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. Pure hypocracy

    The simple truth is because they really have no idea what they actually want they are like a kid with a 2 second attention span in a toy store that loose focus way to fast.

    November 9, 2011 at 6:21 pm | Report abuse |
  2. MISSISSIPPI Burning in H#LL

    MISSISSIPPI: the LEAST educated state in the Union - and the most religious. Coincidence?

    November 9, 2011 at 6:23 pm | Report abuse |
    • dabble53

      No coincidence. Just amazed that they actually had enough voters with functioning brains to defeat this attempt.

      November 9, 2011 at 6:30 pm | Report abuse |
  3. us1776

    Efforts by progressives regarding s e x education, birth control, and improving families and womens health have done more to reduce the number of abortions that occur than all the effort of the religious w i n g n u t s ever.

    Progressives have reduced abortions by over 1 million this year.

    November 9, 2011 at 6:23 pm | Report abuse |
    • us1776

      We are Pro-Choice. The decision about abortion is between a woman and her doctor.

      November 9, 2011 at 6:25 pm | Report abuse |
  4. svann

    "Im thinking back to when I was a child.
    Way back to when I was a tot.
    When I was an embryo.
    A tiny speck. Just a dot.
    When I was a hershey bar
    in my father's back pocket."

    Smoke Rings by Laurie Anderson

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


      November 9, 2011 at 6:31 pm | Report abuse |
  5. mark

    This measure didn't pass because it's too ambigous. I don't think anyone is really getting used to the idea of abortion, especially not MS. I"m not in favor of murder (abortion or death sentences), but this measure wasn't the way to go about overturning Roe v. Wade.

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

      You want these "unwanted children of God "? Good ... Now find them a nurturing loving family to feed them.

      November 9, 2011 at 6:34 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Matt

    Why do pro-life posters only ever show a caucasian baby? Is this a play to appeal to those with racial tendencies? If the baby were of color, would less be people be supportive of their cause? Are they hiding the fact that many minority babies will need ot find homes and could perhaps threaten a white majority in some places. Interesting....

    November 9, 2011 at 6:25 pm | Report abuse |
    • trainer

      i think it's because white babies are the ones who get aborted

      November 9, 2011 at 6:38 pm | Report abuse |
    • dinabq

      They also don't show fetuses that might have deformities. After all, the same people who are against abortion are also against health care for sick children especially if tax payers have to foot the bill.

      November 9, 2011 at 11:29 pm | Report abuse |
  7. scot

    The churches have again oversteped their boundries ! The divison between church and state should prevail and the state taking priority over these evangilical nutcases ! Way to go Ole Miss now if we can get you guys out of the poverty that your state is in that would be a GOD SEND !

    November 9, 2011 at 6:25 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Ashley

    But even cancer cells are limited by what they can develop into.

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

    Gov Barbaur should first go on a diet...Mississippi doesant want abortion but yet wants to cut any meager funds a poor woman has after she has a baby.You can't have it both ways ....No abortions then take care of your babys ....Maybe give up a meal?

    November 9, 2011 at 6:26 pm | Report abuse |
  10. lolfail

    As someone who doesn't care at all about either side of this argument I would like to say that all you religious zealots who don't even come in here with a reasonable argument make all Christians look stupid.

    To all the far left self righteous non religious zealots, when I read your conversations like these on any site where you gang up on Christians it looks exactly like when they gang up on you, and it makes you look as stupid as they are.

    America is doomed because you are all way stupider than me.

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

      They're not all stupid. Many are actually paid by campaigns, or companies, to post on web boards like this one. Once people figured out that posts create advertising and that enough posts one direction actually affect the voting public, EVERY campaign started hiring.

      My personal guess is that 20% of the posts are paid professionals, 30% are crazed zealots for one cause or another, and 40% are trolls who just like to cause trouble because they think upsetting other people is fun. That leaves one in ten posts from a legitimate source - someone who can think about an issue without screaming.

      November 9, 2011 at 6:33 pm | Report abuse |
    • trainer

      thats a lot of opinion for not actually having an an opinion...
      why to play it safe and go right down the middle.
      Please don't vote in november.

      November 9, 2011 at 6:45 pm | Report abuse |

      "America is doomed because you are all way stupider than me."

      You sure about that? Last time I checked, "stupider" wasn't a real word.

      November 9, 2011 at 6:48 pm | Report abuse |
  11. lolfail

    PS. the real solution is to have every single one of you sterilized.

    November 9, 2011 at 6:29 pm | Report abuse |
  12. Lauren S

    It sounds like this law may have been rushed through too quickly without proper discussion worked out before it was voted on, which is a shame. In an age where human life is now started outside the womb via in vitro fertilization (and embryos are often frozen by the dozen for years), this is a vitally important ethical issue to work out for everyone–I don't care what your abortion stance is. If the zygotes and embryos are humans, either they are to be treated with the same rights as any other patient or child who is unable to communicate their wishes, or else if these embryos are not really humans, they are objects, to be owned–so who "owns" them? The lab? The parents? The donors? Who can throw them away? Who can implant them? You can see how quickly this debate over when life starts is no longer just about abortion or a woman's choice.

    As for using abortion as an argument for controlling population, I find that particular facet of some pro-choice arguments chilling, just as I would find any other call to kill any specific part of the population chilling, because in my eyes, this is the mentality of genocide. The pro-choice groups may have their own reasons for abortion that are strong and deserve examination– however, this one is very dangerous for our society to embrace. The population problem they present that has much simpler and more effective solutions, such as contraception (preventing conception) birth control.

    November 9, 2011 at 6:29 pm | Report abuse |
    • Edwin

      I have never understood the "one size fits all" concept of personhood. A fertilized cell has a lot of potential, but only in the right situation. And it has far less personality than pretty much anybody who has left the womb. Why must there be only two categories: fully a person or not a person at all?

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

      This law would make many forms of birth control illegal including morning after contraception for r a p e victims.

      November 9, 2011 at 6:36 pm | Report abuse |
    • trainer

      it's never going to pass in politics because its a moral issue, not a political issue.
      like smoking pot, legal or not people are going to do it and some arent, regarless of the law.
      It's what people feel is correct for them...not for the gov do dictate.

      November 9, 2011 at 6:50 pm | Report abuse |
  13. David Dee

    So what exactly happened?

    The electorate got tired of "side" issues and wanted them out of the way so politicians would stop and listen. We need jobs, not more mouths to feed.

    November 9, 2011 at 6:30 pm | Report abuse |
  14. Farscape1

    Whats next for the measure?

    Well from this vote it's obvious the people didn't want it so it's up to the morally upstanding people that proposed it to find a way to shove it down everyone's throats for their own good some other way.

    November 9, 2011 at 6:30 pm | Report abuse |
  15. Roy

    "We thank the over one quarter of a million Mississippians who voted for Amendment 26"

    There are 2 million eligible voters in the state of Mississippi. The fact that only 58% of voters who voted were against is embarrassing. Especially since 65% of eligible voters were too uneducated or lazy to even bother voting!! If they can't win in a state with one of the highest illiteracy levels in the U.S., what hope do they have elsewhere.

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