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. blackarrow

    I for one have had it with the torture and murder of tomatoes and bell peppers!
    They have a right to life too and someone really ought to do something about the murder of living things because of our selfishness!

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

      But of course all these religious maniacs are vegans and would not consider killing anything, including a sewer rat; though that is because they would end up killing each other.

      Do not talk to me about women because I suffered from severe PMS but this damn woman who wrote for "The Universe" said to me on a live television programme that she did not have PMS and that she did not believe it existed as God would not inflict such a thing on women" for God's sake this is the bloke who invented period and labour pains if their God invented everything on Earth. It is a good job the presenter was between us or I would have showed her what PMS did to me as I was right in the middle of it at the time.

      November 9, 2011 at 5:31 pm | Report abuse |
    • Pope Benedict

      Playing tricks with words won't work in the long run. It used to be that a person was something that looks human, eats, drinks, sleeps, has arms and legs, interacts with other people because it hs ears, eyes, and a brain, or at least close to that point as a viable fetus. If we call a fertilized egg, which can't do any of these things, a person, then we will need a new word for real persons who can do all of those things. Then we will be back where we started. We could call it a "viaperson" and the courts coul say a person can be terminated, but a viaperson cannot. So the religious right will have to make an egg equal to a viaperson with a new referendum.

      November 9, 2011 at 6:08 pm | Report abuse |
  2. acitizen

    Will a miscarriage lead to criminal prosecution with the punishment of death if this measure had passed?

    A better option would be education, prevention and building a support system for expecting women than more religious motivated and unenforceable laws. I would start off by mandating a 6 month leave with full pay to expecting women and free pregnancy check-ups to all.

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

      The good people of Mississippi prevailed. Now if only my home state of Texas would show as much sense.

      November 9, 2011 at 5:36 pm | Report abuse |
    • Pope Benedict

      People trying to have a baby are murdering little persons – fertilized eggs that fail to attach to the uterus and are spontaniously aborted. Some people do this for months or years, murdering many little single-celled people in order to have one baby.

      November 9, 2011 at 5:54 pm | Report abuse |
  3. high school biology advocate

    So it's not a person? Baloney. All the pro-abortion people here, what would you do if someone came along and I don't know hit you or your pregnant wife in the stomach and intentionally caused a miscarriage? Nothing? Baloney. I bet a lot of you would sure sue! Wouldn't your child have just been lost? So then what makes a child a child, whether the mom wants it or not? Now isn't that humans playing God? It's a person when the couple decides it is?

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

      no, an undeveloped fetus is not a person.
      any more than your fingernail is a person.

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

      It's about choice. You're missing the entire point. Not to mention, NO, a fertilized egg is not a person. It's a clump of cells.

      November 9, 2011 at 5:19 pm | Report abuse |
    • Pope Benedict

      A single cell a person? Why?

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

      True.. I will go even further to say if they had a few fertilized eggs and then lost the ability to have children.. Then found the doctor tossed them out.. And they were gone when they went to retrieve them..
      They would call them their "children "when they sued his pants off for it~!!

      November 9, 2011 at 5:21 pm | Report abuse |
    • high school biology advocate

      A zygote is a unique stage in the development of a human life, a fingernail is not. We are all "clumps of cells and molecules" we are no less persons. There is nothing anyone is saying here on either side that will change the fact that we all have choices – no choice is given or taken away. I'm just here asking if a human embryo is a human life. If so, why not CHOOSE life? And yes, a single cell human zygote is a human life? Why? Because a unique new life has formed.

      November 9, 2011 at 5:25 pm | Report abuse |
    • SixDegrees

      The problem is, those who disagree with you are happy to let you live your life as you see fit, according to your beliefs, but you are an intolerant bigot who insists on ramming your views down the throats of everyone. You are as fundamentally un-American as it is possible to be, and you are also a fine example of why the Romans used to burn Christians and use them for lion chow.

      November 9, 2011 at 5:26 pm | Report abuse |
    • Erica

      I have long believed that murder should not be charged in the death of an unborn child UNLESS that child is over 20 weeks gestation. The simple reason being that at that point, higher brain function can be measured. The child can no longer be electively aborted because the GOVERNMENT has seen fit to draw the line of life at 20 weeks.

      I am Pro-Choice, not pro-abortion.
      I believe that the state has no right to tell me whether I can keep a clump of cells in my uterus or not.
      I believe it is a personal decision made more complex by the crappy economy these days.

      November 9, 2011 at 5:27 pm | Report abuse |
    • Edy B

      Yes I would SUE them on the grounds that they were the reason for taking away the POTENTIAL to have the child. That's why it wouldn't be a criminal case beyond assault.

      November 9, 2011 at 5:28 pm | Report abuse |
    • Cyrus

      With this minimal IQ and reasoning capacity, how are you even allowed to teach biology in school? No wonder our kids don't learn anything anymore.

      November 9, 2011 at 5:30 pm | Report abuse |
    • Edy B

      Oh and btw if you think IT's a person don't call IT IT, we don't cal PEOPLE IT.

      November 9, 2011 at 5:30 pm | Report abuse |
    • high school biology advocate

      @Sixdegrees, if you want to call anyone an intolerant bigot, please restrict it to yourself. I'm certainly exercising my American right to free speech, and unlike you, I'm not ramming anything. I'm asking questions and encouraging others to examine science and ask themselves if science and morality can enlighten their choices. I think by the way it is a tell tale sign of those with little point to make that they resort to name-calling, labels and indeed pushiness as you demonstrate.

      November 9, 2011 at 5:32 pm | Report abuse |
    • Geo

      its something called liberty! its your body and you should not be dictated by a law or government on what to do with your body.....and don't think that only because a law is passed women wont abort...it will just become another illegal business, it will probably end up in the underground world.......don't you think it would be better to educate about preventing pregnancy and about OTHER options besides aborting......a law wont do anything......it will only make us more of a slave to this government. we are free and should stay that way.

      November 9, 2011 at 5:40 pm | Report abuse |
    • Pope Benedict

      Playing tricks with wordswon't work in the long run. It used to be that a person was something that looks human, eats, drinks, sleaps, has arms and legs, interacts with other people because it hs ears, eyes, and a brain, or at least close to that point as a viable fetus. If we call a fertilized egg, which can't do any of these things, a person, then we will need a new word for real persons who can do all of those things. Then we will be back where we started.

      November 9, 2011 at 6:03 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Pope Benedict

    My pet turttle is smarter than a zygote. Why can't he get personhood status? Oh I forgot that it doesn't have human DNA. Is that the only reason that the religious right wants fertilized eggs to be called persons? Or is there some kind of magic that makes a single cell equivalent to a person like a valedictorian, president, hockey player, newborn baby, or some other real life person that has some sort of recognizable value.

    November 9, 2011 at 5:18 pm | Report abuse |
    • high school biology advocate

      Really if nothing else I'm just on a campaign for high school science. Is there something you don't get? That every valedictorian, president, hockey player, newborn baby and real life person started as a zygote? That a zygote is just a DEVELOPMENTAL STAGE in the life of a person? And what suddenly human DNA is meaningless to you? Ok, sure vote for your turtle for president, I don't care. But yeah, I think human DNA is kind of special.

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

      ya, I bet it is "science" you are campaigning for...
      the kind that says the earth is 6,000 years old by any chance:)?

      November 9, 2011 at 5:23 pm | Report abuse |
    • Pope Benedict

      So you think a zygote has the same value as a veladictorian?

      November 9, 2011 at 5:24 pm | Report abuse |
    • high school biology advocate

      Actually blackarrow, I am a biology major and an MD, work in the pharmaceutical industry and recently completed night classes to teach high school. I'm considering teaching high school. I believe the universe is likely about 20 billion years old. I love science and understanding. Anything else you'd like to know?

      November 9, 2011 at 5:28 pm | Report abuse |
    • Pope Benedict

      OK so you know biology. But why do you say that a fertilized egg is equal to a president?

      November 9, 2011 at 5:30 pm | Report abuse |
    • high school biology advocate

      Pope, without zygotes there would be no presidents. But try being honest, I didn't say the two stages of development (zygote and adult) were "equal." But indeed, both are developmental stages in human life.

      November 9, 2011 at 5:37 pm | Report abuse |
    • Pope Benedict

      So you agree they are different. How different? Very different. Everybody knows people started as eggs. That's moot. A person should be something that looks human, arms and legs, eats, and interacts with other people, or at least is near that stage as a viable fetus. Eggs can't do any of that. This personhood thing is only a smokescreen for the religious right to impose their will on everybody. Just look at the personhoodusa website. There are no scientific facts, only religion.

      November 9, 2011 at 5:45 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Rosslaw

    Votes for zygotes. A pregnant mother's vote should count for two.

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

      actually, Miss. is #1 in nation for obesity...
      so maybe their votes should count double:)

      November 9, 2011 at 5:21 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Ben

    Semen is the fluid sperm swim in. Sperm are interesting in their own because their tail is an example of a machine or engine. Consisting of 40 parts, including an "M Ring" and "S ring" if anyone of those 40 parts is missing/damaged the "tail" will not work. A design that would have had to been done on purpose.

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

      Well, no. Scientists have shown that the tail is quite functional in a whole variety of intermediate stages, and have also shown how it arose from pre-existing cellular structures. Thanks for bring up the subject, but fail for not acknowledging that by doing so you focused scientific attention on the topic and got it solved without recourse to any sort of intelligent designer.

      November 9, 2011 at 5:29 pm | Report abuse |
    • Oink Oink

      Just like a virus that has multiple subunits of proteins to make its coat, single mutation in any of them make virus ineffective. On 'purpose' too? TO punish the sinners? Is it Allah or does it have to be your own God? Dumba$$.

      November 9, 2011 at 5:40 pm | Report abuse |
  7. jimj

    please quote the federal law/statute that this amendment would have broken. please also define when life begins, isn't it better to error on the side of caution, i.e. not aborting? live and let live folks. don't punish a child with a death penalty for something his or her parents did.

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

      This mindless legislation would have prevented abortions to save mothers' lives.

      November 9, 2011 at 5:25 pm | Report abuse |
  8. blackarrow

    Well looks like these folks are going to have to console themselves with the recent re-pass of "In God We Trust" as national motto.
    They do such important things in Washington and take such strong stands now-a-days....

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

      Instead of passing legislation to create jobs, which is why these bozos were elected in the first place.

      November 9, 2011 at 5:26 pm | Report abuse |
  9. AndyTheGameInventor

    Having lived in Quebec during the referenderums on separation from Canada (which failed 3 times) I learned that people tend to lie to pollsters when their posiiton differs from what they think the public posiiton is. It's harder to publicly state a pro-choice stance in a conservative area (ie. Mississippi) than a pro-life stance, so many people just tell the pollster that they agree with the "majority" sentiment, but in the polling booth they vote their conscience. Still, based on my experience, a 10% swing from this is about twice what it was in Quebec, where is was easier to publicly state the "Pro-Quebec" position than the "Pro-Canada" position. Polls showed the measure winning in Quebec but it lost (narrowly) on election day.

    November 9, 2011 at 5:21 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Pope Benedict

    Can't these people do something more important for society like trying to figure out how many angels can fit on the head of a pin?

    November 9, 2011 at 5:21 pm | Report abuse |
    • SixDegrees

      The question was never about the exact number; it was about whether that number was finite or infinite, and went to the question of whether angels were part of the physical realm (finite, like all else in God's creation) or some other (infinite and incorporeal). Philosophically, it's an interesting topic.

      November 9, 2011 at 5:32 pm | Report abuse |
  11. leeintulsa

    So there is hope for mississippi after all. I like that. United we stand... We'll all hang together.. All that rot..

    November 9, 2011 at 5:21 pm | Report abuse |
  12. Cybersport

    A Classic case of religious extremists trying to jam their views down everyone's throat.

    November 9, 2011 at 5:21 pm | Report abuse |
  13. Sanity

    Interesting that a common talking point among the more ardent pro-abortion crowd is that those against abortion should adopt unwanted babies. Yet, many in the pro-abortion movement constantly complain that other people should give more money to the poor without feeling any obligation to adopt them (the poor) themselves, instead. Weird, huh?

    November 9, 2011 at 5:22 pm | Report abuse |
    • Erica

      Wrong. AS one whose family income is less than 50K, I donate a minimum of 200 dollars to the charity of my choice every year. AS does my husband, so this equals 400 dollars. Doesn't seem like a lot, until you realize how tight the budget is.

      My husband has been pressing for a 3rd baby. I've told him he's crazy, and if he really wants a 3rd child, I'm willing to adopt one that is over the age of 3, even if we can only get teenagers. I want to adopt a child that no one else wants, if we decide to adopt. However, adoption is very expensive, so I'm not sure we can do it anytime soon.

      And I'm Pro-Choice.

      Eat your words, and stop generalizing. Pro-Choice people are just that, for CHOICE. That doesn't mean we want women to always get abortions. We simply want women to have the option available in a safe and legal way. The 60's and 70's are a good reason why. GO look up the statistics on how many women ended up in serious condition or DEAD because of illegal abortions.

      November 9, 2011 at 5:34 pm | Report abuse |
  14. Edy B

    Why is this discussion so difficult?

    Is a fertilized egg alive? Yes

    Will it become a person? Not Necesarily. Miscarriage, Blighted Ovum, Ectopic Pregnancy, etc.

    When in the pregnancy does the step ocur from just Alive to Person? Well, let me ask you, what makes us Human, people, a Person? Consiousness. That's the reason most of us have no trouble with the fact that we kill chickens and cows every day. So if someone is in an accident & the brain is damaged beyond repair, maybe they even have to take it out. Is he still a person? If it were medically possible to switch brains with someone else would you still be the same Person?

    Bottom line, no brain no Person. So before the time the fetus has a Brain it's alive but NOT a person.

    November 9, 2011 at 5:22 pm | Report abuse |
    • leeintulsa

      @edy b: Your chicken/cows argument seems moot.. They have brains.. Yet are not people.. I'm trying to agree, that bit just seemed counterproductive..

      November 9, 2011 at 5:28 pm | Report abuse |
    • Edy B

      I agree. Was just trying to point out that we have no trouble as a society killing other forms of life, and untill we can set appart the fertalized egg from other life it wouldn't be MURDER.
      (yes through DNA IT is human DNA, but I would not equate a person who has been brain dead for 20 years with human DNA to be a Person).

      November 9, 2011 at 5:35 pm | Report abuse |
  15. Jack

    When does education and common sense begin, governor of Mississippi? BTW, governor of Mississippi, are you still using the states jet for personal use at taxpayers expense? I heard that Mississippi would soon have to upgrade planes because they had difficulty with your size. LMAO

    November 9, 2011 at 5:23 pm | Report abuse |
    • SixDegrees

      FWIW, Barbour is largely credited with this measure being defeated. His pronouncement last week that even he had misgivings about it almost certainly swung the vote toward defeat, despite his later statement that he had voted for it.

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