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. elgiblet

    Way to go, Mississippi! Your people have spoken!

    Your inbred, backwoods denizens now publicly support murder. The time is now to boycott whatever it is you have to offer.

    Again, congratulations!

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

      Murder to who?

      November 9, 2011 at 4:55 pm | Report abuse |
    • Pizz Off elgiblet

      They don't support murder moron, they support a woman's right to choose whether or not she wants a small mass of cells that IS NOT HUMAN to continue to grow inside of her body. Just because you believe God doesn't want you to kill babies, doesn't mean you should ruin it for everyone else. Why don't you go protest at the abortion clinic with one of the signs of a mutiliated baby, or better yet, get a sign with a picture of a coat hanger. Because that's what will be the preferred method of removing a child from the womb once abortion becomes illegal. What would jesus do? I'm sure he'd rather the mother kill the baby than have it and abuse it.

      November 9, 2011 at 4:57 pm | Report abuse |
    • CT

      Since you've told so many posters to "stay in school, kids" perhaps it's time you took your own advice. Even an idiot knows that you cannot murder what isn't alive - and a fertilized egg that does not posses even a basic nervous system is not alive. Go crawl back into your cave and stop trying to push your own idiotic moral beliefs onto intelligent people.

      November 9, 2011 at 4:59 pm | Report abuse |
  2. moe smith

    If a fertilized egg is indeed a person, then the parents should be able to claim that child on their taxes for that year.

    November 9, 2011 at 4:50 pm | Report abuse |
  3. T3chsupport

    Does a farm fresh egg have the same rights as a chicken?
    You can throw an egg against the wall, and no one will care as long as it is your wall. Throw a chicken against the wall though, and suddenly everyone's all mad.

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

      It's not fertilized.

      Stay in school, kids.

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

      Good point

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

    Q: What do you call a female with no control over her reproductive organs?

    A: Livestock.

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


      November 9, 2011 at 4:51 pm | Report abuse |
    • moe smith

      Q: what do you call a man who posts nonsense and bullsh!7 that calls women "livestock"?

      A: Fuktard

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

      q: what do you call a person who makes a nonsensical retort that makes him look more like an idiot?

      a: moe smith.

      November 9, 2011 at 4:53 pm | Report abuse |
  5. moe smith

    "So what exactly happened?"

    Voters are smart enough to make decisions for themselves and not follow religious nonsense.

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

    There's actually no debate here; a doctor never says to a woman when she finds out she's pregnant "congratulations, you have a baby," it's "you're going to have a baby."

    A fetus is no more a human than lumber is a house. Anyone who disagrees with that blatant fact and screams "murder!" like a toddler is simply a fanatic. Plain and simple.

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

      Thanks Paul for calling it what it is

      November 9, 2011 at 4:57 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Snow

    I wonder how many women supported this insanity.. A lot of right wing religinut men who have no clue about what a woman goes through during pregnancy (unwanted, more specifically) sure love to yap on and on about the rights of an unborn egg (not even fetus).

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

    Just out of curiosity, if this were to pass and become the law of the land, would every man who had ever abandoned a pregnant woman go to prison for child abandonment? Or, if a woman had a high risk pregnancy which racked up the bills, could she sue the fetus for damages? Or how about for those who die from complications? Will the dead fetus or orphaned newborn be tried in court for murder of the woman?

    November 9, 2011 at 4:52 pm | Report abuse |
    • Pizz Off elgiblet

      Fetuses are dangerous creatures that eat you from the inside out.

      November 9, 2011 at 5:00 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Public Enemy Number 2

    How about the conservative Christians stop bringing these initiatives to a vote? That would be a good "what's next": Going away.

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

      You don't have to be a, 'Conservative Christian' to recognize murder.

      Stay in school, kids.

      November 9, 2011 at 4:54 pm | Report abuse |
    • Todd in DC

      Woman are truly livestock to you, aren't they Egilbert?

      November 9, 2011 at 5:05 pm | Report abuse |
  10. openminded19

    It failed because it was stupid. The people have spoken. If you want to save all the fertilized eggs and pay for them and adopt them, raise them, then do so. It's your right.

    November 9, 2011 at 4:53 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Tao

    They read the bill.

    November 9, 2011 at 4:53 pm | Report abuse |
  12. John

    The measure failed because the United States is a free country and its people will never come under the vicious rule of christian doctrine, which never seems to remain focused upon its own ranks, but outward in judgment of all others.

    Women in the United States have the right to make their own choices and science has the right to advance. We have a right to build our own temples if we choose, the right to freedom of religion or even the absence of religion without reprisal. Christians can mire themselves in their religion all they care to but they will never prevail in creating laws to force their beliefs on others.

    November 9, 2011 at 4:53 pm | Report abuse |
  13. AgrippaMT

    It's good to see that a solid majority of people even in such backward places as Mississippi are fed up with the right-to-lifers,anti-abortionists and religious extremists of the Republican party and the tea baggers.

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

    The lone photo of a fetus is not an accurate representation of the Personhood USA's agenda – they should put up a photo of a fertilized egg saying "thank you" up there instead.

    November 9, 2011 at 4:54 pm | Report abuse |
    • Todd in DC

      and a bunch of men strapping a woman to a table saying, "We don't trust you to maintain this pregnancy. We will force feed you until the baby is born." Then we will free you, give you the child, but no money to raise it. Happy birthday."

      November 9, 2011 at 5:07 pm | Report abuse |
  15. cdgfla

    Good day for America. Mississippi votes this Facsist legislation down and Ohio defeats an Anti-US worker referendum. I dare say that I am proud to be an Amierican for the first day in years.

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