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. Josh

    Mississippi must be the most retarded state in the country. What part of "person from the moment of fertilization" didn't they understand? They're really lucky people stepped in and got them to wise up in time.

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

      @ Josh – The amendment was written by a group from COLORADO and the people of MISSISSIPPI rejected it. I am a Mississippian. I read the amendment and recognized its far-reaching implications. I attended forums held by other Mississippians about the threat it posed. It was a close call, but how dare you call us "retarded."

      November 9, 2011 at 4:30 pm | Report abuse |
  2. US Majority

    As a Republican who lives in the real world I am sick of these people who try to force their beliefs on the majority. I am Pro-choice because then only God judges the person, not some nut job from Mississippi. Therefore, I say to all those who voted down this bill GOOD JOB. And for those who wanted this bill I say welcome to the land of the Free and Home of the Brave.
    Now we need to get corporate funding out of elections and imprison the Koch brothers for treason along with Dick Cheney, Karl Rove and Dick Armey who are trying to hijack this country.

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

      You're Awesome!! It's about time the Republcan party takes it's party back from all these charlatans who claim to be Republican but then start writing legislation that forces certain beliefs on the whole which we all know is completely unamerican. Next needs to be corporate funding in our elections. Let's do it! 🙂

      November 9, 2011 at 4:29 pm | Report abuse |
    • Susie

      I am a democrat and cannot believe you are republican. It would behoove you to encourage those republicans who think like you to take your party back. I for one, would love to see that for our nation and for the well being of our country. Bring back civility to America!

      November 9, 2011 at 4:34 pm | Report abuse |
    • Steven E

      If there were more republicans that thought like you, I wouldn't be a 'lapsed' republican!

      November 9, 2011 at 5:35 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Holdupaminute

    Roe vs Wade will never be overturned. It is solid.

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

    abortion isn't just about the extermination of an organism – its about the complete elimination of all potential, all opportunity, all experiences, etc. for that baby

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

      Ummm, then WHY are countries where abortion is ILLEGAL poorer, less educated, less healthy, have lower life expectancies, have higher infant mortality rates and less social mobility? When will you realize and admit you have no actual point?

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

      Ummm, then please explain WHY are countries where abortion is ILLEGAL poorer, less educated, less healthy, have lower life expectancies, have higher infant mortality rates and less social mobility? When will you realize and admit you have no actual point?

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

      Hypothetical nonsense

      November 9, 2011 at 4:28 pm | Report abuse |
    • oakydoke

      Just like pulling out does.

      November 9, 2011 at 4:28 pm | Report abuse |
    • mrk

      Making abortion illegal won't stop abortions. You're delusional if you think it will. It will simply force them underground and make them less safe for those getting them. If you make all embryos full citizens with full rights, you've got a bunch of frozen Americans sitting in test tubes that nobody can do anything about. Which makes no sense. If the power goes out, the power company (or electrician who cut the power) could be tried as murderers, I suppose?

      November 9, 2011 at 4:36 pm | Report abuse |
    • Susie

      You are absolutely right! Now for those women (and there would be 100s of thousands) who would be forced to have this "person," would you also be willing to support those "persons" after they are born. I didn't think so.

      November 9, 2011 at 4:37 pm | Report abuse |
    • J

      You not giving that fertilized egg all of your money also deprives it of future potential. You should give up everything you have for the unborn.

      I'll leave it to you to figure out why that argument is as stupid as yours.

      November 9, 2011 at 4:37 pm | Report abuse |
    • msadr

      And pregnancy is about the complete elimination of all potential, all opportunity, all experiences, etc. for that woman.

      November 10, 2011 at 1:27 am | Report abuse |
  5. Rev Hilton

    Has it occurred to these people that the failed vote could be God's way of telling them to move on?

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

      first of all its not womans body, its not her own DNA so there for its not hers.

      November 9, 2011 at 4:29 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Sean

    I am not far right. But abortion is murder. Its simple. Say a drunk driver hits a pregnat woman and kills her and the baby. He is charged with the murder of 2 people. Why is this? INSANE

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

      Because if my wife was in an accident and I had to choose between me and my wife then will I go to jail if I choose my wife over my child

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

      Your opinion aside Sean, the LAW and Science says it isn’t.

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

      I love people like this, the type that want smaller gov't and gov't to stay out of people's business and yet want the gov't to regulate what a woman can do with her body. Sir, you are a contradiction, how do you exist, do you exist? I mean seriously, if eggs and corporations are humans, then what isn't human?....now if you'll excuse me, I must go water the humans in my garden and trim the humans in front of my house!

      November 9, 2011 at 4:32 pm | Report abuse |
  7. JLR

    It's God's will.

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

      Nice...

      November 9, 2011 at 4:29 pm | Report abuse |
    • apostate

      very original

      November 9, 2011 at 4:36 pm | Report abuse |
    • Jules

      Whose god??? Listen, I live in a free country and one of those freedoms is "FREEDOM FROM RELIGION". Am so sick of these weirdos imposing their uber-right-wing religiousities on everyone else. This was one of the most stupid intiatives ever crafted ..

      November 9, 2011 at 4:36 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Johnny Z

    Woman have the 100% right to determine the condition of their bodies if at all possible. What gives the general population the gall to insist upon controlling a stranger's embryo?

    Religion!!! The belief in an invisible supernatural being! It is and has been an excuse for invasive and detrimental acts for centuries. I thought we were past the stupidity of blaming everything on an invisible guy with a beard? Stay out of women's bodies!!!

    November 9, 2011 at 4:20 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Hemp is Native

    Seven billion miracles is more than enough.

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

      i bet you'd be happy if there were only 1 billion...no respect for life at all

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

      How does wanting a reduced population equate to no respect for life? On the contrary the planet can only support so much and we have recorded the disasters consequences of over population in both human and animal. THINK man…think.

      November 9, 2011 at 4:33 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Pamela

    Glad to see people with brains prevailed.

    November 9, 2011 at 4:23 pm | Report abuse |
  11. The King

    Personhood for a fertilized egg??? What about sperm?? Shouldnt it be considered a person? I long for the day when right wing nuts and religious zealots had the sense to keep their asinine views hidden. Sad to say, the USA is a country of id0ts.

    November 9, 2011 at 4:23 pm | Report abuse |
  12. Joey Isotta-Fraschini

    I with the guy who quoted "Every Sperm Is Sacred."
    I won't mention that I've referred to that often on this board.
    THE MEANING OF LIFE should be required monthly viewing for all Sunday School classes.

    November 9, 2011 at 4:23 pm | Report abuse |
    • brokowski

      but you did just mention it

      November 9, 2011 at 4:37 pm | Report abuse |
  13. david

    Life begins at conception? Really? I hate to tell people, a dead cell won't conceive.

    November 9, 2011 at 4:24 pm | Report abuse |
  14. Don

    Maybe people in Mississippi aren't as stupid as people in Colorado think they are.

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

      At 58% to 42% I'd still have to say they're pretty close though.

      November 9, 2011 at 4:28 pm | Report abuse |
  15. Ross

    This is the stupidest thing I have seen in a while. I can't believe some of these people. Who the hell are you to tell some one else how to live their life and what choices they can and can't make. What gives you that right? If you don't agree with abortion then don't have one yourself and mind your own business. The lady down the street having an abortion isn't going to turn off your power or evict you from you house....how does someone else having an abortion cause you any problems?

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