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. dcl

    I think we need to get rid of *corporate* personhood more than we need this amendment.

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

      You are correct!

      November 9, 2011 at 5:44 pm | Report abuse |
    • SixDegrees

      Be careful what you wish for. The treatment of corporations as individuals under the law is about 600 years old, and is the mechanism by which corporations are held liable for both civil and criminal wrongdoing. Toss this doctrine aside, and who do you think will have the most influence on what replaces it?

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

      corporate can be held at most civil responsibility. You can't jail or execute a corporate. On the other side, corporate can't vote. why they are able to do so much to influence vote? It's like a junior can't be held full criminal responsibility, can't vote and can not contribute to political process.

      November 9, 2011 at 6:27 pm | Report abuse |
    • SixDegrees

      No; corporations can be found criminally liable, and can be fined, dismantled and their board members sent to prison depending on the exact charges. And historically, the right to vote has never been applied to all citizens; in the US it is currently limited to those over 18 years of age, and wasn't granted to women until just a century ago or so, not to mention many, many other constraints imposed both here and elsewhere over the centuries. Not a good example.

      November 9, 2011 at 6:36 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Eric

    Well...everytime one starts to think this country is being taken over by all the wrong thinking – small, ignorant, narrow, wrong, deceptive, discriminatory, absurd, irrational and bizarre – a state like Mississippi comes along and restores my fairth in America's ability to evolve, move forward, think beyond repressive indoctrination perpetrated by men with an agenda – mostly designed to maintain their power and stoke their egos. It is utterly disingenuous for a segment of this culture to prattle on about the rights of the unborn with such irrational devotion when at the same time they ignore the plight of the millions of not only American born children but all children worldwide born into severe poverty – not enough to eat, no decent medical care, ill-prepared and potentially abusive parents. To invest so much in children that do not even exist yet while completely ignoring the suffering of the millions now on this planet, while being so willing to spend so much money on political campaigns while spending nothing to assist the actual living, breathing children on this already over crowded planet should be all anyone has to know to reject those who personally benefit from overstating the case against abortion.

    You claim to be believers in God but reject many of the teachings – picking and choosing only the ones that serve you – which sums up religious reality in this world. The religious books are not the word of God – but the word of men interperating "the word of God" to serve their own purposes. And God did not create man in HIS own image – it's man who create God in HIS own image – with all his egotistical and small minded ignorance. Somehow men still think they have the right to decide and determine for women how things will be.

    Consider this – spirit and matter are two separate things and if spirit does not have the opportunity to manifest in one body of matter – it will in another so all this fuss is just irrational, conditioned responses foisted on us by those who chose to make this the cause by which they would define their existence and give the meaningless (their lives) meaning – always at the expense of others. Most would do better to focus more attention on their own life and choices and quit thinking that disingenuous, self-righteous endeavors focused on denying self-determination to other already living, breathing people is their job and business.

    Yeah Mississippi – whatever the reason for the failure – the right thing happened. One can only hope it's a sign that maybe slowly but surely, we as a country can begin to evolve and focus on more pertinent, more valid, more evolved issues so we can move forward instead of constantly trying to look and move back.

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

      They aren't even picking and choosing.
      The bible doesn't prohibit abortion.
      They are flat out adding stuff they would like to see.

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

      And are you going to try and say the Church does not have a political agenda??? Read up on your history...

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

      Excellent statement!!!

      November 9, 2011 at 5:49 pm | Report abuse |
    • john


      November 9, 2011 at 5:57 pm | Report abuse |
    • Stephanie

      Well said, Eric. When we went to go vote yesterday, there were three amendments to vote on including the "personhood". They gave detailed descriptions of the other two and not the "personhood". Most people that voted "yes" for 26, assumed it was for just for "against abortion". If only they new the details of what was in it, there would have been more "no" votes. The whole thing was obsured and hope it never ends up for vote again!

      November 9, 2011 at 5:59 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Frank Stevens III

    Next thing you know these "PersonHood" People are going to say that Cancer is "God Given" and should not be treated!

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

      Yes, because babies are like cancer. Children are a malignant tumor taking over America.

      November 9, 2011 at 5:47 pm | Report abuse |
    • leeintulsa

      @frank: this has always been the case. That's why when doctors save their lives, they thank god. Some even think praying for someone helps, somehow.. It's cute..

      November 9, 2011 at 5:49 pm | Report abuse |
  4. SixDegrees

    Evangelical Christians are fundamentally incapable of living in a tolerant, diverse society that values the rights and opinions of all citizen. They are an intolerant, bigoted bunch, convinced that theirs is the only legitimate view and insistent on forcing that view upon all others, by force of state power if possible.

    November 9, 2011 at 5:38 pm | Report abuse |


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

      six – it is so good to see an opinion that my mirrors my own. I have wondered if I were the only other person who has seen the evil that are the egangelicals. When there is no tolerance we have what we have.

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

    If life begins at conception and not birth, will the Church start paying taxes to support the prenatle programs and feeding programs fpr the children and mothers ? That way these children have a better chance being born healthy. I do not think it becomes the taxe payers responsibility to feed,house, and pay for the medical, if the church will not. What happens if the baby is born gay?? Will all these Christains backing this bill support that child?

    November 9, 2011 at 5:38 pm | Report abuse |
    • SixDegrees

      When evangelicals have their way, gay babies will be purified with fire.

      November 9, 2011 at 5:39 pm | Report abuse |
    • Madison

      We are all paying for the churches, agree or not with their views. Through their tax-exempt status we subsidize their campaigns of divisiveness and bigotry toward a segment of the population, women, while many children already born face poverty, disease, and abuse, none of concern to these so called Christians. What would Jesus do??? For sure something very different than what most churches do.

      November 9, 2011 at 5:56 pm | Report abuse |
  6. joeBG

    What's next for these people? They shut the frick up and stay out of other people's business? Unlikely, I know, but it's a nice thought isn't it? Like other people have said, I wish they'd worry as much about actual, alive people as they do about clumps of cells.

    November 9, 2011 at 5:38 pm | Report abuse |
  7. us1776

    It failed b/c it was STUPID !!


    November 9, 2011 at 5:38 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Melody

    I wish conservatives would try caring for the children that are already alive. Or is it God's will that they starve, get beaten to death or neglected?

    A glob of cells is not a person. When that glob of cells can talk...I'll be sure to change my mind.

    November 9, 2011 at 5:38 pm | Report abuse |
    • Jim

      Interesting you mention abuse and starvation. When the whole abortion thing started "they" said the same thing. With legal abortions it would put an end to unwanted children and all but eliminate abuse and starvation. Now millions of babies ripped from their mothers wombs later hasn't really fixed the problem has it?

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

      If the same magnitude of effort is put to stop abuse/starve, I bet it will pass all 50 states. Having problem right at hand but choose to put effort on something "will be" doesn't seem a bright idea.

      November 9, 2011 at 6:17 pm | Report abuse |
  9. clay

    I think it is sad that many people try to make this about religion. For me, it is not. It is simple. You are creating a human life! We are a voice for the unborn. I read one post on here... "no, an undeveloped fetus is not a person.
    any more than your fingernail is a person." So... your fingernail eventually develops into what? A fingernail... We develop in stages you moron. The fetal stage is the MOST important. It is so sad that some have such disregard for human life. It is sickening. Even without religious influence, it is wrong! You people have more respect for DOGS than you do HUMANS.

    November 9, 2011 at 5:39 pm | Report abuse |
    • blackarrow

      ok, so an undeveloped fetus is STILL not a conscience person..
      any more than a FINGERNAIL!

      November 9, 2011 at 5:47 pm | Report abuse |


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

      Anti-choice people support fetuses.
      Pro-choice people support mothers.

      November 9, 2011 at 5:49 pm | Report abuse |
    • Susej

      Why yes, after all, there are only millions of dogs, and billions of people.

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

      Clay – I want to keep the government out of my underwear. So typical of the far right to call those that disagree with them "morons". You lost. You lost for a reason. You lost because your concept and conclusions are wrong. You cherry pick one comment and extrapolate it into your opposition. Congratulation – you are on the fail-boat

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

      lol We are not making this about religion, it is the religious nut jobs attempting to force their religious views into theocratic law that are making this issue about religion.

      If they ever actually comprehend the bible text (as if they were capable), it shows a difference between the born and unborn.

      If you cause a woman to miscarry you must pay the father a fine of 10 shekels of silver in compensation, whereas the penalty for murder is death.

      November 9, 2011 at 5:52 pm | Report abuse |
    • Madison


      I bet you support the death penalty. So much for "respect for human life".

      November 9, 2011 at 6:00 pm | Report abuse |

      you're good at completely missing the point

      November 9, 2011 at 6:09 pm | Report abuse |
    • Jerry

      Anybody care about an unborn DOG? I don't.

      November 9, 2011 at 6:09 pm | Report abuse |
    • SixDegrees

      Dogs don't try to force me to act like a dog. Unlike evangelical Christians who simply cannot tolerate anyone who thinks differently than they do.

      November 9, 2011 at 6:32 pm | Report abuse |
  10. LDOP

    Lets making drinking water illegal .. there are living bacteria in it .. some more complex then the first few days of prego

    November 9, 2011 at 5:39 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Chris

    There's a whole lotta lulz in this comments section. Wow... Where to start!

    42% of Mississippi has just stood up and proclaimed, loud and proud, that they are in fact as ass-backwards and certifiably stupid as the rest of the country has known they are for the last century. All doubt has been removed by these poll results.

    Secondly, to the real bright lightbulb that claimed "murder is illegal because God said it is a sin"..mmkay pumpkin, how about explaining why it has to be your imaginary friend in the sky that says it, and not the much simpler – and much more logical reason – that humans realized a long time ago that if given the chance, other people would gladly kill them for various reasons. Seems like self-preservation, a long-standing and undeniable facet of our primal instincts, is a much more readily accepted reason why murder would be illegal than "my all powerful skyfriend who I'm convinced exists because a book written by humans says so calls murder a sin!"

    Next, let's call this what it is. Another crippling blow against the Christian agenda. And a welcome one at that. Yes, I'm an athiest. Yes, christianity strikes me as yet another in a long, sad string of mass delusion used to control the simple minded and bend them to the purposes of the ruling elite. No wonder modern Republicans embrace religion so gleefully – it comes with brainwashing perfected over 2000 years of constant practice.

    Lastly I'll just say that the reason abortion is fine and offing your "unwanted newborn" isn't is because there's already a system in place if you change your mind after birth: its called adoption. If you change your mind at a certain point before birth? Abortion.

    Taking the pro-choice line of thought to such extremes as to ask when you get to start offing your annoying friends/family/coworkers just makes you look desperate and stupid.

    November 9, 2011 at 5:39 pm | Report abuse |
    • hugh

      Very well put...

      November 9, 2011 at 5:51 pm | Report abuse |
  12. Red

    No one can prove either way whether an unborn child is really human, but that lack of knowledge should be enough. "I don't know if it's really a human or just a genetic mess, but I'm willing to take the chance and destroy it." Is life really worth that big of a "maybe"?

    November 9, 2011 at 5:39 pm | Report abuse |
    • SixDegrees

      No proof is needed. The unborn cell cluster is NOT human, period, end of story. This is a legal fact, and no amount of hair-rending or teeth-gnashing on the part of intolerant, bigoted evangelicals incapable of living in a diverse society will change that. Feel free to believe what you like, be content that you can, then stop trying to force everyone else to believe only what you will allow.

      November 9, 2011 at 5:43 pm | Report abuse |
    • blackarrow

      no sense in taking a chance huh...
      that carrot you are eating might be a disguised human!
      no way to prove it!
      (except for basic neurological science of course...but other than that...)

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

      This is a problem, SixDegrees. You're resting on a non-sequitur and it drives rational conversation wild, especially in a CNN comment section. Do not give me a "fact" where the proof is "not needed" or non-existent. You've done nothing more than give me your opinion. It is my contention that because the life or lack thereof of an unborn baby is unknown, this matter should be free of opinion. We're not talking brainwaves and a heartbeat here...we're talking a soul. And as much as a soul sounds like "bigoted evangelical" bullcrap, neither of us can prove its existence either way. Hence, I do not believe life should be worth that kind of risk. "I didn't know.....I assumed..." That's trite.

      November 9, 2011 at 5:55 pm | Report abuse |
    • Red

      Blackarrow...you're theory may be square with logic, but it is by no stretch of the imagination that is irrational in relation to my previous post. You're jumping outside the lines of humans' understanding of their own senses.

      November 9, 2011 at 6:01 pm | Report abuse |
    • SixDegrees

      Your arguments are fundamentally irrational and driven by theology rather than logic. The law is the law; a clump of cells is not a person. You are free to believe otherwise, this being America and all, but you are incapable of extending the same freedom of belief to any who disagree with you. You would probably be much happier among your similarly absolutist and intolerant ideological brethren, the Taliban.

      November 9, 2011 at 6:30 pm | Report abuse |
  13. bob

    Even the bible shows a difference between the born and unborn.

    If you cause a woman to miscarry you must pay the father a fine of 10 shekels of silver in compensation, whereas the penalty for murder is death.

    Thankfully these religious nut jobs that are too stupid to understand what they are reading when they read the bible (if they even bother reading it) were defeated.


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

      They will even have missed the "Pay the father" bit, why the hell pay him when it her who has been damaged.

      To make matters worse all these nut jobs support capital punishment: If you have an abortion you might be preventing the next John Wayne Gacy from committing multiple murders, so abortions are the best form of capital punishment. There is no difference because a group of cells and the potential of becoming a human being and every child born has the potential of being the next Ted Bundy.

      These people oppose abortion and contraception purely because they realise their own mothers made a mistake and did not have an abortion in their cases.

      November 9, 2011 at 5:57 pm | Report abuse |
  14. LDOP

    Cancer and AIDS is more developed then a baby just conceived...

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

      Maybe not AIDs (a virus) but this law probably would have made cancer treatment a felony.

      November 9, 2011 at 5:47 pm | Report abuse |
  15. Zephyr

    The hardest part to understand is that they say they'll try again and again if necessary. How many times do people have to say no? If they ask enough maybe people against it will get bored and not show to vote for the 10th time on a bad idea and it will finally pass. Do we need to get a measure on the ballot in every state saying a clump of cells aren't a person?

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

      That's pretty much the plan. Look at creationism – it's been struck down time after time after time, across the nation, yet it's still on ballots every year attempting to insert religious doctrine into public schools through the back door of science and to dismantle science altogether over the longer haul. Evangelical Christians are as fundamentally anti-American as it is possible to be, intolerant of any viewpoint even a whit different from their own and intent on imposing a theocracy on the nation.

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