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. pops1959

    What's next for "Personhood" supporters should be lessons on how to sit down, shut up, and mind their own business.

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

      Very well said!!!

      November 9, 2011 at 4:35 pm | Report abuse |
    • maf


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

      Right on!!!!!

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


      November 9, 2011 at 4:42 pm | Report abuse |
  2. judith

    Thank God, this ridiculous anti-science, anti-woman bill didn't pass. Every woman has the right to make up her own decision regarding a pregnancy, and considering a fertilized egg a "person" is the most insipid notion possible. We are living in a very overcrowded planet, and this measure would have even banned some birth control methods. Seven billions people are way too many, so why promote more unwanted pregnancies? Every child deserves to be a wanted child.

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

      There's more than just a woman involved in a pregnancy unless you don't value the sperm donor. And who gave you the authority to determine that the planet is overpopulated? On one hand we want to accept the destruction of life so that we can save life on the planet? How ironic and self serving.

      November 9, 2011 at 4:48 pm | Report abuse |
    • cdgfla

      Under the American version of Christianity you do not find much in common with the teachings of jesus. Joel Osteen and his iilk are unabashed millionaires who insist that God wants them to be wealthy (Ignoring that whole the meek shall inherit the earth clause), women are treated as chattle or brood mares so they can spawn their legion of right wing god fearing sycophants (as opposed to jesus who took in the sick, women, and the dredges of society), etc. You will find very little common ground in the christianity of Jesus vs the hypocrital money hungry fake christianity practiced in America.

      November 9, 2011 at 4:49 pm | Report abuse |
    • SPA Knight

      Your case about Joel Osteen and the so called American Christianity is exactly why we should not follow men/women but Jesus himself. False prophets come and go like the latest fashion but the word of God is quite clear about the dignity of life. He created with that dignity "in His Image" and we are so willing to cheapen it. I am confident that the Jesus I know would not approve of destroying innocent life for exactly the reasons you mentioned. He came not only to to teach us the truth but to model our behavior of being compassionate for the sick, lame, poor, outcasted because he wanted us to respect the dignity of every person. The same standard should be applied for those without a voice.

      November 9, 2011 at 5:17 pm | Report abuse |
  3. tmh43

    These "Personhood" idiots, and anyone stupid enough to back them should all be deported to a country where there are no individual freedoms. This is America and they do not have the right to take away anyone elses choice.

    November 9, 2011 at 4:35 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Chris

    The people have spoken!!! Forcing your believes on others will NEVER work, but hey, you religious right wacko's do try hard, I'll give you that. Go back to worshipping your invisable man and pretend we care what you think.

    November 9, 2011 at 4:35 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Kiki

    Clearly voters decided to support the idea of womens' personhood.

    November 9, 2011 at 4:36 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Scottish Mama

    @ Ross it is the religious right who have 78% of the abortions. Teaching Abstinence does not work. Birth controll works better.

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

      Abstinence works 100% of the time but that takes a moral perspective, discipline and self control.

      November 9, 2011 at 5:34 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Bob

    I doubt that there ever will be a scientific definition of personhood. The spell check on this site doesn't even recognize it as a word. However, it does recognize foolishness.

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

    God/Nature gave the female both the burden and power of pregnancy. The pregnancy experience is hers to manage. Period.
    Most women have and will always do what's in the best interest of their health and that of their unborn child.
    Self-interested politicians have historically done nothing to enhance the experience for either.
    If you don't like it, get over it.

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

    A s permit will shoot that problem,,,,,,,,,,,,,,you don't wana baby,,,,no permit for you,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,

    November 9, 2011 at 4:37 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.

    PS Why is it you never see an atheist group protesting in the streets? It’s always these eccentric religious groups that have nothing better to do then hangout on a Sunday and plot against the non religious.

    WAKE UP!!! Proof is in the pudding.

    Remember May 21st, It was suppose to be the end of the world. Then October came and gone and we are all still here.

    And that wasn’t the first end of worlds perdition, none of them have came to be true.

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

      well said!

      November 9, 2011 at 4:44 pm | Report abuse |
  11. StupidPeople

    These are a bunch of bible hugging demon nazis, trying to force their will on other people, undermining our country with their ignorance and crooked beliefs. These idots really make me sick, and I want to barf in their faces.

    November 9, 2011 at 4:38 pm | Report abuse |
    • don4logo

      Just keep your head in the sand. "Bible-hugging demon-nazis"? Nobody is asking you to believe or trust in the God that made you...nobody but him, that is. All these people would like is for our society to stop murdering innocent children.

      Consider this: if there was someone walking in to preschools and killing all the kids there, on a daily basis, you'd be outraged, right? You'd do everything you could to stop it. Well guess what, genius. There's no difference.

      This is a culture that wants to be able to play hide the salami without the obvious consequences. You're a bunch of adult children.

      November 9, 2011 at 5:04 pm | Report abuse |
  12. Mars de la Mancha

    Good call on striking this one down voters of Mississippi. A measure like this just proves that the faithful are praying to very irresponsible GOD. Actually God Struck this one down, My GOd is Pro Abortion.

    November 9, 2011 at 4:38 pm | Report abuse |
  13. DeeNYC

    Only Buddha can save those crazies.

    November 9, 2011 at 4:39 pm | Report abuse |
  14. Orchid333

    This didn't pass for one simple reason: No matter how religious, conservative or anti-abortion you are, there's no rhyme or reason to allow the government or anybody else to tell a woman what she should or shouldn't do concerning her body. Period. It's just stupid that this debate is still going on. The people have spoken... again.

    November 9, 2011 at 4:39 pm | Report abuse |
  15. Drinker

    I have faith in this country again. Now these personhood people should turn their attention to taking care of the persons who are already here! When there are no children living in poverty maybe then I will listen to what they have to say.

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