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. pro life

    Anyone who knows what actually happens during a second trimester abortion and is still for it is a psychopath. As a health professional i know the details of this procedure. If there is health issues with the fetus or mother, procedures at the hospital is a safer choice. We don't have to mutilate these poor babies.

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

      This amendment was about granting rights to fertilized eggs, not banning second trimester abortions. Fortunately, voters knew that and weren't swayed by arguments such as yours.

      November 9, 2011 at 4:47 pm | Report abuse |
    • paul

      So clearly you're lying to us when you say you're "a health professional", because otherwise you'd know there's a difference between a human being and a fetus.

      Or maybe you just work at a store that sells Motrin and you think that's a qualifier.

      November 9, 2011 at 4:50 pm | Report abuse |
    • ekrit

      Obviously you are oblivious to the topic at hand here.

      November 9, 2011 at 4:52 pm | Report abuse |
    • Pro-Choicer

      I am also a health professional and would think that you of all people should realize the consequences of limiting a woman's reproductive choices. Simply look back in our history to when abortion was illegal if you need a glimpse of a "personhood" future. Women will find a way to have the procedure if they really feel it is right for them– many times at their own peril. Many, many women suffered and died because their choices were limited due to a largely religious view. If you want to limit later abortions, then attack the issue from that stance. Everyone should have the right to choose what they do with their own bodies. If you don't want an abortion, don't get one, but don't try to tell me what is right for me. Eliminating the right to choose altogether will always result in the deaths of young women. Stepping off my soap box now.

      November 9, 2011 at 5:01 pm | Report abuse |
  2. bob

    when are the holier than tho a$$-holes gonna to really help these mothers by making a sworn promise to adopt these unwanted childern

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

      Stop being silly, no one cares about a baby once it's born.

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

      When are these people who can't keep their legs together going to quit having babies they don't want?

      November 9, 2011 at 4:50 pm | Report abuse |
    • Jeff

      Could not agree with you more Bob. Once again it is proven that the informed and educated people are working instead of running their mouths during weekday rallies. Majority rules. The people have spoken.....................................

      November 9, 2011 at 4:53 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Trashcat

    Abortion should always be between a mother, a father(if he sticks around and wants to support the mom and child), and a doctor. Its sad, horrific, and terrible, but innocent people die everyday for multiple reasons. This law was bound to not pass for the reasons listed in the article. Those supporting it should have addressed the concerns to clarify not label it as scare tactics and otherwise ignore them. Religion needs to step out of the abortion talks as not everyone follows the samn beliefs. My view on most(not all) people who support anti-abortion laws have their hearts in a good place, but thier minds are neglecting the many factors that influence parent's decisions to get them.

    November 9, 2011 at 4:45 pm | Report abuse |
    • Pro-Choicer

      Absolutely. Well said.

      November 9, 2011 at 4:54 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Trencher

    Conservative/Republicans... Will fight to the death for you before you're born. Once your out, you're on your own!

    November 9, 2011 at 4:45 pm | Report abuse |
    • Russ

      You are absolutely correct. It's called personal responsibility. What's the problem??

      November 9, 2011 at 4:52 pm | Report abuse |
  5. CLV

    Let me make myself clear.
    I do not need or want you or anyone else to protect the embryo that is part of my body no matter how an embryo is defined by the law. If you would like to protect the embryo developing in your body, if you are a woman, I respect that and ask that you respect me.
    As I said the discussion of abortion should never have become a public/government issue.

    November 9, 2011 at 4:45 pm | Report abuse |
    • Gecul

      Well said!

      November 9, 2011 at 4:51 pm | Report abuse |
    • pro life

      wow i'd hate to be your child

      November 9, 2011 at 5:01 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Danny

    Mississippi proved to be smarter than christian extremists thought, proud of you MS.

    November 9, 2011 at 4:45 pm | Report abuse |
    • Russ

      actually, it goes on to continue to prove how stupid people from Mississippi are.

      November 9, 2011 at 4:53 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Richard Stanley

    So if you are really concerned with life, why not give food and medical attention to those that have been born?

    November 9, 2011 at 4:45 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Chris Scott

    If this law passed you would have to prosecute a woman who, while jogging during her second month of pregnancy, fell on her her stomach and caused a miscarriage.

    As Dr. DeCook stated, a newly fertilized egg is a human being because it has all the chromosomes (ingredients) to make a human being. But since when did potential equate to realization? No!!! If you put a slab of raw filet mignon, goose liver patee and puff pastry on a platter, does that make it beef wellington? No!!!

    Thank GOD this law was not passed as it is wholly immoral on its face.

    Comment please

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

      Right wing leaders are propaganda masterminds and the best example is their success in having their label "pro life". universally recognized. You cannot argue against "pro life" which is a nonsense emotional slogan. I argue against the "criminalization of abortion" because if you are truly concerned about life you address abortion through humane alternatives not ones that rely on police, prosecutors, judges and prisons.

      November 9, 2011 at 5:28 pm | Report abuse |
    • Jonathan

      So then, at what point does a collection of cells become a person, with full rights and protections thereof? I agree that this measure was too broad, but I haven't heard anyone state an alternative. Is it at birth? When the fetus develops a brain? When it begins to have recognizable human features? What about someone born with a birth defect that causes them to not grow a limb, or conjoined twins, or something that is outside the realm of "normal"? What if a baby is born premature? Does it not get rights until it is a full 9 months from conception? Or would you have to grant rights to a fetus that could (with proper medical intervention) develop on its own outside the womb? It's a complicated issue that most people on both sides try to simplify (full rights from conception/mother's rights overrule), and frankly, neither one has got it right yet.

      November 9, 2011 at 6:50 pm | Report abuse |
  9. REAL_Person

    "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."

    That's the problem. A fertilized EGG should NOT have the same rights as the MOTHER!

    November 9, 2011 at 4:46 pm | Report abuse |
  10. T3chsupport

    I know where they can go – to adopt a bunch of babies, or change the adoption industry to make that easier for people, or make sure that at-risk mothers and their babies are well taken care of, and aren't left wondering what is going to happen to their baby that they would force them to keep.

    That's where they can go.

    November 9, 2011 at 4:46 pm | Report abuse |
  11. ekrit

    Colorado-based nonprofit Christian group, huh? Would those be the same morons who gave their blind support to Ted Haggard?

    November 9, 2011 at 4:47 pm | Report abuse |
  12. UhYeaOk

    Most of the people posting about this issue are hypocrites. Before the vote was done many of you were bashing Mississippe for having the issue on a ballot, now that the people of Mississippi voted it down you continue to insult and disparage the people of that state. If they don't do what you want, you insult them, if they do what you want, you insult them. HYPOCRITES!!

    November 9, 2011 at 4:47 pm | Report abuse |
    • Fookin' Prawn

      You're so cute when you're righteous.

      November 9, 2011 at 4:53 pm | Report abuse |
    • Gecul

      There is merit in what you say, however, over 40% of you voted yes! But, this yankee says "congratulations to you and your fellow citizens for ending up in the right place". Thank you. We have all benefited from the "NO" win.

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

    @Tex...or a permit required for condom usage...lol

    November 9, 2011 at 4:47 pm | Report abuse |
  14. DeeNYC

    the Duggars are very disappointed.

    November 9, 2011 at 4:49 pm | Report abuse |
  15. JoeT

    Just funny how many of the "Personhood" supporters tend to travel in the same circles as those in favor of capital punishment and reducing welfare for poor persons.

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

      uh, you just don't get it do you. Babies are innocent. You shouldn't murder them. Punishing somebody who decided to take another life, being that they were an adult and made their own poor choices...there is NO conflict here. If you can't understand that, I am amazed you can even figure out how to turn on your computer to type your post.

      November 9, 2011 at 4:56 pm | Report abuse |
    • Fookin' Prawn

      Russ, no one's murdering babies. We're talking about a small collection of cells with no human shape. Obviously there is a conflict, or you wouldn't be wandering around in here being a dense tool.

      November 9, 2011 at 5:00 pm | Report abuse |
    • Gecul

      Sorry RUSS. You're the one who doesn't "get it".

      November 9, 2011 at 5:04 pm | Report abuse |
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