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. Woman's rights

    I'm pretty sure no one can tell me what I can or can not do with my own body! If a woman is not ready to make the very serious commitment of raising a child who is anyone else to tell her she must?!?! So very happy this did not pass. Let people live their lives the way they want, not by your own misguided rules!

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

      RIGHT ON

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

      This was never about women’s rights. It was about religious nuts.

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

      and not only that, but in the case of blighted ovum or spontaneous miscarriage, will they prosecute the mother for harming the "person"? No way, gov, get out of my uterus!

      November 9, 2011 at 4:39 pm | Report abuse |
    • Dean Hawn

      agreed!!!

      November 9, 2011 at 4:39 pm | Report abuse |
    • david

      ignorant comment. what you or don't do with your body affects others around you. you engage in the probability of pregnancy the moment you decide to have intercours.e. the child, although a result of your and your partner's choice, bears the full right to live. the child lives in your body, but you don't have the right to kill what's not yours to take away.

      November 9, 2011 at 4:41 pm | Report abuse |
    • Tschrny Wolf

      I agree. If the life of the mother is at risk if she delivers a baby, has an inherited incurable diisability and has no money to take care of handicapped babies, voting against abortion is criminal. The no more abortions of the republicans means that a female is forced to ruin her life. If the father runs aways and she has to quit college in order to take care of the babies, she may die shortly or end up totally dependent on health care. but with the repukes she is damned if she does and damned if she doesn't, given the repukes want to destroy health care and medicare 🙁

      November 9, 2011 at 4:44 pm | Report abuse |
    • jboHDrider

      David-If there is an ignorant comment here, it is yours. Please read it, then go back to school. Better yet sit in the corner and read the old testiment.

      November 9, 2011 at 4:46 pm | Report abuse |
    • Anita

      David spoken like a true person unable to ever bare children. My body my choice. You seem to think that a womans body is an incubator! Who are you to make a decision based on a situation you could never find yourself in. I guess you and others like you would rather the days of back alley abortion services re-surface. So much for human progress, oh and by the way. How many of these children do you and the likes of you plan on adopting? As if there aren't already enough children here that are unwanted and abused. Thank GOD I don't live in the state of confusion and judgment.

      November 9, 2011 at 4:47 pm | Report abuse |
  2. BijouandBucky

    Here's a thought... Instead of bringing the government into our personal lives, how about the anti-abortionists start the change at the family level. Teach your children not to have abortions. Talk to them at the dinner table and driving to school. Then go register to become an adoptive parent. There are many unwanted children who have been brought into the world who need parents. Do something about that before bringing more unwanted children into the world.

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

      AMEN

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

      Taking responsibility for oneself is not nearly as much self-serving, self-righteous, judgmental and mean-spirited fun as telling someone else what to do, how to live and who to be. The Tea-billies in Mississippi can pray till the end for God to give them the serenity and right to run my life, but it will never, ever– ever– happen.

      November 9, 2011 at 4:43 pm | Report abuse |
  3. high school biology advocate

    Would it surprise any of you to know the consensus of biology and medical embryology textbooks all state the same simple and scientific, if not obvious, fact... that a new life begins at conception.

    "The development of a human begins with fertilization, a process by which the spermatozoon from the male and the oocyte from the female unite to give rise to a new organism, the zygote." [Sadler, T.W. Langman's Medical Embryology. 7th edition. Baltimore: Williams & Wilkins 1995, p. 3]

    Almost all higher animals start their lives from a single cell, the fertilized ovum (zygote)... The time of fertilization represents the starting point in the life history, or ontogeny, of the individual." [Carlson, Bruce M. Patten's Foundations of Embryology. 6th edition. New York: McGraw-Hill, 1996, p. 3]

    "[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 4:28 pm | Report abuse |
    • jboHDrider

      Start, begining, etc et al does not mean that the cells are in fact a human being. It is the start of a process not the completion of said process.

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

      Don't like abortion? Don't get one.

      Otherwise, keep you nose out of my wifes panty hose.

      November 9, 2011 at 4:32 pm | Report abuse |
    • Jim

      The here question isn't one of biology, it's one of law. When is a state allowed to assign a lawyer to represent a zygote in legal action against the zygote's mother?

      November 9, 2011 at 4:32 pm | Report abuse |
    • Paul Ronco

      I don't deny that human life starts at conception. But human life is not the same as a human being, and besides, I still think a woman should have the right to kill it.

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

      So what, we kill animals that are alive all the time. there is no memory at that stage and therefore no self realization. If a person is not ready for a child, they should not bring one into this world. Especially with the high population these days. There are too many kids living in bad situations, bringing one more into the world with parents that don't want it, is no way to start life. It amazes me that people are actually against the right to choose. ignorance.

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

      But there are biology life forms all around us. If choose to step on an ant, why am I not charged with murder? I just killed a biology life form.

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

      Both sperm and the egg are alive before conception. The question isn’t whether the cell is alive but is it a person. Reading comprehension is your friend.

      November 9, 2011 at 4:38 pm | Report abuse |
    • shananana

      No, it does not surprise me. It just doesn't move me. I still refuse to believe that I have a person living inside of me before I'm even pregnant.

      November 9, 2011 at 4:38 pm | Report abuse |
    • Dave

      It does not matter what your text book says because that is not the issue. The issue is anti-abortionists trying to make decisions for other human beings and that is wrong. The decision is only for the two biological parents to decide and not for anyone else period. Worry about your own problems and stay out of the lives of other citizens who you do not even know. The decision whether someone has an abortion is there own to decide and you have no right to interfere EVER.

      November 9, 2011 at 4:39 pm | Report abuse |
    • Anna Terhune

      The entire argument is ridiculous. Sperm are "alive". Maybe men should be prosecuted for nocturnal emissions. Maybe life begins when the eggs are first formed in the ovaries and sperm are first formed. a lot of things happen AFTER conception–sometimes even later the fertilized eggs split–sometimes later two or more fertilized eggs fuse to form a chimera. THERE IS NO 'MOMENT' OF CONCEPTION–THAT IS BIOLOGICALLY INACCURATE. Fertilization is a process that takes time. this moment of conception nonsense is not a biological fact–there is no moment. A couple of joined chromosomes do not a person make–that is stupid.

      November 9, 2011 at 4:40 pm | Report abuse |
    • zamboni

      Fact – Pregnancy doesn't happen until implantation – not conception. Many fertilized eggs naturally do not implant. A few simple cells that aren't attached to a woman can hardly be called a person. We don't get all upset every time LIVING sperm cells and LIVING ovum are allowed to die. What a ridiculous argument that life begins at conception rather than implantation. It takes a woman's healthy reproductive environment to really turn a few cells into a living ball of cells that you can call a human....otherwise they are just like other cells in our body that live, replicate, and die everyday in our bodies.

      November 9, 2011 at 4:43 pm | Report abuse |
    • shoos

      Jim, you are right on the money. It's just crazy, scary to me.

      November 9, 2011 at 4:59 pm | Report abuse |
  4. KillKenny

    If you take religion out of the debate of abortion, would we still be talking about this has much?

    November 9, 2011 at 4:28 pm | Report abuse |
    • high school biology advocate

      If you want to leave God out of it, go ahead and then you're right, discussion almost immediately ceases. The obvious fact and scientific consensus in biology and embryology text books is a new life begins at conception. A zygote is a human life. Case closed.

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

      High school_ that isnt' what the text says and the case is far from closed. You have your opinion but it does not close anything.

      November 9, 2011 at 4:32 pm | Report abuse |
    • Holdupaminute

      I didn't learn that in high school.

      November 9, 2011 at 4:33 pm | Report abuse |
  5. sequoia

    Hey Matthew, stop being such a coward and explain why countries where abortion is ILLEGAL poorer, less educated, less healthy, have lower life expectancies, have higher infant mortality rates and less social mobility? You keep babbling and babbling about our future and blah, blah, blah, but statistics prove that you're just wrong.

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

      No kidding, Mathew asks a bunch of questions but is too big of a coward or can't think of a good rebuttal so he dodges the responses and moves on to the next page. Don't waste your time commenting on Mathews posts.

      November 9, 2011 at 4:32 pm | Report abuse |
  6. BR

    I would like to see people stop calling people Pro Life when they are, in fact, Anti Choice. The Pro Life moniker is meant to position those of us who are Pro Choice as Anti Life, which of course, is absurd. Let's do some positioning ourselves: No more Pro Life. They are Anti Choice.

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

      Yes. Pro-Life means being anti Pro-Choice. And, its a woman's choice we are talking about, so the real problem must be those men who have a need to control and dominate women and try to hide that fact behind attempts like this.

      November 9, 2011 at 4:33 pm | Report abuse |
    • Kirsten

      The term pro-choice is actually the euphemism. Pro-choicers are absolutely pro-abortion. They might not have one themselves, but they are for it being legal. In that case, they are pro-abortion, meaning they are "for" the legality and availability of abortion. I am pro-life and for you to call me "anti-choice" is hilarious. To bring a human life down to a choice is a clever way to minimize the disgusting nature of this selfish and unncecesary procedure. In fact, I think we do need some re-positioning. How about "pro-life" and "anti-life". I dare you to witness what comes out of a woman at 10 weeks after conception and tell me that if you think that should be legal, you are simply "pro-choice."

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

      Kristen-Sorry to tell you but it is a choice. You have the choice to abstain, to use birth control, the moring after pill, drugs and alcohol, and to have an abortion. It is a choice plain and simple what you are actually advocating is no choice and scientifically idiotic.

      November 9, 2011 at 4:40 pm | Report abuse |
    • Sean

      @ eldono
      Women also voted for that bill. Stop trying to turn this into a gender issue. You are as pathetic as the people that always pull the race card. This is and always was about religion and forcing Evangelical beliefs on others.

      November 9, 2011 at 4:43 pm | Report abuse |
  7. 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 4:29 pm | Report abuse |
    • jboHDrider

      Caroline-There are countless implications in the proposed legislation and the fact that he is too stupid to see that only reenforces who the real idiot is in this converstaion.

      November 9, 2011 at 4:34 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Holdupaminute

    Row vs Wade is a solid as the Bible itself.

    November 9, 2011 at 4:30 pm | Report abuse |
    • high school biology advocate

      Norma McCorvey (Jane Roe of Roe v. Wade) is now strongly pro-life and herself campaigns to have Roe v. Wade overturned.

      November 9, 2011 at 4:51 pm | Report abuse |
  9. eldono

    Being "Pro-Life" means being anti "Pro-Choice". And, the choice is a woman's choice. So, who would be against giving a woman the right to choose? Only men. So, this entire issue is really about the need that certain men have to dominate and control women. THIS IS WHAT IT IS ABOUT. Pure and simple.

    November 9, 2011 at 4:30 pm | Report abuse |
    • high school biology advocate

      Actually the deception is on the part of pro-abortion people. There is only pro-life and pro-abortion. Both are choices and neither takes away nor grants any freedom to choose. The choice is always up to the person what they will do. Pro-life simply recognizes the unborn child as a life growing in the womb where pro-abortion does not.

      November 9, 2011 at 4:52 pm | Report abuse |
    • jdan7

      The sad actuality is that being pro-choice is a stance that is both pro-choice and anti-choice. The pro-choice stance does believe in the free choice of one person, but that choice is to terminate the potential development of another...so the freedom ripped from an unborn child is not his/her choice at all. The phrase, "pro-choice" is just dulling down the fact that we, in our" "educated" pride, believe that one person can choose better than another whether or not that person can or cannot proceed with life. We place different values on life based upon our perceived notion of the chances that child will have at "success" in life, or on the limitations a mother may face should she choose to have a child, rather than asking the question: "is there a better way for our society to help these mothers who are facing a terribly hard decision?"

      November 9, 2011 at 4:53 pm | Report abuse |
  10. jrod

    Hipocrisy rears its ugly head again. The same people behind this, trying to get the government to regulate abortion are the same people who are so outraged by Obama and their pereception of his "increased" governenment presence in our lives (socialism).

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

      Yes. And if the pro-lifers get their way, watch taxes climb and climb as sick and unwanted babies come into a world where people are happy they are born, but don't want to be bothered with them after the birth. What will become of the unwanted kids, the crack babies, the Down Syndrom kids that will need medical and social assistance throughout their sad lives?

      November 9, 2011 at 4:45 pm | Report abuse |
  11. MARIVS_MARIVS

    I just read this:"Worldwide, the most commonly reported reason women cite for having an abortion is to postpone or stop childbearing". Here in USA I've read that is about women's rights. Even understanding that there are situations where a woman or couple must make a decision about the issue, who has the moral authority to interrupt the process of life? Women's rights? Some say that there's poverty, over population, famine, etc. And those say that's immoral to bring more people to suffer. Then, is this a good reason to fight immoral issues with more immoral ways? In this country there a many different ways to prevent a pregnancy. Many unwanted pregnancies are the result of a lifestyle. Then to justify the abortions, may women use her 'rights' and the suffering of the world as an excuse. It's not about personhood, it's about life.

    November 9, 2011 at 4:32 pm | Report abuse |
    • Paul Ronco

      Maybe if women could afford healthcare in this country as well as afford to have only a single wage-earner in the family they'd be more willing to introduce children into this world. Why don't you work on that issue instead.

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

      Paul-You toiuch on the most absurd part of the arguement. I am willing to bet that the majority of hte religious conservative right wingers that support this idiotic legislation also scream and yell about the health care proposals and plans brought forth over the past few years. They are all about the "right to life" but once that life is a reality they shun the child and the mother saying "it's your own falut, get a job, quit being poor.etc." Hypocrits and nothing but. They don't care about life they just "love the babys".

      November 9, 2011 at 4:44 pm | Report abuse |
    • Milt

      A big flaw with this argument is that when all these unwanted pregnancies come to term, people like Marvis will be the first ones to turn their backs on them. If you are for this "personhood" measure, you should also be prepared to support the people who it will be impact the most.

      November 9, 2011 at 4:52 pm | Report abuse |
    • BijouandBucky

      jboHDrider, I agree. The religious right want to bring all the babies into the world. But once they grow up and have difficulties in life (as they are more likely to have than kids born to loving, supportive, financially able families), perhaps do not have health insurance, as repubs say, "LET THEM DIE!"

      November 9, 2011 at 5:08 pm | Report abuse |
    • MARIVS_MARIVS

      To Paul Ronco: There are many ways to prevent a pregnancy. If my mind doesn't betray me the 'pill' was a revolution for women. Now is healthcare... and tomorrow... there will always be an excuse to justify an abortion.

      To jboHDrider: Yes it's about the 'right to life' vs the 'right to kill'. And you are right there is responsibilities and a lot of hypocrits. Two more things: I'm not a right winger nor a republican.

      To Milt: People must take their own resposibilty and it includes the way you use your reproductive faculties.

      November 9, 2011 at 5:28 pm | Report abuse |
  12. Paul Ronco

    Instead of using an image of a fully-formed fetus, it would have been far more accurate for them to have placed the picture of a two-cell zygote next to the words "Thank you." But of course they made the conscious decision not to, because even they knew it would have smacked of being ludicrous, which this bill was.

    November 9, 2011 at 4:32 pm | Report abuse |
    • Ken

      Yes, especially since you could put up a two-cell zygote of a salamander, sparrow, snail, or human organism and no one would be able to tell them apart.

      November 9, 2011 at 4:40 pm | Report abuse |
    • shoos

      I was thinking the same thing.

      November 9, 2011 at 5:07 pm | Report abuse |
  13. victor

    Question for all of you. If this law had passed and one uses a condom to prevent "Personhood" or the creation of a "Person, is that murder by the individual trying to prevent ? Good luck with that idea.

    November 9, 2011 at 4:33 pm | Report abuse |
    • sequoia

      To these fanatics, yes it's murder.

      November 9, 2011 at 4:33 pm | Report abuse |
    • BijouandBucky

      This is a valid question. How about a pregnant woman who refuses to take the recomnended vitamins, and has a stillborn baby? Throw her in jail for murder?

      November 9, 2011 at 5:37 pm | Report abuse |
  14. DD

    umm?? everyone I talked to planned to vote against. And they did.

    November 9, 2011 at 4:33 pm | Report abuse |
  15. Brownstain

    Jesus is dead and all humans should be removed from the planet for genocide on all other species.

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