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. WMesser58

    I hope go back to their inbred ways and stop trying to legislate morality.

    November 9, 2011 at 6:46 pm | Report abuse |
    • cmonman1

      I guess we better stop trying to legistate stealing, murder, and purjury. Brilliant!

      November 9, 2011 at 6:49 pm | Report abuse |
    • Kiki

      I can't think of what's more immoral than forcing a child who was the victim of r a p e or i n c e s t to carry their r a p i s t s baby becuase you cant give them emergency contrapception after the crime. Or that you would allow a mother to die and leave her children because she had the miisfortune of an ectopic pregnancy.

      November 9, 2011 at 6:51 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Alexa

    Everyone is against abortion, until you need one.

    November 9, 2011 at 6:49 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Nate

    If life begins at conception, does that mean that people could legally vote and drink 9 months earlier?

    November 9, 2011 at 6:50 pm | Report abuse |
  4. mamaoffour

    Less than half the eligible voters voted on this measure. 333,191 voted for it. They probably picked an "off" year for putting this on the ballot in the hopes that people wouldn't be there and it might be able to squeak by. Luckily they underestimated the intelligence of the Mississippi voters.

    November 9, 2011 at 6:51 pm | Report abuse |
    • Robert

      "Intelligence" and "Mississippi" don't belong in the same sentence.

      November 9, 2011 at 6:58 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Rich

    The people would be alot smarter if alot of the inbred babys were aborted instead of insisting on no abortions so good ole Missip is so far down on smarts

    November 9, 2011 at 6:51 pm | Report abuse |
    • freddy

      Thus says the individual incapable of spelling, "babies."

      November 9, 2011 at 7:00 pm | Report abuse |
  6. XD

    What's next for them? How about they stay out of my danged uterus!

    November 9, 2011 at 6:52 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Frodo1008

    I went out to Google and asked for the cost of raising a child from birth to adulthood. The least expensive ("Budget child") was just about $300,000 through college. The most expensive was some $560,000 or almost twice as much, so a not unreasonable average would be some $400,000 or so. Now, the most conservative estimate of the number of children so aborted in the years since abortion became legal is about 50,000,000. So the total cost of raising that many children in a middle class manner would be mathematically $400,000 times 50,000,000 for a total of some $20 trillion.

    Now, would the same conservatives that are so much against abortion also now stand up an be willing to pay a total sum (either b the churches themselves, or by being taxed by the federal government) equal to some $6 trillion dollars more that the entire federal National Debt to raise all of these children????

    I thought not!!

    However, if we take this to be a commandment by Christ, then perhaps the Christians that want to do this should then consider this as part of "Carrying the Cross of Christ??" Could you do one without the other?? I also think not!!!

    November 9, 2011 at 6:54 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Me

    TO THE SUPPORTERS OF THIS MEASURE:

    1.) Were any of you ALSO in favor of capitol punishment???

    2.) Voluntary tubal ligation/vasectomy for those wishing permamnet birth control???

    3.) People who receive welfare (who may of otherwise been not brought into the world, had their mothers made that choice) are "worthless, lazy bums"???

    Just wondering and curious for a variety of reasons.

    November 9, 2011 at 6:55 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Rich

    Amen Frodo1008 well said they can't have it both ways.....but they aren't smart enough to realize it...

    November 9, 2011 at 6:57 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Rich

    None of them know anything about college costs as few got out of high school but they listen to some money grubbing pastur
    who knows very little about anything.

    November 9, 2011 at 6:59 pm | Report abuse |
  11. SYLVIA SALAMONE

    People of Mississippsi had better fight for better education and don't dictate what a women should and should not do with her body. There are plenty of children in the USA who don't have parents and need a home. Where the hell are you for those children you dam hypercrites!

    November 9, 2011 at 6:59 pm | Report abuse |
  12. Laura M

    STOP trying to ban abortion! If you don't want one don't get one!!!!!!! Most people that are against abortion are religious people. I DO NOT TRY TO TAKE AWAY THE RIGHT FOR YOU TO PRACTICE YOUR RELIGION AND BELIEFS. SO QUIT TRYING TO TELL ME WHAT I CAN AND CAN'T DO WITH MY BODY AND WHAT I BELIEVE IN.

    November 9, 2011 at 7:03 pm | Report abuse |
  13. Thomas

    I have a question for pro-choice advocates: All personal attacks aside, and having a purely rational and mature conversation, when does life begin?

    November 9, 2011 at 7:05 pm | Report abuse |
    • Kiki

      When the kids leave home and the dog d i e s.

      November 9, 2011 at 7:06 pm | Report abuse |
    • memyself

      Why is a mouse when it spins?

      November 9, 2011 at 7:14 pm | Report abuse |
  14. Rich

    When was the last time any people from Mississippi or anybody else ever heard /saw or actually talked this jesus guy that seems to not want any abortions but seems to be OK with Bush killing 3-400,000 inocent citizens of IRAQ?If there is a god W's in TROUBLE...alot more that some poor woman that wants an abortion...

    November 9, 2011 at 7:05 pm | Report abuse |
  15. 2BLBJJ

    What kind of New Speak is "Personhood"?

    November 9, 2011 at 7:06 pm | Report abuse |
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