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. Michael

    I think we should give dead people the same rights as human beings. They could come back to life. You never know. And since it is my personal belief that all dead people are just faking it and waiting for the rapture so they can come back and mess with us for not believing in Jesus as faithfully as they did, I think we should treat them as living. Let's vote!

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

      Zombies for Jesus!

      November 9, 2011 at 5:18 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Josh Burlingham

    As Mattel likes to say, they were probably "loud but not numerous."

    November 9, 2011 at 5:12 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Semen is not a person

    Semen is not a person. Stop acting like the baby Jesus is inside every nut that I bust. KK thanx.

    November 9, 2011 at 5:13 pm | Report abuse |
    • American Man

      Dude, you'd be committing a felony by busting that nut if you don't properly use that semen to inseminate some fertile eggs. Think about it. Your testicles have rights!

      If someone were to kick you in them, they'd go to jail as a mass murderer! They killed the eggs potential father! Oh the implications!

      I think we need hugemanitee to sort it all out.

      November 9, 2011 at 5:19 pm | Report abuse |
    • fla girl

      i agree!!

      November 9, 2011 at 5:21 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Jesus Cristo

    1) Racist Arizona senator taken down.
    2) Ohio's anti-union law defeated.
    3) Mississippi's personhood begins at conception bill also defeated.

    The GOP is going down!

    They have alienated blacks, hispanics, muslims, gays, jews, the french, professors, teachers, unions, etc.

    November 9, 2011 at 5:13 pm | Report abuse |
    • Matt

      As a crazy liberal, I would agree with you, but I am too much of a cynic to believe the GOP is going down... Although, it would be nice lol

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

      Yea, their going down eh? How come the GOP gained control of the house while your boy Obummer is in charge? You talk about the GOP insulting all those groups how about you? You have the name Jesus Cristo and it is meant as an insult, your the typical demonazi hypocrite who says one thing and does another.

      November 9, 2011 at 5:17 pm | Report abuse |
    • Matt

      To UhYeahOk... First, IT IS THEY'RE... Get your they're, their, there right! Geez! Second, how are Democrats nazis, like your term 'demonazi'?

      November 9, 2011 at 5:20 pm | Report abuse |
    • AJ

      Right on...they have also alienated aliens

      November 9, 2011 at 5:20 pm | Report abuse |
    • Hoofleau

      You need to change your screen name. You hypocrite. How dare you.

      November 9, 2011 at 5:24 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Pope Benedict

    What the religious right doesn't think about is that fertilized eggs don't always attach to the uterus and become zygotes. So trying to have a baby causes little "persons" to be murdered!

    November 9, 2011 at 5:13 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Ben McKinley

    I guess they figured if the Supreme Court of the United States rules that a corporation is a person, why not try for a fetus. In fact, why not try for a golden retriever. I believe a decent argument could be made that any living creature is more of a person than is a corporation.

    November 9, 2011 at 5:13 pm | Report abuse |
  7. No Tea For Me

    What should they do next? Maybe get their collective heads out of their holier-than-thou butts and pay attention to the majority moderate Americans. Live by your religion if you want, but don't think for a second I'm going to stand by while you try to legislate your beliefs into my laws.

    November 9, 2011 at 5:13 pm | Report abuse |
    • UhYeaOk

      But we do have to let you have your belief system be put into legislation??

      November 9, 2011 at 5:18 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Craig

    The failure was partly due to that great ex Gov. Haily Barbour. After all Barbour has Mississippi flying high last in almost every category you can think of. He was for it than he was against it but he voted for it because it was the right thing to do. Must be interbreeding again.

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

    Glad there are some intelligent people in Mississippi that didn't let this horse sh1t bill pass.

    November 9, 2011 at 5:14 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Ben McKinley

    I guess they figured if the Supreme Court of the United States rules that a corporation is a person, why not try for a fetus. In fact, why not try for a golden retriever. I believe a decent argument could be made that any living creature is more of a person than is a corporation. In the end, I am glad they lost this round, but I understand why they thought they had a case.

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

    If it passed, then cloning would not be legal. Everyone knows cloning, nanotechnology are two of the biggest ventures by governments, companies and backyard scientists (mostly in the UK.)

    November 9, 2011 at 5:15 pm | Report abuse |
  12. PaulNYC

    Maybe people should work on a "mind your own business" measure. Every single thing these right wingers want to do seems all about putting their noses in other people's lives.

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

      Thats laughable, you demonazis are into everyones business all the time and if you nuts ever gain full control of Washington it will get worse before it gets better, you morons are no better than the GOP.

      November 9, 2011 at 5:20 pm | Report abuse |
  13. James PDX

    Notice how their goodbye and pamphlets had pictures of a fully developed fetus? They would have put a more accurate picture of a bunch of unidentifiable cells in a cluster but were afraid that people wouldn't feel any attachment to a cell blob. And why would they? It's not a person, it's a blob of cells parasitically leeching off of its host.

    November 9, 2011 at 5:15 pm | Report abuse |
  14. RemainCalm

    Using the machinery of government to impose your will on other women, even with the collusion of a small group of women, is tyranny. Don’t approve of abortion? Then don’t participate in one. If you wish to accept the responsibility, you have the right to make arrangements with any citizen who has an organism growing inside her to compensate her for hosting that organism until you can take physical possession of it as it becomes a citizen and continue to care for it indefinitely yourself. You may also create and support a charitable foundation that promotes similar arrangements between pregnant women and those who believe what you believe.

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

      Thats fine, I won't force my beliefs on you and you don't make me the tax payer foot the bill for your abortion.

      November 9, 2011 at 5:21 pm | Report abuse |
  15. puresmokey

    Is this the pro-life movement, just rebranded? Sounds like it.

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