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. Dan

    Obviously the majoity of people in Mississippi have a brain and use it. Just another instance of the vocal(crazy)minority needing a muzzle.

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

      My opinion? Men have no say in this issue. Men do not get pregnant. Men do not carry nor deliver babies. This is not an issue that they should have any say in. This bill was bad all around. It would have outlawed birth control. Prevention! How can preventing a pregnancy be considered the same as abortion. It is different. We are going backwards in our society. If you have ever been pregnant, or can ever be, you need to be vocal on this and let your thoughts be known or your right to birth control will be taken away but these nut jobs. Women – speak up!

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

      You're right Sherri, I shouldn't have a say in the matter. But I agree with you 🙂

      November 9, 2011 at 6:01 pm | Report abuse |
  2. El Kababa

    If these dimwits had their way, every miscarriage would have to be investigated as a potential homicide. About 1/4 of all pregnancies end in miscarriage.

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

    so if it fails in all 50 states, will you shut up and go away? If so lets have an election on it right now. We need to focus on Jobs.

    November 9, 2011 at 5:43 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Phil in KC

    Amen, dcl!
    I think they should just give up. They're a bunch of right-wing nut-jobs. They're even too far right for Mississippi and that takes some doing.

    November 9, 2011 at 5:44 pm | Report abuse |
  5. The Master

    This should have NEVER been on any ballot!! STUPID RIGHT WING RELIGIOUS NUT JOBS!

    November 9, 2011 at 5:44 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Geo

    PEOPLE WE BELIEVE IN SOMETHING CALLED LIBERTY! its your body and you should not be dictated by a law or government on what to do with your body.....by the way, don't think that 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 5:44 pm | Report abuse |
    • unimpressed

      this is such a tired argument – absurd and stuck back in the 60's, before detailed sonograms. its not your body – anymore than the you are your moms body. we know from sonograms and from IVF that we can move the creation from person to person. its a creation, a new being and if we are going to choose to terminate that creation it shouldnt matter whether its inside or outside the womb. if your baby is unwanted terminating after birth is equivalent as terminating it in the womb.

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

      you'r to radical......and not opened minded and most likely a extreme right wing conservative.......if it was up to you i bet that you would like for the government to dictate all that we do and can't do. GET REAL.......by the way it's the women that make the choice....... there should be no one telling them what to do especially no political religious fanatics. GET A LIFE and don't get into other peoples business if it doesn't concern you.

      November 9, 2011 at 6:03 pm | Report abuse |
    • unimpressed

      Radical dude or dudess? You addressed none of my points you cling to tired mantras and you thrive on emotional arguments not logic. you must be a liberal.

      November 9, 2011 at 6:10 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Paul

    If you do not like abortion , don't have one. End of story.

    November 9, 2011 at 5:44 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Timaaa

    I have one question...for those against abortion...If someone chooses to have an abortion, how does that effect you directly? And would you be willing to adapt those children that are forced to be born?

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

      I'm assuming by no ones response to this question that you pro-lifers don't have an answer to it....

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

      TIMMMAAAAAEEE! You dolt. How does killing a stranger affect you? Apparently, logic escapes you.

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

      a fertilized egg isn't a stranger you dolt.

      November 9, 2011 at 6:02 pm | Report abuse |
    • unimpressed

      ahhhhh..... but then when is it ok to kill the life of a baby? be open to hard question – whats the difference between killing a child in third term and within 3 months after its been delivered? slipperly slope

      November 9, 2011 at 6:13 pm | Report abuse |
  9. jim in washington

    It is good to see people finally standing up to Republican bigotry and trailer park Christianity.

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

      Best line ever ... "trailer park Christianity" ... 🙂

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

      As a catholic myself, i'm sorry to say that this belief stretches far beyond the trailer park christains. But it is the stupid church agendas like this and gay marraige that turned me away from the church. They are nothing but brain washers. I just wish those that are Jesus freaks would just let the rest of us normal people live our lives.

      November 9, 2011 at 5:58 pm | Report abuse |
  10. bob

    What's next for them? Sit down and shut up! Stop trying to take away the freedom for a woman to do what she and her doctor think is best for the woman.

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

    Perhaps Personhood USA should be as concerned with the 16.4 million children that live in poverty in this country as they do for a fertilized egg.... and these are the same people that want to keep government out of people's business?

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

    So..when women are once again forced to back alley butchers then not only does the "embryo" not live neither does the woman carrying it so now we ignore the life of the mother and still do not bring a child into the world. Only makes sense to the conservative (men) who will never have to endure a pregnancy either whether wanted or not. You cannot hold a womans uterus hostage.

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

      When were women "forced into back alleys" to get abortions? Myth. Men do endure the responsibility of taking care of babies they didn't want. It happens all the time. It's just that this country has been convinced by the baby killing industry that it's all about what the woman wants – not what she should be responsible for. I think women should be held accountable just as men are. Don't want a baby – don't get poked, take birth control, or yank out your uterus. This is the modern age – you have plenty of choices. Don't take it out on a kid.

      It's all the weak men out there that have bought the "a woman should be able to do what she wants with her own body" bull. None of us are allowed to do what we want with our own bodies. You can't even smoke in a restaurant anymore. What planet are you people living on?

      November 9, 2011 at 5:53 pm | Report abuse |
  13. buddy

    Personhood = religious fanatical oppression of all women.

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

      booby! why do you sound like a nutjob femminist? you cant imagine why people want to stop abortions? answer me this batman, at what point is it ok to allow women to terminate their child. 3mo, 6mo, 2 years, 3 years?

      November 9, 2011 at 6:01 pm | Report abuse |
  14. Wayne

    What does it have to do with religion? I'm not religious, but I still hate the idea of chopping the legs and arms off a kid before he or she is born. I don't like the idea of covering a baby with acid and watching it fall apart, or shoving a pair scissor in the back of its skull and sucking the brains out onto the floor. I'm not religious at all, but I hate the idea of selling baby parts for a profit. I think blaming it religion is an easy way to make yourself feel good better about something that you know deep down is horrific.

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

      Twaddle. Using the terms "baby" and "kid" for embryo and fetus is an attempt at emotional manipulation. You obviously have an axe to grind.

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

      It's your hangup if you have issues with what I call it. Sorry it touched a nerve.

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

      memyself. double twaddle. at what point does a fetus become a baby....1 sec after the baby comes out?
      late term abortion allows for half the baby to be exposed before its slaughtered like an animal – was the exposed half a baby and the remaining half a fetus?

      November 9, 2011 at 6:06 pm | Report abuse |
    • Wayne

      By the way, the words "baby, and "kid" existed before the words "embryo" and "fetus" were invented to dehumanize the unborn. Sounds like it's you that are using words to manipulate.

      November 9, 2011 at 6:20 pm | Report abuse |
  15. Riiiiick

    If it can't survive outside of the womb, it ain't a person. We need to, once-and-for-all, choose a date that best matches the survival chances for the majority of fetuses outside the womb and set that as the cut-off date for abortions. We need to stop it with the overemotional hysterics regarding abortion; this country will never see it made illegal, no matter how hard the right-wing tries. You'd best come to a compromise, or you're just going to continue losing.

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

      We have a date, 22 weeks. Nothing can survive before that.

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

      Yeah – right. Your dad gets sick and can't survive without medication – not a person. You get in an auto accident and can't survive without a blood transfusion – you're suddenly not a person. Bull. You'd be the first one to sue the minute you didn't get adequate medical care. What a looney.

      November 9, 2011 at 5:56 pm | Report abuse |
    • memyself

      @Wayne The difference is that "your dad" or "you" have already been granted personhood. The bar to taking away personhood from someone who is clearly a person is much higher than the bar to granting personhood to something that has never been recognized as a person.

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

      "Granted" personhood by "Whom"? You people don't even realize you're signing your own death sentences. The minute you claim society has a right to "grant personhood" is the minute you give godlike authority to the system. You'll be 65 years old and find that those who "granted" you your personhood by social fiat have decided to take it away, because suddenly you no longer have that right to live – you're too old, or too sick to go on. You're not "viable", and just because you decided years ago that once you're born you're legitimate, doesn't mean it stays that way. Can't you people see beyond your zippers? It's the mark of the un-educated that you let your emotions and your politics get in the way of common sense. The standard that life begins at conception takes away the power for society to start dictating who's life is valuable, and who's is not. You NEED that objective line in the sand to protect yourself you loonies. There will come a day when anyone over 50 will be deemed not "viable" and not productive. What then? Man, you people have the foresight of an ant.

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