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. mary

    people are so hypocritical now days..
    If you had some eggs stored.. And lost the ability to have children..
    Went to retrieve them only to find the doctor tossed them out.. You would call them your "children" when you sued the doctors pants off.
    You would suffer the feelings of loss.. YOu would cry that you would never have children because the doctor threw all you had out..
    If you think for one minute you would feel they were just a few cells and no biggie.. You are just being a total hypocrite.

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

      Well, he would have thrown out your property, not your babies.

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


      And so the words of the wise new generation.. So the real issue would be that this was your "property"?
      Good grief..

      November 9, 2011 at 5:41 pm | Report abuse |
    • Mike

      There is a difference between a possibility to have a child and an actual person.

      It's like saying that you stubbed your toe and missed a date and you could have gotten laid and it was the right time but now your biological clock has ticked its last tick, or whatever.

      Even as a zygote it is not a child yet. It's a clump of cells. That's all it is. There are millions of active and quite intelligent clumps of cells in your body now. If those were extracted would you consider them a person? I don't think so. Nor would you consider a human zygote a person if extracted, it is a zygote.

      If a baby can survive upon being extracted then it should not be aborted. A woman could force her own labor to get it out and get rid of it, sure, but to kill it? Of course not, that's absurd. But if the baby cannot survive on its own and the mother does not want to carry it anymore, that is her choice. She is that baby's creator and carrier. Personally I would like it if the man had a 50% stake in it, but seeing as how the baby is literally inside of the woman, that would have to be something that was offered, not taken or assumed.

      Your religion has no baring on this issue in any sense. It is your religion, so it can affect your choices, but it cannot affect the choices of others.

      In short, get over it.

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


      What is the problem with the new generation that they Hate the concept of religion, so much so..that any opposition is lumped into the same argument.. It comes down to religion for you..Doesn't it..
      I didn't mention religion.. In fact the pure and simple fact is once the sperm meets egg.. A child will grow..
      Those clumps of cells represent a potential child.. A "scientific fact".. Not a religious fact.. One based solely in science.. And you can bet your A$$ if a doctor tossed out a couples ONLY fertilized clump of cells.. The lawsuit would read "'the loss of a child"... Not property.. Not a few cells..
      But you people live in your weird little dream world.. where you can defy reality.. One day it will come back to bite you where the sun doesn't shine. Keep teaching generation after generation that life has no significance.. One day you will be old.. And a whole lot of heartless vultures will be in charge of you...

      November 9, 2011 at 5:51 pm | Report abuse |
    • mga

      Oh Mike, you are simply revolting. Take a look at an infant 15 weeks gestation, a far cry from the minimal chance of outside-the-womb-viability that occurs around 20 weeks.
      This is just trash to you? A worthless parasite? A subhuman not deserving of life? Less protection then an animal? God have mercy on your soul.

      November 9, 2011 at 5:53 pm | Report abuse |
    • Doug

      Since using a made up example to justify your perspective is fair play – how about this one:

      A miscarriage investigated by police with no medical training followed by an autopsy conducted on a fetus results in finding no specific cause of death, so the would be mother is tried and convicted of homicide. Compared to your example, this one would be several thousand times more likely – so let's try one that is only slightly more likely:

      The lawmakers shift their perspective (from extreme right-wing crazy to outright insanity), and use a mother's perceived predisposition (to want to control her own body and exercise her rights) to have her declared unfit, making her a ward of the state. Women who show any signs of not wanting a child after getting pregnant get rounded up to protect the "lives" they carry – giving up their own lives in exchange.

      You can claim "scare tactics" all you want, but you opened the door, you and your buddies with the signs of gross exaggeration. You use religion as if you know the mind of God, declaring that Jesus would do this or that – when every example given in the Bible would demonstrate clearly distinct results. Jesus would COMFORT the mother in her time of hardship, and would implore that they consider the CHOICE they are ALLOWED to make. Jesus does not remove the choice, because it is in the choice that a person either follows good, or evil. There is no benefit to being good if the choice was made for you, and even when people were about to commit outright murder, his demeanor was to ask them to examine their own choices before punishing others for theirs. The lessons that Jesus teaches REAL Christians is to NOT judge others, to set examples and NOT to force others to our own will. To let GO of our concern for others and to focus on God! No good comes from using God to do as you would do!

      In fact, it's no different than the people of Westborro Church, protesting at funerals because they didn't think the same way. It's merely on the other side of the life cycle where this kind of protest occurs.

      Bottom line – when has legislating morality ever worked out anyway?

      November 9, 2011 at 5:56 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Timaaa

    If this had passed, I think any woman that has a miscarraige should be tried for involuntary manslaughter.

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


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

      That is an abusively stupid comment, it is the equivalent of saying that parents of children who die of some awful cancer are currently prosecuted for manslaughter. Stop fear mongering and start being intellectually honest.

      November 9, 2011 at 5:42 pm | Report abuse |
    • Timaaa

      Maybe the parents should be held responsible if the child has cancer. They passed on the gene...Where will it end?

      November 9, 2011 at 5:50 pm | Report abuse |
    • mga

      It doesn't begin. You are being ridiculous and you know it.

      November 9, 2011 at 6:21 pm | Report abuse |
  3. bezerkur

    And this is the spawn of the next generation. No I think this blog is made up of 20-30 year olds who know everything.

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

      Oh, I doubt that.
      but you go on thinking "its the end of TIMES!"

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

      You are too young to have watched such a fast decline.. You were born into this.. You didn't see how fast people turned into what they are today..
      Yes.. it is sad and frightening What counts as humanity today..

      November 9, 2011 at 5:39 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Moe Vee

    A failed effort of Christian zealots to control other peoples' lives. We have 7 billion people on this earth and these people rather see real humans suffer than their make believe humans.

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

      To say conception is not the very 1st moment in human life is a outright lie. These people will say anything so long as they can choose murder as a contraceptive. No christian stuff here, just the facts according to science. If you disagree then please tell the rest of us when we become human beings cause there's a whole generation you may want to consider aborting.

      November 9, 2011 at 5:39 pm | Report abuse |
  5. SayWhat?

    Regardless of the subject, if an amendment to the bill of rights is incoherent/incomplete do WE really want it enforced by political lawmakers we're not even unanimously supporting? The article stated that valid questions were being dismissed by supporters and were considered scare tactics. In my opinion such a display indicates reckless thought and callous disregard of society. If anyone should be scared it should be the voters who elected these policy makers who wrote up this bill. Was it written in crayon with pictures too? They may not mind Child Welfare Social Services busting into their home, but the rest of us do. Women have the right to decide what is best for their unborn, isn't that already inherit knowledge? Baby kick one for yes, two for no. And there you have it folks!

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

    Foolishness, all of this. We're talking about giving equal rights to a small bundle of cells (and if life begins at conception, as these people believe, that means as few as a SINGLE fertilized egg cell). Meanwhile, we're voting to restrict the lives and rights of fully developed, grown human beings through voter ID legislation, bans on gay marriage, & etc.

    Again – foolishness, all of this. If only these people cared as much for actual humans as they did for a small bundle of unconscious cells.

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

      Let me know where they are legislating that it is ok to go around killing people so that we can compare apples to apples.

      November 9, 2011 at 6:23 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Mel B

    Yes on Personhood for a microscopic lump of cells turns a woman from a person into public property of the state. Her choices no longer matter. Her privacy is stripped. Her body is no longer her own. She is cannon fodder for religious zealots.

    I am a woman. What happens in my uterus is none of your damn business.

    November 9, 2011 at 5:33 pm | Report abuse |
    • mga

      Don't open your legs then if you don't want to take responsibility for creating life.

      November 9, 2011 at 6:24 pm | Report abuse |
  8. concerned

    As I understand the verbiage of this proposed amendment, an egg becomes a person at the instant of fertilization. If this were to become the law, a woman that had a miscarriage could then be charged with manslaughter or negligent homicide if she slipped and fell or didn't follow all of her doctor's advice.

    November 9, 2011 at 5:33 pm | Report abuse |
    • Leaf on the Wind

      It's bad enough that government seems to want to be in our bedrooms, but in this case, they want to be in our bodies.

      November 9, 2011 at 5:36 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Ralph

    It did not pass because there are more sensible, educated people here in Mississippi that religious fanatics. Yes, educated. The school systems are getting better. Now, if we could just get the state to score us some jobs.......

    November 9, 2011 at 5:33 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Leaf on the Wind

    Personhood USA vows to continue "until every person’s life is protected." I've yet to hear anything from this group about what happens when the mother's life is threatened by carrying a pregnancy to full term. Would she be prosecuted for murder? Or could she claim self defense?

    The insidiousness of these folks is endless and nauseating. They accuse opponents of slanting the truth and using scare tactics, then have the gall to use a picture of a fully developed fetus as if that represented all aborted fetuses. Sickening.

    A fetus is a parasitical grouping of rapidly dividing cells that lives off of its host (the mother). Until it can survive on its own, it isn't a person.

    November 9, 2011 at 5:33 pm | Report abuse |
  11. cl78

    How does it taste, you Christian Theocratic Fascists?

    November 9, 2011 at 5:33 pm | Report abuse |
    • mat

      F.O.A.D. How bout that ice hole? I dont care much for christians but you people are deffinitly not the alternative. must be a Film Actors Guild member.

      November 9, 2011 at 5:41 pm | Report abuse |
  12. Tom


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

    The closing line is scary enough – "... until every person's life is protected"... but what about protecting us against these stupid laws which serve no purpose other than endangering the rights of the many because of misguided beliefs?

    Why do these people not see the hypocrisy of demanding rights for others, when the effect is to deny the very rights of others and condemn whole families to hardships? Oh, right... because the hardships are not theirs, and the rights they deny are those of people they have no concern for.

    November 9, 2011 at 5:35 pm | Report abuse |
  14. RichardSRussell

    Could it just be that even in Mississippi they don't want their private lives dictated to by a bunch of religious wackjobs?

    November 9, 2011 at 5:36 pm | Report abuse |
  15. Oski

    Not every ejaculation needs to be named and have rights....

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

      Your right. Just the ones that fertilize eggs and end in pregancy. FOAD.

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

      Hey, Mat, did you misspell your own name, too? Just wondering.

      November 9, 2011 at 5:46 pm | Report abuse |
    • concerned

      But Matt, shouldn't the potential life of the ejaculate also be protected under the law. Unfertilized eggs are.

      November 9, 2011 at 5:48 pm | Report abuse |
    • memyself

      Every sperm is sacred, every sperm is great
      When a sperm is wasted, God gets quite irate...

      November 9, 2011 at 7:45 pm | Report abuse |
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