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. Tensai 13

    Thanks Mississippi, I guess there's still hope yet for America to avoid third world country status.

    November 9, 2011 at 2:15 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Tom Leykis

    Only in the mouthbreathing south would anyone even put such an amendment forth for debate and a vote. It's a pity they still can secede.

    November 9, 2011 at 2:15 pm | Report abuse |
    • Veritas

      Actually, it was first put to a vote in Colorado, where it was defeated twice. Also, if you were capable of reading you would have seen that the group sponsoring the amendment was based in Colorado. So, I suppose it must be the "mouthbreathing" Rocky Mountain West that is really behind this movement.

      November 9, 2011 at 2:21 pm | Report abuse |
    • Veritas

      Also, genius, the South CAN'T secede. That's sort of what the Civil War was all about. I suppose reading AND history must not be your strong points.

      November 9, 2011 at 2:22 pm | Report abuse |
    • Joe B-b-b-b-bob

      It's not a pity they can secede - I wish they would - the state's a parasitic, tax-dollar sucking, intellectual black hole. And they're the fattest, too.

      November 9, 2011 at 2:24 pm | Report abuse |
    • Mark

      Sorry buddy, while I am sure there is no shortage of cannon fodder from the south to play with, the poster is correct, this originated – and failed – in Colorado

      November 9, 2011 at 2:33 pm | Report abuse |
    • pearlannie

      Let's not knock the south too hard. I live in Ohio where we have a scary crazy a_ _ governor, a scary crazy "far right- wing"-would-be-too-kind-a-term legislature, and lots of scary crazy religious nut jobs only too anxious to reduce women's rights to cooking, cleaning, and babymaking. And the scariest craziest among them are men. Women voters of Mississippi, Ohio and everywhere else, please think about this when the next opportunity to vote on heartbeat legislation, personhood amendments, or other such nonsense comes up. The men proposing these ideas DO NOT have your interests in mind.

      November 9, 2011 at 4:32 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Martin

    Standing ovation....

    November 9, 2011 at 2:15 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Joey Isotta-Fraschini

    @ Colin:
    Thank you.
    That was wonderful, but you are far too rational for Evangelical Christians.

    November 9, 2011 at 2:16 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Byron

    Wow, I'm really surprised by the outcome of this. I expected the measure to pass in Mississippi and then go on to be overruled by a federal court, but I'm glad to see there are some sensible people left in Mississippi...

    November 9, 2011 at 2:16 pm | Report abuse |
    • Oykevalt

      Have no fear... I'm sure we haven't seen the end of this insanity yet...

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

    You would think this issue for both sides means the end of civilization if they do not get their way. Water, electricity, transportation, farms, waste disposal; in otherwords, civilizations infrastructure, is FAR FAR FAR more important.

    November 9, 2011 at 2:17 pm | Report abuse |
    • CandyBee

      KBR:

      Actually I think that your are on the wrong track with your premise that "water, transportation, farms, "civilization infrastructure" is "far, far more more important than tihis issue. The requirement that women cannot make their own choices about their reproductive rights and have to proceed with unwanted pregnancies beats out just about everything else! Who is going to protect those children who ARE born, unwanted, and resented? Women should all have a choice about whether to carry an unintended pregnancy. Taking away that choice reduces us to animal status!

      November 9, 2011 at 2:35 pm | Report abuse |
  7. dejah

    Given that some in Mississippi haven't actually admitted that women and minorities are human, this choice of that state to foist this overpriced piece of garbage legislation isn't a surprise. Why aren't these Personhood people spending money on actually helping humans who HAVE been born? They are just greedhead fundies seeking to push their one-sided and uneducated view of "right" onto everyone else. And yet, if the government stepped in to stop them, they'd screech that government is over-reaching, wah, wah, wah. Please, Personhood people - go away. You are ugly and hateful.

    November 9, 2011 at 2:17 pm | Report abuse |
  8. bobcat ( in a hat )

    I'm proud to see my fellow Mississppians grow some kahunas and take on this relgious force down here. Those people have been able to push their agendas through for years because they had an overwhelming majority. But now with the movement of people here from the north, a more liberal view is starting to take hold, and all I can say, it's about damn time. Now we need to work on Alabama and their archaic laws.

    November 9, 2011 at 2:17 pm | Report abuse |
    • R Hookup

      I think the word you are looking for is "cojones". Kahuna is a Hawaiian word meaning magician.

      November 9, 2011 at 2:31 pm | Report abuse |
    • bobcat ( in a hat )

      @R Hookup

      Whatever. You obviously got my point as I'm sure everyone else did. Nitpicker

      November 9, 2011 at 2:55 pm | Report abuse |
    • Realist

      Oh crap, I just went out and got Kahlua

      November 9, 2011 at 3:58 pm | Report abuse |
    • NoodleHat

      I wouldn't be too proud. The "for" percentage was far far too high. A percentage above 1% means the state should be razed.

      November 9, 2011 at 6:23 pm | Report abuse |
  9. C. K. Justice

    I want the so called anti-abortion to just answer two questions:

    When was a baby born in petri dish???

    Why is it killing a baby when you do research on a embryo in petri dish and not killing a baby when some 400 are thrown in the trash every MONTH!!!!!!!!

    November 9, 2011 at 2:21 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Sniffit

    "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."

    In other words, and you won't catch CNN or the MSM saying this, IT WAS A REFERENDUM ON THE WHOLE IDEA AND IT WAS SHOT DOWN IN A BLAZE OF GLORY BY 16% OF THE VOTE.

    November 9, 2011 at 2:21 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Allen Roundtree

    Why do people keep trying to push their beliefs on everyone else?

    November 9, 2011 at 2:22 pm | Report abuse |
  12. NVa Native

    Why isn't freedom of religion enough for these people that they feel they have the right to force their religious beliefs on others and therefore end religious freedom?

    November 9, 2011 at 2:25 pm | Report abuse |
    • CandyBee

      Hear, hear!

      November 9, 2011 at 2:38 pm | Report abuse |
  13. JW

    Told you it would fail.

    November 9, 2011 at 2:25 pm | Report abuse |
  14. SixDegrees

    Stay free. Burn a Christian. Or at least an Evangelical Christian.

    November 9, 2011 at 2:26 pm | Report abuse |
    • fintastic

      "Burn down the mission, if we're gonna stay alive..., it's our only chance of living...."

      November 9, 2011 at 4:37 pm | Report abuse |
  15. Soicanleavecomments OnBlogs

    I hope America re-unites soon. The government is not going to do it. We will always have different groups with differences but the USA is getting a little bit too crazy on the left and right.

    November 9, 2011 at 2:26 pm | Report abuse |
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