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. Me


    While I'm no great fan of abortion per se (and all available evidence suggests that even women who have had one feel terrible about, but saw no other acceptable choicd), here's my question:

    Why, then, be ANTI-wlefare for all those babies born w/o resources who would have been otherwise not brought into the world by moms talked out of it???

    Isn't it a choice of one or the other, when you really get down the the root of it?

    Perhaps this question will come off as cruel or cold, but it's simply meant to make you think, and I'd be very interested in reading your replies.

    November 9, 2011 at 6:13 pm | Report abuse |
    • MISSISSIPPI Burning in H#LL

      Too bad they can't read.

      November 9, 2011 at 6:26 pm | Report abuse |
    • Keith123

      To "Me" – now that we defeated this measure, by the reciprocal of your question, we can now deny welfare to the babies without resources. Are you in agreement with that? By the way, I voted against the measure because that is not government's role. Just as it is not government's role to encourage baby-making by doling out money to those who keep having babies when they can't afford it.

      November 9, 2011 at 6:26 pm | Report abuse |
  2. EB

    Just another act by America's taliban to inject their religion into every facet of my life. Looks like common sense prevailed.

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

      Amen to that EB !!!!!

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

    No Body Forces People Do Anything They Get A Choice. And This Thing Was Way Outta Line Taking Away Birth control Religious Idiot's. To The Pope GO Screw Your Self!

    November 9, 2011 at 6:15 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Vic of New York

    That's so funny.... in the name of "life" these sicko's would kill a mother with an atopic pregnancy. So much for "equal right to life" and the repugnant Christian Conservatives.

    November 9, 2011 at 6:15 pm | Report abuse |
    • Edwin

      Don't blame all christians for the extremism of some.

      November 9, 2011 at 6:26 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Paul J

    You can all squabble over terminology all you want, its a woman's decision PERIOD. The old "less government intrusion except in the bedroom" POV.

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

    Why is everyone blaming the Government ... Put Blame on the right wing Christians who cannot understand that everyone dooes not feel or think the way they do!

    November 9, 2011 at 6:15 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Pure hypocracy

    This is pure HYPOCRACY by personhood. As soon as the baby is born they cease to give a dam about it. If a baby is born to a family with a crack mother and no father the baby is gonna grow up and most likely commit crime, the second that baby does commit a crime these SAME people are shouting for his execution....HYPOCRACY!

    November 9, 2011 at 6:16 pm | Report abuse |
    • Me

      VERY well said!

      November 9, 2011 at 6:49 pm | Report abuse |
  8. John Hanson

    It seems like many people in this discussion forum are missing the fact that Mississippians voted AGAINST this initiative. Do any of you actually read the articles you comment on, or are there just hundreds of pages of troll-posts because you see an article with "Mississippi" and "abortion" in it and jump at the chance to flame? I'm going to assume the latter, because there simply cannot be this many idiots in the world...on second thought, there probably are.

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

      we read it... and we are gloating that it did not pass at all the religious nutjobs who swore it would.

      November 9, 2011 at 6:19 pm | Report abuse |
    • John Hanson

      Hey, that's fine by me, gloat away. What is curious to me is that the entire article is about how the people of Mississippi (my home state) voted down this heinous initiative, yet there are hundreds of people lined up to scream about how "backward" and "ignorant" Mississippians are. This does not compute. This was voted down by a 16% margin, you could hardly get a margin that large if people were asked to vote on whether or not puppies are cute or if they wanted free money. So what gives?

      November 9, 2011 at 6:37 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Hooligan

    I bet the religious based voters are fuming

    looks like "God" did not want this to pass either.. seeing how everything is in his "divine plane"

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

      The decision wasn't God's
      Voters made the decision and no matter which way it went – Its still part of God's Divine plan – that part is called free will.
      another part of that Divine plan is called Judgement.
      Lets see how you do.

      November 9, 2011 at 6:40 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Sonya

    I so wish women were humans like corporations. Then this whole thing would go away. Can't wait until menopause so I can have rights over my body again. Freaking nutjobs!

    November 9, 2011 at 6:18 pm | Report abuse |
  11. tensor

    Apart from the wackadoos growing a brain – or all the men getting pregnant, more than anything I want them all to remain in Mississippi.

    November 9, 2011 at 6:18 pm | Report abuse |
  12. Pure hypocracy

    As if the world wasn't overpopulated enough, these clowns want people to pop out 7 or 8 children since they don't believe in birth control.

    November 9, 2011 at 6:19 pm | Report abuse |
  13. denim

    If/when they come here, I'll fight them tooth and nail.

    November 9, 2011 at 6:19 pm | Report abuse |
  14. us1776

    It failed b/c it was STUPID.

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

      Short and to the point: good post.

      November 9, 2011 at 6:29 pm | Report abuse |
  15. Hank

    Let a woman and her doctor decide what is best. Please keep the government out of her personal life.

    November 9, 2011 at 6:21 pm | Report abuse |
    • trainer

      yes, this is a moral issue not a political issue, that's why it failed.
      if the gov. of Miss doesn't believe in abortion, well don't have one.

      November 9, 2011 at 6:32 pm | 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