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. Jeff


    November 9, 2011 at 4:13 pm | Report abuse |
  2. J.R.

    Here's to being PRO-ABORTION and telling the Pro-Lifers to TAKE A HIKE - out of America, you go. Go live somewhere where people enjoy having religion, that stupid pathetic scam, ruin and control peoples' lives.

    November 9, 2011 at 4:13 pm | Report abuse |
    • mike

      I'm not religious in any way and I still realize that killing babies is wrong. YOU FAIL.

      November 9, 2011 at 4:18 pm | Report abuse |
    • us1776

      J.R. please phrase this as Pro-Choice. I don't think anyone is really pro-abortion. We all want to see that need reduced. But nevertheless this is still a private issue between a woman and her doctor.


      November 9, 2011 at 4:18 pm | Report abuse |
    • nick2

      Maybe we should keep it simpler and go for jst egghood and spermhood?

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

      LOL at first I took your post seriously..then I kept reading ...right on.

      It was defeated because most rational people realize that the bible has been a load of crap that was written to explain the world to simpletons. Most of us are done with religion and fairy tales. I promise you not one Pro-life person reading this is willing to adopt an unwanted inner city child. If they did repeal abortion, these religious dummies would be the first to want it back when they were being beaten, robbed and murdered by the un-wanted all grown up. Bible=Hypocrisy, shove that book where you know it belongs.

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

      J.R. ....... on the mark.

      November 9, 2011 at 4:20 pm | Report abuse |
    • Aaron

      Religion = the one thing that keeps us from evolving.

      Pro-Lifers believe life STARTS at conception and ENDS when they're able to use a gun to fight a religious war over in the Middle East. That's all they care about: sending more foot soldiers for God's Army on the battlefield.

      November 9, 2011 at 4:24 pm | Report abuse |
  3. steelerguin

    @ummm...I don't need to prove anything. I'm not espousing I know the answer. Your buddy seems to think he does. Maybe if he answers that question he can help pick a few lottery numbers.

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

    The article seems to leave out one very obvious explanation for what happened. Perhaps the pollsters and the media just didn't know what they were talking about in the first place when they said that this measure would pass easily. They were clearly wrong after all.

    November 9, 2011 at 4:14 pm | Report abuse |
    • Seth Pascal

      well put

      November 9, 2011 at 4:19 pm | Report abuse |
  5. us1776

    I'm-thinking-about-it-hood !!


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

    how can America expect to have a future if we continue to willingly condone the elimination of such a significant part of it? Women's rights aside, do you people REALLY believe there are no social consequences to abortion?

    November 9, 2011 at 4:14 pm | Report abuse |
    • Kiki

      Women's rights are not an aisde.

      November 9, 2011 at 4:16 pm | Report abuse |
    • us1776

      The issue is now official decided.

      This was the last possible gasp by the religious wingnuts.

      Time to go find another horn to toot.


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

      Mathew, go back to page 9 of this thread were you asked a similair question and have not yet given a rebuttal before asking the same question again.

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

      Mark, Luke and John are wondering why too. Of course, they're probably just as clueless.

      November 9, 2011 at 4:20 pm | Report abuse |
    • sequoia

      We will never put women's right aside, and of course the US population is growing rapidly. Yes, there ARE social consequences to abortion. Counties where abortion is illegal are poorer, less educated, less healthy, have lower life expectancies and less free. No thanks.

      November 9, 2011 at 4:20 pm | Report abuse |
    • Seth Pascal

      define "social consequences" and maybe we can have a CONVERSATION.

      November 9, 2011 at 4:21 pm | Report abuse |
    • Fookin' Prawn

      lol, 'you people'. Hey Matthew, what's the stat for percentage of abortions for selfish reasons now? 100%?

      November 9, 2011 at 4:36 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Jimbo

    Too bad this group is from Colorado, I don't like being associated with mo ro ns. They must be from Colorado Springs were evangelicals smoke meth and get caught with trannies. The Springs is a stain amongst a beatiful state.

    November 9, 2011 at 4:15 pm | Report abuse |
  8. bob

    Even the bible shows a difference between the born and unborn.

    If you cause a woman to miscarry you must pay the father a fine of 10 shekels of silver in compensation, whereas the penalty for murder is death.

    Well then again, when have the majority of those who call themselves christian ever actually follow the bible.

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

      Well said. Christians, like most of the religions of the world, are huge hypocrites.

      November 9, 2011 at 4:19 pm | Report abuse |
    • cinque55

      It sounds like evberybody is a hypocrit except Chris. To say anyone with religious ideals is a hypocrit is well, hypocritical since all belief systems, including atheism and agnosticism, are belief systems and therefore contain elements of religion, with a small r. Good luck in your "crusade," Chris

      November 9, 2011 at 7:03 pm | Report abuse |
  9. DN

    This law will NOT pass. Why? Making it law that the fetus is a person means that person is now a dependent, and thus can be included as a dependent on the parents' income taxes. Just imagine the money lost on the state and Federal levels when pregnant women can count their unborn children as dependents.

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

      Good point. Also what if a woman is pregnant, can she be put on death row? Can she put off a death sentence by becoming pregnant?

      November 9, 2011 at 4:27 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Glenn

    For all we know human fetuses are no more alive/conscious than dog fetuses. They even look similar. Do we have any data to suggest that they are mentally distinguishable from animals at that point? Let's ask some, you know.... scientific questions.

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

      ok, lets talk facts – what are the economic and social consequences for a nation which stops reproducing above the replacement rate?

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

      Yeah, Matthew lets have compulsary pregnancy for the good of the state...that sounds like America.

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

      What are the consequences for a world that continues to produce over the replacement rate?

      November 9, 2011 at 4:20 pm | Report abuse |
  11. bluemax77

    I know what year we’re in, just not sure what year Mississippi‘s in...?

    November 9, 2011 at 4:16 pm | Report abuse |
  12. J.R.

    You know the more you look at states that are super-conservative and anti-freedom as Mississippi is, you realize with their religious controls and domination makes them look so much like the middle east. Really, there's no difference.

    November 9, 2011 at 4:17 pm | Report abuse |
  13. Chris

    So glad that religion didn't push through more garbage.

    November 9, 2011 at 4:17 pm | Report abuse |
    • bluemax77

      How true...!!

      November 9, 2011 at 4:19 pm | Report abuse |
  14. Mister Gone

    I wish just for once on one of the big banners the pro-lifers like to carry around they would have a picture of what they are really trying to defend. They keep using fully form fetuses and what not. Just have a sign with a cell dividing and see how much sympathy you gain.

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

    Perhaps they should have narrowed the scope even further; a person is viable at orgasm!
    Therefore no masturbating, either! You just aborted 146,628 people!

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