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. MashaSobaka

    You keeping bringing these measures, "Personhood" folks, and people like me will keep fighting to the death to keep the government from stripping away human rights. Your grandchildren will thank us.

    November 9, 2011 at 3:49 pm | Report abuse |
    • Enoch100

      Our grandchildren will thank us- if they are allowed to be born and have breath. Baby killing stinks!

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

      This was another instance of a small group saying they represented the majority..... just like the occupy folks do.

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

      The repubs want 'less government' but want to treat women like baby making incubators. Give rights to a clump of cells, but not to the woman carrying it!
      Makes sense right? Crawl back under your rocks you Antichoice religious terrorists!

      November 9, 2011 at 3:55 pm | Report abuse |
  2. jlf2002

    My wife had a miscarriage not long ago. Should we prosecute her for involuntary manslaughter?

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

      There would be conservative Super Comittee to evaluate the guilt.

      November 9, 2011 at 3:51 pm | Report abuse |
    • Enoch100

      No. But she should be allowed to mourn. Unlike you are apparently.

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

      Enoch – how do you know they didn't. Pretty presumptious of you, considering you know nothing about this person. Nice ad hominem attack, as usual from the radical right.

      November 9, 2011 at 4:08 pm | Report abuse |
    • IreneNY

      Reply to Enoch100 – what a little judgemental creep you are. You don't even know this commenter and you are accusing him of not caring about the family's lost pregnancy. Think before you hit the send button you jerk!

      November 9, 2011 at 4:08 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Joe

    Conservatives ALWAYS go too far. They carry a genetic mutation called "compromise".

    There is no cure!

    November 9, 2011 at 3:49 pm | Report abuse |
  4. BearWoman

    So, if a fertilized egg is considered a person, would the mother be charged with murder is she miscarried then?

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

      And d i e if she had the misfortune of an ectopic pregnancy.

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

      Therefore, mastur bation should be manslaughter!

      November 9, 2011 at 3:56 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Julie

    congratulations to the voters of Mississippi for letting common sense prevail.
    We can all have our beliefs about when life or "personhood" starts – but the fact is, that no one can really proove their belief one way or another. Some say at conception – and there are some cultures who don't believe the soul enters the body until well after birth. Proove it is< (or isn't) so. Can't do it. This is a matter of very personal belief and it should NOT be legislated. We can all agree that' its wrong to harm a born or about to be born baby – that's enough. It is foolish to carry this to an extreme.
    First – let's solve problems like men who father babies and then can't or won't support them, leaving both mother and child in poverty. Let us solve the problems of abuse and neglect of children. These are what we ought to be concerned about – not ridiculous questions about some magical point where someone imagines that life/personhood for a microscopic cell quietly dividing in a petri dish or on a mucus membrane begins.begins.

    November 9, 2011 at 3:50 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Reality Check

    Think of all the unintended consequences. You could get pregnant before tax day and then declare your newly fertilized egg a dependent, declare a spontaneous abortion a couple weeks later and repeat every year without ever having to raise kids.

    November 9, 2011 at 3:50 pm | Report abuse |
  7. MakeThemEatCake

    Taking that car accident argument and expanding it a bit. since there is a bit of a lag from the moment of conception until a woman knows she is pregnant, anything she does that could be argued as dangerous to a fetus could be considered a crime. What is that statue of limitations on an assault charge? Reckless endangerment? Child abuse? If the child is born with any kind of disability, everything that woman did or exposed herself to which can be argued as the cause of that disability would be a crime. Talk about keeping women barefoot and pregnant.

    November 9, 2011 at 3:50 pm | Report abuse |
  8. johnqpublic

    how would the law have viewed a mississippi resident that crossed state lines for an abortion?

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

    I know we're talknig about a human life here. But outside of that, if I look at drug laws, and let's even say motor vehicle laws. Everyone breaks those laws. So what are you going to do about the 1,000 illegal abortions that will take place everyday after this law would be passed? Are you going to put women in prison? I don't see any logic in what you're trying to do. I think educating people would be a better avenue to take....oh I forgot people aren't interested in being educated. Sorry.

    November 9, 2011 at 3:51 pm | Report abuse |
  10. sonnycam1

    Next GOP declares sperm as personhood

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

      Well, not that precisely, but they already believe that the sperm producers should be able to tell everyone else what they can or cannot do.

      November 9, 2011 at 4:00 pm | Report abuse |
  11. st7672

    Clearly human life begins before conception. A human egg and sperm are both alive and human. To say that human life only begins at conception is completely arbitrary and false.

    November 9, 2011 at 3:52 pm | Report abuse |
  12. Don

    I don't think Liberals should be using abortion for birth control.

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

      Who says they are ?

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

      They don't you fool. Where do you get your misinformation?

      November 9, 2011 at 3:58 pm | Report abuse |
  13. Roe Gallo

    The same people {Republicans} who are for the YES 26 movement are the same people who would let that 30 year old man die at a hospital because he has NO INSURANCE. HYPOCRITICAL, don't you think!

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

      thank you for making that point

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

      YES. The same people who scream for the 'rights' of a clump of cells that is not even viable yet want to make living, breathing women baby making incubators with no rights. Keep religious fanatics away from our laws!

      November 9, 2011 at 4:00 pm | Report abuse |
    • Well, well..

      Couldn't have said it better myself. The hypocrisy is mind boggling. I wish these people would abort themselves.

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

    When did we give up our rights to choice? The goverment needs to get out of the business of legislating morality.

    November 9, 2011 at 3:53 pm | Report abuse |
  15. buschwc

    I wish conservatives would spend the money and energy the waste on fighting abortion and spend it trying to help all the kids living in poverty in OUR OWN DAMN COUNTRY! Once the baby is out of the womb, it becomes of little concern to these people. Did you ever stop to consider the homeless guy on your street is a person? Or the homeless vet who fought for his country and was discarded was a person? Or the mother of four who couldn't get birth control because these holy rollers don't think it's 'moral' and now has to use welfare just to feed her kids? Am I the only one here who isn't insane?

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

      I find this to be maddening.
      These same people who want to take away the right of birth control and abortion complain that their taxes pay for those with kids they can't afford to feed, and those who live a life of poverty and crime, then end up in jail (supported by tax payers). They complain about the middle class making a living wage with health benefits and vets getting social security. We are already overpopulated, and as sentient beings we are trying to control that!

      These people are absolutely nuts.

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