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. OrionStyles

    It failed because you are stupid when it comes to science and how things work in reality.

    Using the "rhythm" form of birth control would create more homicides then abortion under that law.


    November 9, 2011 at 5:24 pm | Report abuse |
    • Me

      Abortion is homicide

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

      "Homicide" is a legal term....so...no, it's not.

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

      when you allow the masses to determine science, you end up with a stupid country.

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


      So would you support abortion if it was necessary to save the life of your wife or daughter?

      Do you support abortion?

      November 9, 2011 at 5:35 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Twilighttrail

    These "personhood" bills are an attack on women, pure and simple. Yes, I know there are women in this movement, and shame on them for it. If they want to live that way it is their right, but I wish they would stop trying to drag the rest of us down with them. Are all those people in the crowd in the photo above going to adopt unwanted children? No? I didn't think so.

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

      Could not have said it better myself! Shame on them is right!

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

      Even see the women protesting in front of clinics? They are either old and no longer in the breeding pool, spinsters who no one wanted to impregnate or (is it just me?) fat layabouts who have plenty of time to protest because they don't work

      November 9, 2011 at 5:30 pm | Report abuse |
    • Jersey George

      Spot on!

      November 9, 2011 at 5:35 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Mark

    why did it pass? because it seems people woke up and realized it was the 21st century.

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

      Yes we learned in this century how to murder and get away with it. Not only that, how to get most people brainwashed that it's the ok thing to do

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


      Would you support abortion if it was necessary to save the life of your wife or daughter?

      Do you support abortion?

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

      this century?
      maybe you mean last century?
      "while it is not true that every conservative is a stupid person, it is true that almost all stupid people are conservatives"- John Stuart Mill.

      November 9, 2011 at 5:35 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Guero

    Personhood? I thought the article was about Mitt Romney and corporations,my friend.

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

    If a woman had a miscarriage, would it be involuntary manslaughter?

    November 9, 2011 at 5:26 pm | Report abuse |
    • Binky42

      Nope. God would be guilty of first degree murder.

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

      God is already guilty of first degree murder. Try reading the Bible. He's a genocidal self-obsessed lunatic.

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

      Aezel you aint never lied!!

      November 9, 2011 at 5:33 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Binky42

    Instead of "Personhood" they should use the less politically correct term "Manhood" instead. Lots of people like talking about their manhood 🙂

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

    Obama is not a dark skinned, anti-war socialist... You're thinking of Jesus!

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

    This Personhood USA were laughed out of their own state. They can't even get traction in their own back yard for this nonsense. Twice they were rejected here. So they went to where they *thought* the people were stupid enough and extreme enough and even failed there. What a bunch of twits.

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

      I would be interested to know what the "board of directors" of personhood pull down a year for their little scam....

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

    Mississippi people are nuts. Why don't they just elect another Republican who will carve them a new one.

    November 9, 2011 at 5:27 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Lisa

    I could get behind a movement called "Parenting Now" that would hold people responsible for the kids they have and give them available contraception measures so they wouldn't get pregnant in the first place. Maybe that's what these people should be pushing for instead. Maybe we should be worrying all about the kids out there who aren't being taken care of or educated or fed properly instead of a clump of cells. {sigh}

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

      Right ON!
      That is a real problem...the large number of unfit and completely irresponsible parents who can legally bring all the children they want into the world...
      Not a mass of cells with no brain being terminated.

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

      Except that the Personhood amendment makes many of the more common and less risky birth control methods illegal... since they can prevent a fertilized egg from implanting on the wall.

      They aren't for Birth Control... they're for making women incubators.

      November 9, 2011 at 5:37 pm | Report abuse |
  11. StopPlayingGames

    I'm a Christian, I'm not for abortion but I will never understand this debate. People are against birth control, against terminating a pregnancy the second it happens, the mother may be unfit (say drug abuse) and many other problems. Yet, there a thousands of unwanted children born to parents that are unable to care for them, blame the child for the life of having to support them, quit their education because of the pregnancy and much worse later on. Why can't all these people rally against unwanted pregnancies and then start faith based adoption agencies that care for the mother (and fetus)? Because it's easier to push your religion on someone else rather than put your money where your beliefs should be.

    November 9, 2011 at 5:28 pm | Report abuse |
  12. ReproPhysiol

    As a reproductive physiologist 2 questions immediately come to mind that I'm not sure the average citizen understands:
    1) 60-80% of all conceptions naturally abort before the fertilized egg implants, regardless of whether the women is on any form of birth control. This 60-80% can be anyone... a conservative married christian women who wants children, an unwed teenage losing her virginity, etc. Is the women to be held responsible for this natural abortion? What if she didn't even know she was pregnant and took medication/etc that aborted the baby and then found out afterwards that she was had aborted the fertilized egg (which would be execreted and look like a large blood clot)?

    2) How can a fertilized egg be considered an individual person when technically and physiologically it is a parasite? Upon conception, the women's body initiates an immune response to the "foreign object" just as it would to a virus or bacteria. The fertilized egg is only able to survive this immune response by "tricking" the women's immune system into thinking it is not a foreign object by release factors that the immune system recognizes. Furthermore, it relies on the host (the women) for nutrients, just as a parasite.

    November 9, 2011 at 5:28 pm | Report abuse |
  13. Daren

    I love the GOP.....protect the unborn....so when they grow up, we can send them to die in war!!!

    November 9, 2011 at 5:28 pm | Report abuse |
  14. William

    Oh how sad – the religious zealots failed at imposing their nutty will

    November 9, 2011 at 5:29 pm | Report abuse |
  15. Mark

    Wow.... "take down Roe v. Wade" The Christian fanatics are learning from the Muslim fanatics... Very scary indeed!

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