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. Tom C

    "When fascism comes to America, it will carry a bible and wrap itself in the flag."

    Beware those who would sell the rights of the living for a bundle of mindless cells. They value life least of all.

    November 9, 2011 at 4:06 pm | Report abuse |
    • Jon

      In the long run, science will always trump religion. Simply because one is logical while one is not.

      November 9, 2011 at 4:11 pm | Report abuse |
    • high school biology advocate

      Did you know when they harvest a fetus for vaccine cells, they have to ice it to preserve it, just like Dr. Mengele did in some of his Nazi "medical" experiments? Isn't it funny too you don't mind exterminating any "mindless bundle" of cells. I guess you'd pull the plug on all coma victims, right? Ah but some including the Nazis saw others pretty much as less than human and just bundles of cells, didn't they? So who is the fascist?

      "[The zygote], formed by the union of an oocyte and a sperm, is the beginning of a new human being." Keith L. Moore, Essentials of Embryology, 7th edition. Philadelphia, PA: Saunders, 2008. p. 2.

      November 9, 2011 at 4:15 pm | Report abuse |
    • Fookin' Prawn

      @high school – sure, your leap in logic makes terrific sense. gtfo.

      November 9, 2011 at 4:26 pm | Report abuse |
    • ted

      Dear High School Biology dropout–ummm...glurb schlick duh dhu duh blubber blubber goony goo goo. Ok, I feel better now that I've told you off in your own language.

      November 9, 2011 at 4:36 pm | Report abuse |
  2. CLV

    The discussion of what I do or don't do with my fertility should never take place on my behalf. Women are independent , intelligent beings and we don't need others to make decisions for us or about us.
    The issue of a woman's right to choose should never have become a political issue that we as taxpayers spend our dollars on.
    Taxes should be spent on education and health care which will improve communities as a whole.
    I don't need or want anyoune to tell me I have or do not have the right to choose.

    November 9, 2011 at 4:06 pm | Report abuse |
    • BR

      Totally agree with you, CLV. these hypocrites are against choice until they need to make a choice themselves. why is it they whine that government should govern less but they want to government to interfere in the most personal decision of all, and this is telling a woman what she should do with her own body. How ironic! (and no credibility.)

      November 9, 2011 at 4:21 pm | Report abuse |
    • justme

      Thank you so much for making that point....i mean some states are trying to make it illegal for a doctor to save a woman's life in the event of an ectopic pregnancy....all so they can "help" the unborn....well that is all well and good, but when those unborn are born and end up in the system, where are these pro-lifers to step up and given these children homes??? Why are there so many children in foster homes as a result of a parent putting them up for adoption and yet no one willing to adopt.....i say: LEAVE ME ALONE....let me live my own life and answer to God on my own...you are against abortions and birth control-good for you....don't try to tell me how to live my life or what is best for me.....

      November 9, 2011 at 4:22 pm | Report abuse |
    • ADH

      Their position isn't to decide what you do with your life. They take the position that a fertilized egg is a human being and as such deserves the same right to live as you and me. They are not saying abortion should be illegal to take your choices away but to not allow you to make a choice to end another individuals life. You really should try to understand the argument from the other side less your argument to them just seems silly. They here you complain about taking away your rights when to them it has nothing to do with you but the person you're carrying. I don't believe life begins at conception and therefor support abortion but if there was any proof otherwise I would have voted yes. Not to harm you but to protect someone else. As it is now there is no proof.

      November 9, 2011 at 4:33 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Joel

    I find it rather interesting that most comments, who disagree with this amendment, call the supporters "morons, ignorant, hateful, uneducated, etc". It's not enough to say I disgree with your position. No, you have to belittle and insult people. Stay classy.

    November 9, 2011 at 4:07 pm | Report abuse |
    • elle

      Yeah, as if the people on the right don't call their opponents murders, communists and everything nasty they can think of.
      I agree that intelligent people can agree civilly to disagree. However, the people on the right trying to take away my liberties based on their religious beliefs- those people are self-righteous and deserve some scorn.

      November 9, 2011 at 4:16 pm | Report abuse |
    • ted

      Oh, yeah, and calling those who don't agree with you "murderers" is really taking the high road. Quit crying. Not only did so-called "personhood" lose, it lost BIG. I mean REAL BIG. I mean like bigger than Obama B-I-G!!!!!

      November 9, 2011 at 4:17 pm | Report abuse |
    • Mike w

      It's difficult to be civil to somebody who calls you a heartless child killer for not agreeing that a clump of cells should be treated as a full fledged person. Moron pails in comparison with being shouted down as a murderer or a monster. Grow up and smell the hypocrisy.

      November 9, 2011 at 4:17 pm | Report abuse |
    • ed adams

      Thank you.

      November 9, 2011 at 4:19 pm | Report abuse |
  4. hypothetical question

    So if you are pro-abortion, what do you think about creating a lab to grow human embryos and fetuses and harvest them for body parts and organs? It could be big business. And absolutely nothing wrong with it, right? Just bunches of cells, right? I mean some might have faces and beating hearts, but that's just the shape the bunch of cells happen to come in.

    November 9, 2011 at 4:07 pm | Report abuse |
    • damian

      stem cells could save millions of lives

      November 9, 2011 at 4:15 pm | Report abuse |
    • The Hat of the Three-Toed Man-Baby

      I think it would be awesome - personally, I could use a new liver when this one quits on me.

      November 9, 2011 at 4:15 pm | Report abuse |
    • damian

      I would love to invest

      November 9, 2011 at 4:16 pm | Report abuse |
    • hypothetical answer

      First off, it's not "pro-abortion"...it's "pro-choice." Get your cultural euphemisms correct. That would be like me labeling your group of supporters as "anti-freedom"...doesn't have the same ring, does it?... Anyway, about your nonsensical rant, there are laws forbidding the cloning of humans for that or any purpose. If however it wasn't forbidden by law, I'm sure it would be big business to just regrow limbs from your own cells in a lab to restore the quality of life for a disabled veteran or other amputee. I'm sure those cells would deserve the same rights as the individual they came from though, even if they had no potential to develop into a fully functional human being, right?

      November 9, 2011 at 4:16 pm | Report abuse |
    • LOLZ

      what?? Pro choice. Not pro abortion. It doesn't mean we get off on killing babies or keeping them in test tubes. It means the mother reserves the right to choose.

      November 9, 2011 at 4:19 pm | Report abuse |
    • elle

      No one is suggesting that we do that. And just because the blob of cells is shaped like a face doesn't mean its a person. Where are people like you when actual children in poverty are needing love. Living, thinking independent-and-not -part of their mother's body children? Pro-life people often take on the cause so they can feel like they are doing God's work, but they really should do work that God actually talked about. They take up being "self-righteous" instead, because it takes little work, makes them feel moral. What have you done to actually help a child lately?

      November 9, 2011 at 4:21 pm | Report abuse |
    • BR

      Hypothetical answer and LOLZ: Couldn't have said it better myself.

      November 9, 2011 at 4:24 pm | Report abuse |
    • stormchaser1983

      How about your sperms after you jacked off? They had the potential to be someone right? they are not just cells...yet you had no problems washing your hands off that ....

      November 9, 2011 at 4:27 pm | Report abuse |
    • Godabed

      in-vitro fertilization, is completely different from harvesting body parts or organs. contrary to what people are starting to believe life starts after birth, after you are out of the womb. Gestation is not birth. Fetus are not human beings because depending on the stage of development they could not survive outside of the womb.

      Potential for a human being does not mean you will be a human being, no more than potential to be a criminal mean you will be a criminal and therefore should be put directly in jail. to which studies have proven that by the 3rd grade it can be determined if children will be criminal. So using your logic that those kids that you are fighting so hard to be born, will be put in a situation where their society will fail them, and cast them directly in jail? Why wait for them to get out of school or commit the crime if your logic is sound just throw the kids in jail after the third grade and keep them there. We all know how American society tricks the "criminal element" or another name for them are the "poor".

      I think it's insane that these religious people will fight and kill for an unborn fetus but won't fight for the children that are already here. It's complete and utter hypocrisy.

      November 9, 2011 at 4:27 pm | Report abuse |
    • metroman76

      You can be pro-abortion and not go to those extremes. Your use of hyperbole does little to strengthen your position.

      November 9, 2011 at 4:30 pm | Report abuse |
    • ted


      November 9, 2011 at 4:30 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Chris

    If being a diploid human cell is all it takes to be a person with full rights as US citizens, I think we should fight for cellular suffrage so these embryos and every nucleated diploid cell can voice its opinion in our government. Sorry erythrocytes, looks like you'll be the modern repressed minority. (Food for thought: Would treating cancer be considered genocide by the Personhood measure? Cancer cells are alive by every definition of the word, they're nucleated diploid human cells - cells that don't even bear your exact genome - and they are certainly existent post-fertilization)

    November 9, 2011 at 4:07 pm | Report abuse |
    • high school biology advocate

      Oh Chris, please review your high school biology. All diploid cells are not zygotes. A zygote is unique. Most higher animals lives start as single-cell zygotes. And in the case of a human zygote, that is the beginning of a human life.

      "[The zygote], formed by the union of an oocyte and a sperm, is the beginning of a new human being." Keith L. Moore, Before We Are Born: Essentials of Embryology, 7th edition. Philadelphia, PA: Saunders, 2008. p. 2.

      November 9, 2011 at 4:11 pm | Report abuse |
    • Chris

      Oh, thank you so much for that fundamental clarification in high school biology. I'm sure glad I have individuals like you to educate me on principals of high school biology. Let's ignore for a moment that I'm likely far more educated in the field of biology than you and go back to the foundation of your argument which is meant to discredit me as an uneducated fool. Where does the wording of this measure mention anything about zygotes, gametes, somatic cells or the like? If I'm reading this correctly, it says "...from the moment of fertilization, cloning or functional equivalent thereof." Now I'm sure in that foundational biology course you remember so well, you've learned that a clone is literally just a functional derivative of one cell that is identical in terms of genomic and functional role. From this, a human being is actually a fertilized zygote that, through a series of developmental intra and extracellular signals, turns into a diverse population of clonal cells that lead to the final product of a human child. If this law is intended to target the zygotic cell and resulting blastocyst and eventually fetus, then it should indicate such in its wording. In the future, I would suggest not trying to teach your grandmother to suck eggs.

      November 9, 2011 at 4:31 pm | Report abuse |
    • ted

      DO NOt MESS WITH THIS MAN (Chris).

      High School Dropout got handed his zygot in a basket


      November 9, 2011 at 4:39 pm | Report abuse |
  6. LogicalThinker

    The tactics lack support of strategy. With each defeat of this tactic, the strategy is weakened as the popular opinion turns against the tactic and thus against the strategic objective by association. The supporters of the tactic took on too big an issue with a really ambiguous approach that failed to be sufficiently detailed and defined. If there is doubt, vote it out.

    November 9, 2011 at 4:07 pm | Report abuse |
  7. trigtwit palin... America's favorite tard baby

    Look at what a mess I am.

    November 9, 2011 at 4:08 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Daivie

    As Herman Cain said, " I am opposed to abortion for any and all reasons, however, the government must not intrude on a woman's right to choose. ( Didn't he also say that he's willing to take a lie detector test, but he won't do it.) Geez, this dimwit sounds more like Willard Romney every day.

    November 9, 2011 at 4:08 pm | Report abuse |
  9. bob baden

    I'm a person. A living, breathing taxpaying gay person. Why aren't these people concerned with my rights? Why aren't these people fighting for all GLBTs personhoods. Short pier, long walk folks!

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

      Gays are in trouble because Religion backs pro-life while condemns gays. It's a small problem when the majority of the world thinks that sadly.

      November 9, 2011 at 4:13 pm | Report abuse |
    • Fookin' Prawn

      Don't worry – these same creepy people will develop an early term test to see if the fetus is gay. Then they'll be pro abortion all the way.

      November 9, 2011 at 4:29 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Dave


    November 9, 2011 at 4:08 pm | Report abuse |
  11. xab

    It seems rare when the uneducated, unwashed masses lose something, but thank goodness it happened.

    November 9, 2011 at 4:09 pm | Report abuse |
  12. Jeff

    Separate Church and State, Until Then Our Country Will Suffer and Burn. Why is it always conservatives vs liberals. I wish they would get rid of so many churches here in the U.S. it is useless and they don't have to pay taxes. All these super wealthy and racist evangelist people need to be shot and hung. If your a super conservative religious person please stop. There is no need to come knocking on my door every Sat. to speak about your Cult. and if not please leave Texas and go to Oklahoma or another bordering state

    November 9, 2011 at 4:09 pm | Report abuse |
  13. Steve

    What blows my mind is how in this economy such an issue can still have so much importance! If the economy drops into a full blown Depression, mayhem and carnage will rule the day, and death from abortion will pale in comparison to entire city blocks of death and destruction. I pray not, but this lame every-man-for-himself society we now live in will not be able to remain humane in such conditions, whereas our grandparents came from courteous, honest stock where a handshake was a contract...

    November 9, 2011 at 4:09 pm | Report abuse |

    Anyone remember before they where born?

    I know I don’t, best I can do was my first birthday.

    If my mother had an abortion and I wasn’t here today, how would I have known the deference? I wouldn’t.

    Why not have laws that limit the number or frequency of abortions one can have. It shouldn’t be outlawed it completely.

    November 9, 2011 at 4:09 pm | Report abuse |
    • Jim St

      Yeah , afraid I do have memories before I was born. My mother was an experimental volunteer in a vaccine test. She got live germ and was needed to be kept alive with heavy doses of morphine and various other medications till after my birth. So like a scent brings memories to mind so do certain combinations of medications bring to mind my existence within the womb. Perhaps it was little more than a memory of comfort and changes, but the knowledge of existence did make itself known to my own perception of self. While I doubt I would have full knowledge of what was happening to me if killed then in a violent fashion, I am sure it would have been a bad event.

      November 9, 2011 at 4:18 pm | Report abuse |
  15. Leslie

    The Parenthood Now movement is a bunch of ridiculous, selfish, narrow minded, uncaring people.

    November 9, 2011 at 4:09 pm | Report abuse |
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