year?” lol

      November 9, 2011 at 4:10 pm | Report abuse |
  4. pat carr

    It failed because it was rediculous and an intrusion into women's lives

    November 9, 2011 at 3:46 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Bob

    Don't let Big Brother hold your eggs!!

    November 9, 2011 at 3:46 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Tony

    I'll tell ya what happened... People realized they don't want the f'n gov't telling them what to do with their own bodies.

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

      Sadly, 42% of the voters do want the government to intervene in private, personal matters. That is very scary.

      November 9, 2011 at 3:53 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Mississippi Mom

    Yes I am from Mississippi – This measure failed for several reasons. Not because we think abortion is right but because the wording of it was wrong. There were too many questions that the proponents couldn't answer or would not answer. The what ifs made doctors concerned about women's healthcare. I am a Christain, Republican, and I voted NO for this. I think abortion is wrong, but this measure was not how defining personhood should have been done. To Many think of Mississippi as dumb and backwards, have seen to many comment here and other places, I hate say this but the majority are not dumb and backwards. We saw this measure for what it was and put it down.

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

      For that at least you have my respect.

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

      "To Many think of Mississippi as dumb and backwards, have seen to many comment here and other places, I hate say this but the majority are not dumb and backwards. "

      ...and this is why people think Mississippi is dumb.

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

      I’ve been visiting Mississippi since I was a child. I respectfully disagree on the dumb and backwards comment.

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

      LOL, Reality Check. I was thinking the same thing.

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

      Obviously, 42% of Mississippians are backward and dumb.

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

      If you don't want an abortion...don't get one! Stop telling me how to run MY own life!! As I recall Jesus said he who is without sin cast the first stone.....don't you think that might mean that people should mind their own business and leave other people to do the same? Everyone now has the freedom to do as they choose...that should be the way of it. Jesus would agree.

      November 9, 2011 at 3:59 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Guest

    If life begins at conception then m*sturb*tion is genocide

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

      and bl*w jobs are cannibalism

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

      cancer would have rights

      (really cnn,I can talk about cannibalism and mass murder,but god forbid I talk about wh*ckin it or bl*w jobs)
      Man,how stupid is that?I cant touch my d1ck or wh*ck it off but if it was brutally cut off,hey,no problem
      you s*ck a bag of d1cks cnn.You s*ck em real good

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

      At this point I just decided to be a d1ck
      pen1s pen1s pen1s v*gina
      fu'ck your cu'nt with co'ck sh'it wh'ore sl'ut p*ssy f*g 'ss licker
      pickles fudge

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

      MISSISSIPPI TOUCHED MY PEE PEE

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

      You might need to look up "conception". It involves a sperm and an egg, so masturbation doesn't count.

      November 9, 2011 at 4:00 pm | Report abuse |
    • Kyle

      You my friend obviously do not know what "conception" means.

      November 9, 2011 at 4:02 pm | Report abuse |
    • Fookin' Prawn

      Ok, you lost me at 'pickles fudge'. Random, but funny.

      Well, you can't get kids from masturbation, thank the powers that be. However, if the measure had passed, you could no longer call breakfast scrambled eggs. They would have to be 'scrambled chickens', if by any chance they were fertilized.

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

    No shortage of retards in this country, nope.

    November 9, 2011 at 3:47 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Perspective

    I'm just going to go ahead and put this out there... He does have a point, after all.

    http://i.imgur.com/Nt0w7.jpg

    November 9, 2011 at 3:48 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Steven E

    Three Points:
    1) Making abortion illegal will not make it go away, It will only force it into dark alleys. We need to have a better conversation on preventing unwanted pregnancy.
    2) Under this law, a woman who has a miscarriage becomes a murder suspect. OK, what? You think she's not traumatized enough?
    3)I I don't have a uterus. It's not for me to decide anyway.

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

      better idea – rather than trying to find every trick in the book to prevent people from having kids, why don't we start sending the message that children and families are to be treasured, and that pregnancy isn't the toxic disease some people make it out to be?

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

      ...I love you.

      November 9, 2011 at 3:52 pm | Report abuse |
    • Steven E

      @Matthew, If you think that's the right thing, then spawn like a bunny rabbit. I'm not going to stop you. I'm not the parenting sort, so I will reserve my right to not have children.

      @Megan. love you too 😉

      November 9, 2011 at 3:59 pm | Report abuse |
    • Kelly

      Yes, Yes and YES! Why cant all men think like you? 🙂

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

      @Kelley, Seems like a no-brainer to me. Want to reduce abortions? Reduce unwanted pregnancies. I am guided by reason, not dogma.

      November 9, 2011 at 4:13 pm | Report abuse |
  12. Hasa Diga Eebowai

    Mississippi, you have surprised me... Please hold your heads high!

    November 9, 2011 at 3:48 pm | Report abuse |
  13. Kiki

    When conservative said they were interested in creating jobs they meant as mutaween.

    November 9, 2011 at 3:48 pm | Report abuse |
  14. Whammybar

    To all those that support Personhood, Pro-Lifers, Intelligent Design, etc. Live the way you want to live. Leave the rest of us alone. Pro-Choice is not pro-abortion. Leave us alone, period! Keep this country free. Please do not force your faith, convicitions and beliefs on the rest of us. Attend the church of your choice and worship as you want. Be happy that you can. Live free! Pro-choice is not pro-abortion. Pro-choice is freedom to live the way you choose. Go do that and leave us alone.

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

      Amen to that!

      November 9, 2011 at 3:58 pm | Report abuse |
    • Kelly

      Here here!! Well said!

      November 9, 2011 at 4:04 pm | Report abuse |
    • Sean

      Well said.

      November 9, 2011 at 4:13 pm | Report abuse |
  15. Mion

    Notice how most of the people in that picture are white males.

    November 9, 2011 at 3:49 pm | Report abuse |
    • Ness1

      Just another bill they wanted to pass to control women.

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

      Sorry to burst your feminist bubble but if you look closely there are LOTS of women in that photo. Poor polling aside, Evangelicals come in both genders.

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