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)

    I would like to ask the groups who are making noise all over the place for person hood
    1. Do you know US is the only country in the world calls it has a disability instead of maternity leave -
    You are treating a mother as disable person to get paid for maternity leave when she gives birth .
    2. Helath care-Fight first on health care . why we should pay hefty insurance$$$ .
    3. When you get sick you get the doctor appointment after a week .Then if we go to emergency then we know we will be sure bankrupt for life. fight on these things .
    4. Why cant you guys fight on good important issues rather than politically motivated.

    November 9, 2011 at 5:08 pm | Report abuse |
    • D

      I disapprove of this measure on the ballot but even more so I disapprove of your mangling of the English language.

      November 9, 2011 at 5:21 pm | Report abuse |
  2. blackarrow

    maybe they can pass an amendment claiming life doesn't end at death and dead people are still persons too?
    (and get larger representation in congress or something?:)

    November 9, 2011 at 5:09 pm | Report abuse |
    • Brendan K Callahan

      I'm pretty sure, at least in Chicago, they already have enough representation based on the number of dead people that vote in Chicago elections 🙂

      November 9, 2011 at 5:23 pm | Report abuse |
  3. rms

    These people need to keep their religious dogmas to themselves and stop trying to convert the country to their beliefs. It goes against the grain of what the United States of America stands for. The problem is these people just keep bringing the issues back up on the ballot until they hope to eventually manage to get enough people to vote for it. There should be reasonable time limits for once a ballot item is voted down they need to wait 5 or 6 years before they can bring it back. This issue has been on the Colorado ballot twice and defeated both times. These radical religious groups need to understand their ideas are just not mainstream.

    November 9, 2011 at 5:09 pm | Report abuse |
    • mark

      Your right. The religeous fanatics have a "my way or nothing" approach. They are sefl-righteous fools. They want to tell women what to do with their own bodies but will make threats against you if you try to tell them what to do.

      November 9, 2011 at 5:16 pm | Report abuse |
  4. John D.

    I'm a college student attending The University of Southern Mississippi. This measure did not pass because of the youth vote. I have never seen students and faculty rally against anything. Everyday my Facebook news feed has been filled with news about prop 26. I am personally glad that it did not pass, and I did vote against it myself. Being a man I will never fully understand carrying a child before birth, it is this reason and this reason alone I believe it is a woman's right to choose. We must get our heads out of the bible and into reality.

    November 9, 2011 at 5:09 pm | Report abuse |
    • mark

      Very intelligent comment.

      November 9, 2011 at 5:13 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Fred Garvin

    This amendment would have passed except for one small factor overlooked by the backers. IT WAS A REALLY STUPID IDEA! Other than that, I could have passed.

    November 9, 2011 at 5:09 pm | Report abuse |
  6. AriBee

    If you are really against abortion you should not be fighting abortion, you should be fighting the reasons. I don't think any pregnant woman wakes up one day and decides to go get rid of the fetus in her uterus just for the heck of it. They have their reasons, and all you are doing by getting rid of abortions is creating unwanted children with mothers who do not have the ability to care for them.

    November 9, 2011 at 5:09 pm | Report abuse |
    • Patriot

      Ah – spoken like a true American. Just throw it away.

      November 9, 2011 at 5:15 pm | Report abuse |
    • AriBee

      Funny, because I do not now nor will I ever identify myself as an American, my Green Card and Passport both clearly say that I was not born in America.

      November 9, 2011 at 5:16 pm | Report abuse |
    • Q

      Ha, tell that idiot to go sit down AriBee... 🙂

      November 9, 2011 at 5:25 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Jstic

    The saddest thing about this entire farce is the amount of money, energy, and other resources that the GOP uses to try and repeal laws of the land that have been in existence for decades. They are the party of waste, money or man hours or both. They accomplish nothing with these ridiculous attempts at getting their sick and twisted anti abortion platform supported. Abortion is important to a very small group of people on one day every year, election day. The rest of the time it is not even considered an issue of any importance in this country. If you GOP wingnuts would take your money, resources and efforts and try to accomplish something worthwhile, everyone would be far better off. How about you people in Mississippi try and take that money to feed some of your poverty stricken kids, you have the highest rate of child poverty in the land. Or try and improve your education system, you have one of the worst systems in the country by test standards. Instead you pathetic pro lifers spend all your time and energy trying to tell other people what they can and can't do with their own bodies. You are a joke and don't even know it.

    November 9, 2011 at 5:09 pm | Report abuse |
    • Patriot

      Are you really that dense? Do you really think anyone is allowed to do what they want with their own body? We're forced to get inoculated, told what to eat, not to smoke, and not to drink. We're told to avoid sugar, not take drugs, and to not sit in front of the television for hours on end. And you tell us that women should not be told what to do with their own bodies? Are you from this planet? Why should anyone listen to someone like you who can't see two feet in front of them as to what's really doing on? Man, you really are diluted.

      November 9, 2011 at 5:34 pm | Report abuse |
    • Jstic

      Patriot, I will try to explain this in simple terms as you are obviously a simple person. No one is forcing you to eat anything, be vaccinated with anything. You can smoke all you want, as long as you don't endanger others with your second hand smoke. No one is FORCING you by law to do any of the things that you claim in your silly post. You sound like one of those paranoid right wing nazi types who has a cache of guns and ammo stashed in his back yard waiting for the day when you can take out the "gubmint naziz". Pretty sad.

      November 9, 2011 at 5:45 pm | Report abuse |
    • SeilnoigileR

      Patriot – 'Diluted'? Really? Perhaps 'deluded' is the word you intended to use? You're probably one of those who insists that everyone speak English in this country, yet have a tentative grasp of it yourself. As to your post, we are not 'forced' to do anything that you stated. Encouraged, perhaps. Informed of the dangers maybe. Forced, no.

      November 9, 2011 at 5:50 pm | Report abuse |
  8. mark

    Its real simple. Common sense prevailed and this attempt to control what women do with their own bodies went down in flames. The idiots who pushed this bill need to go back to their cults and religeous meetings and pray that the normal people of the US don't come after them with pitchforks and torches.

    November 9, 2011 at 5:10 pm | Report abuse |
    • Patriot

      Women do have control over their own bodies ignatz. Don't want to get pregnant? Don't. This isn't the middle ages. There are plenty of ways to avoid pregnancy. But if you do get pregnant, take responsibility. After all, if a man gets a woman pregnant, it's all about HIM taking responsibility, why not women?

      November 9, 2011 at 5:13 pm | Report abuse |
  9. carly

    Time for the right wing clowns to leave the majority of Americans alone.

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

    For all I thought the hillbillies are uneducated folks but look they know how to read and choose with intellect. Good for them.

    November 9, 2011 at 5:10 pm | Report abuse |
  11. todd

    JESUS apparently conservatives even think sperm that hasnt fertilized an egg is a baby. When you thought they couldnt get any dumber

    November 9, 2011 at 5:10 pm | Report abuse |
  12. Patriot

    It failed because the people no longer have a say in their government. This country is now run by others. Americans just don't know it yet, that's why they are so shocked when stuff like this happens.

    November 9, 2011 at 5:10 pm | Report abuse |
    • blackarrow

      if people don't have a say in their government then how come they have clear poll figures huh?
      maybe you mean...fringe lunatics don't get to control government?

      November 9, 2011 at 5:15 pm | Report abuse |
    • mark

      Go back to your bunker, clean your guns and get ready for the imaginary war you think is coming. Spew your hate about the government while you run and cash your SS checks, accept government subsidies and want your share of the pie.

      November 9, 2011 at 5:22 pm | Report abuse |
  13. cincypix

    So Personhood USA doesn't want to craft initiatives that comport with state law. And they think the voters were wrong.

    Earth to PUSA: even if you get the initiative passed, the voters or courtz could overturn it... :rolleyes:

    November 9, 2011 at 5:11 pm | Report abuse |
  14. robert

    Send the hypocrites back to the trailer park and keep the government out of my house. They say they want limited to no government but yet they want the government to tell my wife what she can do with her body. I have a suggestion for what you can do for your wife!

    November 9, 2011 at 5:11 pm | Report abuse |
  15. Sharon

    us1776: I don't think it was the bOP who took the money. I think both parties of Congress took it and wasted it.

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