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. jkshaz

    I love that they are showing the picture of a fetus on their website so that they can drum up sympathy rather than a zygote or perhaps blastula which is actually what they are arguing for the beginning of personhood (which fyi looks like a bundle of cells with no readily discernible features to the layperson). I'm not arguing for either in this case just pointing out the readily apparent "spin" that is present.

    November 9, 2011 at 5:47 pm | Report abuse |
    • Binky42

      No one does propaganda quite as well as the Christian-Right

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

      Yes. Notice the phony names: "pro-life" and "pro-abortion". Reality: it's anti-choice and pro-choice.

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

      This is NOT America's biggest problem. Worthy of discussion at a less fevered pitch however.

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

      In this era of scientific prevalence, they simply don't dare. They know they have no hope to argue with a few cells. Unless our world go backward in info and knowledge, their agenda is ancient and hopelessly outdated.

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

      This is the people in the poorest state of USA try to do: They are going to count fetus as a person so they can collect government money.

      November 9, 2011 at 6:04 pm | Report abuse |
  2. G Funk

    Abortion is a woman's CHOICE, not for government to decide. Religious beliefs and politics should NOT go hand in hand.

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

      Dаmn straight!

      November 9, 2011 at 5:52 pm | Report abuse |
    • cmonman1

      "Abortion is a woman's CHOICE, not for government to decide"
      Didn't this become the governments issue during Roe v Wade and come part of our law? How is this not a "government" issue?

      November 9, 2011 at 5:54 pm | Report abuse |
    • johnqpublic

      cmonman1 – it only came to the courts when the government stepped in and tried to take rights away from women.

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

      I have already secured the domain name FetusBook.com!

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

      @MZ: I know they are too old already, but I'm sure Beavis and Butthead would join that right away.

      November 9, 2011 at 6:18 pm | Report abuse |
    • cmonman1

      johnqpublic – we the people I guess....Just as the pro-abortion camp has a right, so do those on the opposite end.

      November 9, 2011 at 6:32 pm | Report abuse |
  3. newsreel

    Congrats Mississipi, you have chosen the rightful path away from evil.and medieval practices.

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

    maybe they just took their heads out of their a**es long enough to think.....

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

    Given the outcome of the Casey Anthony trial, person-hood is likely to be defined as any human 3 years of age or older.

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

      LOL Love it!!

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

    If they had given Feti the ability to donate to political campaigns (ala Target and Citizens United) it might have passed.

    November 9, 2011 at 5:50 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Binky42

    During the election, Parenthood USA held a "pray and wait" event. Apparently prayer didn't get these guys any results. What a shock.

    November 9, 2011 at 5:51 pm | Report abuse |
  8. CTexas

    Kudos to Mississippi for careful consideration.

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

    "We recognize that the right time to end abortion in Mississippi is now". It takes a lot of cheek a a very small mind to 'recognize' what everyone else should be forced to do/not do. Will these people, and their ilk, at some point realize that this is America, and everyone is supposed to do their own 'recognizing'?

    November 9, 2011 at 5:51 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Ann

    My ongoing pet peeve: An automatic assumption that all pro-lifers are Christian and all Christians are pro-lifers. Why is religion required to think life begins earlier than many would like to claim it does? It has nothing to do with religion. Non-religious people are just as likely to be opposed to murder, theft, and other bad deeds as religious people are–that stuff knows no religious bounds. So why is it that "killing an unborn baby is wrong" is something only religious people can agree with?

    I'm pro-life myself, although I had major reservations about this particular amendment because of its ambiguity. While I am Christian, I don't see it as having anything to do with my opinion on abortion. To me, it's a simple question: When does life begin? If you believe it begins at conception, then all abortion is murder. If you believe it begins at 3 months, then all abortions after 3 months are murder. And so on. It's about as logical a construction as you can put together, frankly, and religion doesn't enter into it. The only way that construction doesn't apply to you is if you believe murder is right, across the board, which would probably make you some sort of axe murderer or serial killer...and then you're a fallen outlier in the statistics and can be ignored for analysis purposes.

    November 9, 2011 at 5:51 pm | Report abuse |
    • Binky42

      It has everything to do with your religion, but you can't separate logic from faith anymore.

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


      Faith and logic are mutually exclusive.

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

      Actually, Binky, you can. Stop stereotyping and give reason and common sense a chance yourself. There are Christians that can seperate their personal beliefs from politics. Your rant about the "christian right" proves you're no less ignorant than the people you hate.

      November 9, 2011 at 6:12 pm | Report abuse |
    • cmonman1

      Binky42 & sybaris- Nice job interacting with the post. I guess applying your reason and logic is not required on your part?

      November 9, 2011 at 6:13 pm | Report abuse |
    • newsreel

      You can spin it in any way you want, you might be the exception ib regards to religion and anti-abortion stand, but the majority of anti-abortionist is religious. Dopn't use your case to generalize your arguement, that's cheating and you know it. Personhood organization is a christian group, that did not hit you in the face, or you conveniently ignore ?

      November 9, 2011 at 6:28 pm | Report abuse |
  11. andreadealmagro

    The measure is nothing but a vehicle for enslaving women's bodies. It is about power; not life. What about after-birth care, education, healthcare, and good jobs? Are they providing any of those?
    Of course not.
    I support women's right to choose.

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

    I will never step foot on this backward state. These are the same people who are likely to support wars and capital punishments. Bunch of backward hypocrites.

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

      Charles Jarman, just by reading your ignorant post I can tell that not only were you not born in Mississippi, you've never even been there. You are a troll. And no, I haven't missed the irony in my recognizing that you are a troll and also being sucked in to replying to your vitriolic, half-witted speech. I am a proud Mississippian, even more so today after the people of my great state voted down this heinous initiative. We as Mississippians stood up for a woman's right to make her own reproductive choices. Far from being "ignorant, backward, and disgusting," it seems rather enlightened and progressive, don't you think?

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

    What next you ask? How about all those "Personhood Protestors" going home and taking care of litter of children they are spawning and/or alternatively, adopting those children who were spawned and carried to term because of religious reasons. You see, these freaks don't want to raise or be accountable after the children are born. Nice double-standard idiots!!!

    November 9, 2011 at 5:53 pm | Report abuse |
    • cmonman1

      Oh brother. Do you really have to name call and be so bigoted? Are you 12? This type of rhetoric is simply hateful. To call others freaks, accusing Christians of taking care of their "litter" of children is sterotypiing of a group that you think your superior to. I am losing faith in our society when the only arguements they can present is this type of garbage. Learn to respect people of all faiths, creeds, colors or backrounds, it's what our country is built on, unless I guess they don't think like you.

      November 9, 2011 at 6:24 pm | Report abuse |
  14. paintpaintpaint

    It failed as law because it's flawed. I'm Catholic, but I told my daughter about abortion when she got her period, and emphasized keeping track of her periods her whole life for health reasons. I didn't expect her to get pregnant, but abortion is LEGAL in this country, and should she make a mistake, I don't want her to HAVE to pay for it her whole life – and 9 times out of 10 the 'boy' is nowhere to be found after a few years. Also – these 'holier than thou' people who are pro-"life" are the FIRST people to look down on girls/women who have children out of wedlock. That will never change.

    November 9, 2011 at 5:54 pm | Report abuse |
  15. JimBeam

    Most women feel the same way about their contraceptives as Charlton Heston felt about his guns.

    "Personhood" went WAY too far, even in conservative Mississippi.

    November 9, 2011 at 5:54 pm | Report abuse |
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