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. Darryn Cooke

    Once any argument is bolstered by any religious belief or doctrine, and no matter how valid it may be, it looses all credibility. If you cannot propose measures that are reasonable to people of all faiths and beliefs then it's just one group trying to impose their way of life on everyone. I'm sorry but that does not sound appealing. Stop trying to take people's choices on what they do to themselves or their body away. Arguing when life actually begins is stupid and a waste of time. The argument will NEVER get resolved.

    I think sperm are alive and billions meet their death every second. Just another closed minded argument by closed minded people.

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

      So, you equate sperm with people? Wow... insensitive *and* stupid. Good job!

      November 9, 2011 at 4:59 pm | Report abuse |
    • RosieRocket

      Thanks for this! I'm so sick of the one sided crap I hear on this. Everything has to be black or white and there's never an in between. <3

      November 9, 2011 at 5:02 pm | Report abuse |
    • Fookin' Prawn

      Stay in school, elgiblet. A real one, this time, that can help you.

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

    It was settled long ago that VIABILITY is the determining factor. Get over it.

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

    I believe this was voted down because of the word "cloning" in the amendment language. Many people didn't understand the amendment, and thought that by voting "no", they were voting against cloning.

    November 9, 2011 at 4:54 pm | Report abuse |
  4. openminded19

    Roe v. Wade will stand. It's the only way.

    November 9, 2011 at 4:55 pm | Report abuse |
  5. BOB lAMMA

    Sure they tried to go the the state with the most retarded anit-abortion people in the US. Believe me, there is some real church going freaks there who would have you nailed to a cross if you took the pill or just having a period. A women should have her own choice to do what she wants with her body without the Goverment or these @ssholes steppin in.

    November 9, 2011 at 4:55 pm | Report abuse |
    • MIND


      November 9, 2011 at 5:16 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Norman

    Has anyone noticed it's only Christians who are complaining? No other organized religion has come out this forwardly about abortion, mostly because they have a problem with it they....shut up and mind their own business

    November 9, 2011 at 4:55 pm | Report abuse |
    • Bev b

      And it's not all Christians who wanted this piece of s__t to be law. Only certain fundagelical talibanistas were in favor.

      November 9, 2011 at 5:08 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Sonia

    If you are a pro-lifer, then don't have an abortion AND don't push your beliefs on others.

    November 9, 2011 at 4:56 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Payton

    As a Mississippi resident myself, the statement "nearly everyone" thought the amendment would pass is completely false. In fact, I only know of only a handful of people who claimed to be in favor of this amendment. Whether you are pro-life or pro-choice this was simply bad policymaking. Contrary to popular belief, Mississippians aren't dumb – or at least the majority aren't. I'm glad to say I'm proud of my state this week.

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

    This isn't about life, it's about numbers. Poor people in states like Mississippi are finally realizing that the government run ponzi schemes that keep them fed and clothed (Social Security, Medicare, Welfare, SNAP, etc.) rely on an ever increasing population of taxpayers to pay into them. Without birth control or abortions, more children will be born to grow up and pay taxes to support their welfare lifestyle.

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

      Or more people will grow up to not pay taxes to the federal government and instead rely on federal programs for food and shelter, you can look at it either way.

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

    Aren't the people who supported this measure the same people who want smaller government? Am I missing something here?

    November 9, 2011 at 4:58 pm | Report abuse |
    • Doug

      And the same folks also complain that govt control over folks lives is more than it should !

      November 9, 2011 at 5:08 pm | Report abuse |
  11. ORLY?

    If anti-abortion activists spent 50% of the time and money (that they do on "fighting" womens' choice) on helping unwed teenage mothers get through school, get good health care, get a certificate or skill, and a decent means for the child to grow up, the positive impact of the activists would be massive.

    As it is, they spend incredible amounts of time and money trying to get their religious views into laws. Why not spend that time and money helping the people for whom you claim to care?

    November 9, 2011 at 4:58 pm | Report abuse |
    • Bill O'Reilly is fairly unbalanced

      What you said.

      November 9, 2011 at 5:05 pm | Report abuse |
  12. Realist

    This is all nonsense to make people feel better about themselves. Outlawing abortions won't stop them, only make outlaws out of women in desperate situations. It will only serve to push abortion into the back alleys and cause greater damage.

    November 9, 2011 at 4:58 pm | Report abuse |
  13. us1776

    The GOP cannot win a straight up vote on abortion so they resort to tricks like trying to get "personhood" amendments on state ballots in hopes of tricking people.

    November 9, 2011 at 4:58 pm | Report abuse |
  14. Evelyn Waugh


    November 9, 2011 at 4:59 pm | Report abuse |
  15. us1776

    The GOP lost their stupid "personhood" vote in Mississippi, the most conservative state in the union.

    November 9, 2011 at 4:59 pm | Report abuse |
    • ORLY?



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