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.

Post by:
Filed under: Abortion • Mississippi • U.S.
soundoff (1,721 Responses)
  1. moderatesense

    I'm sure that in circles of friends and co-workers the common theme was of an ultra-conservative tone. But when it came down to the individual who was voting, they expressed their more moderate personal and political views.

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

      I wish everyone would watch a high resolution version of "Silent Scream" on youtube. This shows an ultrasound abortion at 12 weeks (First Trimester). This was created by one of the founding members of NARAL, who changed sides on this issue after he learned the horrible reality.

      For those that don't think it is a life, they need to youtube "Curtis Boyd I am killing", a prominent abortionist admits what they all know.

      November 9, 2011 at 6:27 pm | Report abuse |
    • Fookin' Prawn

      No Billy.

      November 9, 2011 at 7:21 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Elizabeth Young

    "We vow to continue on this path towards affirming the basic dignity and human rights of all people..." Wonderful!! I don't understand why you don't affirm this for all who are already born.

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

      VERY well said!!!

      These VERY SAME conservatives will fight TOOTH AND NAIL AGAINST public benefits... yet are anti-abortion... interesting.

      November 9, 2011 at 6:09 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Dr. Emilio-Adolfo Rivero

    The Government does not have any right whatsoever to intervene in what is a personal decision, be it the woman alone or together with her partner.

    Those in favor or against abortion must feel free to voice their opinions. But we must all understand that the matter in ifself belongs to the individual not to the Government. America is a free country, and we are all interested in keeping it as such. There is, and must be, a limit to what the local, state and national authorities can decide.

    Opinions on moral and ethics differ from person to person. All should be respected.

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

      Thank you! My thoughts exactly!!

      November 9, 2011 at 6:17 pm | Report abuse |
    • Dr. Bill

      Are you kidding? All individual moral decisions should be respected? What a bunch of nonsense. The fundamental question in all of this is whetehr or not this is human life. If the answer is "yes," then taking that life is immoral. There could be no reasoning that would justify taking the life of a human being that has not been prosecuted and been properly relived of that right via a court of law and due preocess. If the answer is "no," then there is no human life. If that is the case, then you may proceed. Do not dodge the question by stating that all opinions are of equal value. The question must be confronted and answered for the answer to have any meaning.

      November 9, 2011 at 6:17 pm | Report abuse |
    • Oi

      @Dr. Bill: But the answer is no...

      November 9, 2011 at 6:23 pm | Report abuse |
    • phoodphite

      I couldn't agree more. I think more government involvement in such broad application would, in time, make things more and more unnatural and erode the individual's sense of responsibility that they should have on all questions about their pregnancy.

      November 9, 2011 at 6:28 pm | Report abuse |
    • sunburn

      Suppose we respected the slave owners 157 years ago and let them do as you say ... it was their choice ... right?

      November 9, 2011 at 6:33 pm | Report abuse |
  4. blackarrow

    The problem is lumping everything together under one party.
    Many republicans are reasonable people who just don't want to pay as much to the government.
    Then you get the people who listen to folks who personally talk to Jesus....

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

      Is this how "less government" works?

      November 9, 2011 at 6:05 pm | Report abuse |
    • LNB

      unless it is in your uterus or in your bedrroom.

      November 9, 2011 at 6:07 pm | Report abuse |
    • blackarrow

      well not being a republican i can't say..
      I suspect most of this kind of stuff is a scam to continue picking pockets while getting people charged up on emotional issues...
      But many Republicans just don't want their money taken. And if getting some mouth breathers all fired up about Jesus works toward that end....all the better!

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

    Don't want government in my religion and I don't want religion in my government. There is no science to support "personhood" at conception. If it is human cells then cancer can have personhood. There is no scripture to support or not support abortion. There is quite a bit of scripture on "birth." Adam/Eve God breathed life into them. Birth of Christ. To be re-born. To say personhood at conception is saying a yolk is an egg, an egg is a chicken, a catepillar is a butterfly, a grub is a dragon-fly, and a tadpole is a frog. What is the next step for the personhood movement? I hope and pray nothing but zealots are hard to convince they might be wrong. Judas Iscariot comes to mind.

    November 9, 2011 at 6:02 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Nick B

    This image says it all: https://p.twimg.com/Adv1Jm7CQAAHG1X.png

    November 9, 2011 at 6:02 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Charles Jarman

    I rarely tell people I was born and lived in Mississippi until I got the heck out of dodge after college. Mississippi rates highest in every category that is bad and always has. Men in Jackson are still "assistant managers" wearing high-water pants so everyone can verify that their Gant shirts and colorful socks match. Anyone who wants to see racism of the Civil War days, just take a trip to Mississippi. Mississippi is an ignorant, backward, and disgusting place. I am so glad that I will never have to set foot there again EVER. This recent show of dirt mentality is so typical. Sickening.

    November 9, 2011 at 6:02 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Din

    CNN needs to get its definitions straight. This amendment sought to define personhood at fertilization, NOT conception. Basic science teaches that conception is implantation, not fertilization – before implantation, it's still merely potential conception. This amendement could have potentially gone so far as to criminalize chemical pregnancies – which happen in as many as 30% of all pregnancies – where a pregnancy may end on its own very early in pregnancy.

    November 9, 2011 at 6:02 pm | Report abuse |
  9. abby

    if the personhood folks want to live in a theocracy, there are a few nations in the middle east that fit the bill. they can stop trying to turn america into a theocracy -

    November 9, 2011 at 6:02 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Kevin

    People that care about a baby's life are not nut jobs. These are critical questions that determine when a human life begins. If it were indisputable when life begins we would not have this absurd debate. none the less abortionists think the idea an unborn baby is lunacy. It's only because you have to deny the baby is human or you have to face up to murder.

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

      caring about a baby is not what makes them nutjobs... the fact they believe a giant, invisible man in the sky deems it a sin to abort a fetus IS.

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

      Kevin, a fertilized cell is not a baby. Simply using that word doesn't make it a fact that it is a baby.

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

    what would be the legal view under this amendment if a person crossed state lines to receive an abortion?

    November 9, 2011 at 6:03 pm | Report abuse |
  12. Menwa

    I wonder when they will champion the same belief towards animals?

    The day these anti-abortion folks start taking on the financial responsibility to raise the children, feed, clothe, educate the children they do not want aborted is the day they can start to dictate to women what they do with their bodies.

    I believe in the right to abortion, with limits. But banning the practice outright forces another to live by the same religious belief as those who are opposed to abortion. It is a personal decision and one that all women and men must live with.

    As well, were do men get off telling me what I can and can't do with my body. Christians love to put the blame for pregnancy and abortion square on the shoulders of women, but what about the men who dip their "pen" in the ink well? Were is their accountability?

    November 9, 2011 at 6:04 pm | Report abuse |
  13. Hooligan

    it's nice to know common sense and reason trampled over religious doctrine and supposed morality.

    November 9, 2011 at 6:05 pm | Report abuse |
  14. Paul J

    With the conservative right, person-hood begins at conception and ends at birth.

    November 9, 2011 at 6:06 pm | Report abuse |
  15. Ashley

    I would never say this, but I'm fed up with snobbish liberals talking down to pro-life individuals as if we're "irrational": I am a graduate student and Mensa member- so I'm no "irrational person" or hick- and I firmly believe an unborn child is a person. First and foremost, I was a biology major in undergrad, so I can tell you with certainty that life indisputably begins at conception, and furthermore that a zygote, embryo, fetus, whatever you prefer to call it, is human. An unborn child is thus indisputably a living human being from the only objective standpoint available: science. Because an unborn child is a living human being with its own independent future, the decision whether to abort does not strictly concern only the mother's body. Abortion, which destroys a living human being, is killing.

    Now you might say: being a living human being doesn't necessarily make you a person. My response: how can you possibly be a living human being, as biology unequivocally acknowledges a fetus to be, and somehow not be a person? To be human and to be alive are both necessary, and sufficient conditions, for the status of personhood; to say you can somehow be a living human being and yet not be a person is to open the door to all manner of horrific consequences, in addition to being in conflict with basic common sense. To base the decision of personhood on anything other than objective scientific positions is to open the door to allow arbitrariness to influence the question of personhood.

    Until now, the law has indulged an irrebuttable presumption that an unborn child is not a person. Instead, the law should presume that if you are a living human being, then you are a person. The burden of proof should rest on the other side to prove that an unborn child is not a person, NOT on the pro-life side arguing that a living human being is a person. I saw this amendment as trying to cure the irrational allocation of the burden of proof on the matter of personhood in the legal challenge to Roe.

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

      It's as living as a tumor or a skin cell.

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

      the pot calling the kettle black here

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

      "I am a graduate student and Mensa member-"

      Sure, a line someone uses to make it seem as if their "opinion" has more weight. And a fertilized cell is as much a human being as cancer cell or a skin as JeramieH pointed out.

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

      No Jeremiah, it's fundamentally different from a skin cell or tumor cell. A skin or tumor cell will never develop beyond being such. The zygote, by contrast, is the complete genetic package, and out of that zygote develops the full human being. That's the fundamental biological difference.

      Paul J: clearly you didn't read. The point is to make clear that not every pro-life individual is "irrational." Why is it okay for you all to call us "stupid" in order to discredit our opinion, but not for us to counter such a baseless, ad hominem attack by pointing out facts which contradict your assertion?

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

      It appears then, Paul J, that we've got some hypocrisy on your end.

      November 9, 2011 at 6:20 pm | Report abuse |
    • JeramieH

      Hey Ashley, maybe you missed the part in biology where you were supposed to learn that most somatic cells of the body are a "complete genetic package". Of course, a tumor grows much more aggressively than a zygote in a petri dish... under that criteria, a tumor has more right to be called alive than a zygote.

      November 9, 2011 at 6:22 pm | Report abuse |
    • Ashley

      Having been a biology person, I'll further clarify the "complete genetic package" statement. A skin cell, like a zygote, also contains the full DNA sequence of a person. The difference is that telomeres (imagine the caps on shoe strings) are positioned at various points along the DNA strand of a skin cell, and these telomeres limit which DNA sequences are expressed. Essentially the telomeres along the DNA strands of skin cells permit only the genetic traits of the skin cell which are relevant to, well, skin, will be expressed. And that's what prevent skin cells from becoming liver cells; the wearing down of telomeres is also what causes cancer. In a zygote, the telomeres do not limit the cells to being only say skin cells, and that's why the fully developed human will develop out of the zygote.

      November 9, 2011 at 6:24 pm | Report abuse |
    • Ashley

      Even cancer cells are limited by what they can develop into.

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

      Besides JeremieH, nowhere in your impolite response did you address the fact that no matter what, cancer cells and skin cells will never develop of their own impulsion into a fully developed human being.

      November 9, 2011 at 6:30 pm | Report abuse |
    • JeramieH

      > the fully developed human will develop out of the zygote

      So a zygote is not yet a human.

      November 9, 2011 at 6:31 pm | Report abuse |
    • Ashley

      No, I said "fully developed" human: lungs, liver, etc. Not having developed these and other traits does not mean you're not a person. Otherwise, should we kill off a baby if it's born without fully developed lung function?

      November 9, 2011 at 6:34 pm | Report abuse |
    • Ashley

      In other words, nowhere did I even suggest that not being fully developed does not make you a human.

      November 9, 2011 at 6:35 pm | Report abuse |
    • pastapharian

      Ashley: your understanding of basic biology, and basic human genetics is weak. And your explanation of gene expression being regulated by telomere position is outright ridiculous. And yes, I have the credentials to back my statements.

      November 9, 2011 at 6:37 pm | Report abuse |
    • sunburn

      Thank you Ashley. It's a time for education ... on all fronts! The biggest obstacle will be the fear ... lack of the known.

      November 9, 2011 at 6:52 pm | Report abuse |
    • Ashley

      Please explain how telomeres don't regulate gene expression. Besides, of course I have to offer the simplest explanation possible -because no matter how intelligent a reader is (and I'm sure JeremieH's a smart person), you wouldn't be able to get the genetics explanation without some gross over-simplification (which I know doesn't do justice to how it actually works). And you know, pastapharian, that I would have to over-simplify for the purpose of explanation- which could only mean you're just another one of these people going for a low-blow insult to discredit the opposing side.

      The larger point is: a skin or cancer cell is genetically prevented from developing beyond being merely just that (that is, without genetic manipulation which we just don't have the technology to do yet). A zygote, however, does develop further.

      November 9, 2011 at 6:53 pm | Report abuse |
    • memyself

      @Ashley Telomeres have nothing to do with gene expression. Telomeres are a set of repeating base pairs found only at the end of the chromosome) that tell the DNA polymerase to stop replicating the DNA strand. My 14 year old daughter learned this in her biology class... for a Mensa member and college biology student you seem rather ignorant of basic biochemistry.

      November 9, 2011 at 7:07 pm | Report abuse |
    • Fookin' Prawn

      You immediately lost us all with 'I'm a Mensa member'. Great, that makes you qualified to spout BS on the internet. Congrats.

      November 9, 2011 at 7:23 pm | Report abuse |
    • Fookin' Prawn

      "And you know, pastapharian, that I would have to over-simplify for the purpose of explanation- which could only mean you're just another one of these people going for a low-blow insult to discredit the opposing side."

      Hmm...no, it's more about you being a self-important, righteous blowhard.

      November 9, 2011 at 7:25 pm | Report abuse |
    • pastapharian

      Ashley: I never tated my views on "personhood", I was simply commenting on your gross misunderstanding of gene expression. Your bloviating opinions on when a human life begins has very little basis in "science", and the things you state as black and white facts are in fact not at all accurate. And frankly, you need a bit more than some undergrad bio classes to start spouting off about molecular biology, transcriptional regulation, cell biology, and embryology. And forget the skin cancer comparison. It's not a relevant analogy. Bottom line is, regardless of your personal qualifications, opninions, or IQ, this still boils down to a question of religious beliefs to the majority of the voters in Mississippi. And, as my username will imply, I am against anything where a person's belief in a magic man in the sky or their projections of their morals affect MY life – or anybody else's.

      November 9, 2011 at 8:33 pm | Report abuse |
    • dinabq

      They want personhood for a fertilized egg whether the egg is in a woman or a test tube. Not all fertilized eggs get implanted in the uterus to even be a viable pregnancy. What about an ectopic pregnancy? What about a miscarriage? Are you going to investigate every one to make certain it wasn't caused by something the woman did or took? How many fertilized eggs have you rescued and raised to adulthood?

      November 9, 2011 at 8:39 pm | Report abuse |
    • drschwarz

      Although greatly oversimplified, Ashley's essentially correct. Sorry guys, but you're splitting hairs.

      November 11, 2011 at 2:42 am | Report abuse |
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30 31 32 33 34 35 36 37 38 39 40 41 42 43 44 45 46 47 48 49 50