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. mcp123

    "After all, Mississippi is the most anti-abortion, religious and conservative state,"

    Which is why it ranks about dead last in everything that it is good to have.

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

      You are correct, the rank among the lowest in education, the highest in crime rate per capita, near the top in welfare recipients, and the list goes onnnnnnnn...

      November 9, 2011 at 7:08 pm | Report abuse |
    • ArmyCSM

      I misjudge Mississippi last evening. I am sorry..the people aren't as dumb as they look. Now if hey can just look around and see through the republican'ts lies, they might be able to pull themselves out of the ditch of poverty b/c. Red states are poor states.

      November 9, 2011 at 7:16 pm | Report abuse |
    • EP

      @ArmyCSM, don't kid yourself...they're plenty dumb down there.

      November 9, 2011 at 7:57 pm | Report abuse |
  2. ThaGerm

    They should replace that picture of the near-term infant with an egg with a single sperm. Of course, you would only do that if you were not trying to obfuscate the argument.

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

    Who except people that are minding other peoples business CARE when life begins...

    November 9, 2011 at 7:08 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Where the heck is Chad?

    Come on Chad...this one has your name written all over it!

    November 9, 2011 at 7:08 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Ilovefoxnews

    Conservatives = pro-life = pro-bush = pro-war = pro-death penalty. i bet they're too stupid to realize that their lives are one gigantic contradiction.

    November 9, 2011 at 7:14 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Ghost of Rooney

    These people are not pro-life – they are anti-abortion; they never campaign for life-saving initiatives like drug safety, gun safety, road safety, etc. Not to mention the 28 children that die of starvation every minute. Just anti-abortion initiatives which their other beliefs cause them to view the resulting children as unwanted parasites.

    November 9, 2011 at 7:15 pm | Report abuse |
  7. leonard

    it is really simple why the law failed.It was stupid and anti American

    November 9, 2011 at 7:20 pm | Report abuse |
  8. The most used arguments are often the most flawed

    1. Don't tell a woman what to do with their body... We don't care what you do with your body. Just don't harm the person you likely brought into being through your own idiocy. Any person's rights end where they infringe on another's.

    2. Separation of Church and State... Is different from Establishment of Religion and does not forbid someone from basing their decisions on their religious beliefs, even attempting to legislate them.

    November 9, 2011 at 7:20 pm | Report abuse |
    • Kiki

      A zygote isn't a person. You guys just lost that one.

      November 9, 2011 at 7:22 pm | Report abuse |
    • s

      Great. So have the baby but then who is going to care for the baby? You? It is not going to be the woman whom you forced the baby on her.

      November 9, 2011 at 7:22 pm | Report abuse |
    • The most used arguments are often the most flawed

      Kiki, the "life at conception" crowd failed to gather enough support. The People are free to define personhood as they will and eventually they will.

      You don't want it, let the State take care of it or find any number of infertile parents who would be very happy to adopt your child.

      November 9, 2011 at 7:26 pm | Report abuse |
    • Kiki

      Define it however you wish since your beliefs are not and will not be legislated.

      November 9, 2011 at 7:28 pm | Report abuse |
    • The most used arguments are often the most flawed

      We'll see... I may not be "at conception" but I'm certainly not foolish enough to think personhood starts at birth...

      November 9, 2011 at 7:31 pm | Report abuse |
    • Kiki

      Well if this defeat and similar ones in places like Colorado are any indication recognizing the "personhood" of a zygote will not become a part of law.

      November 9, 2011 at 7:34 pm | Report abuse |
  9. s

    Isn't Mississippi the state where they killed several volunteers who came to fight for equality of all people in the 60's? This is the same state that cares about where lives begin? Give me a break!!!
    People, wake up. Do not let your own religion ditate how other people live!

    November 9, 2011 at 7:21 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Yeah Right

    The GOP was so successful in making Corporations people but they can't make the unborn people. Seems they only care about abortion when they need votes and campaign money. Don't let them fool you.

    November 9, 2011 at 7:23 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Kay

    I know what's next.. more lying and whining from those who want the government to have power over an individuals body.

    November 9, 2011 at 7:24 pm | Report abuse |
    • Kay

      Oh yes, and more pretending to be on the side of goodness, mercy, and justice.

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

      Or more self-righteous non-arguments from the self-serving and wanna-be intellectuals...

      November 9, 2011 at 7:29 pm | Report abuse |
    • Kiki

      Get government out of the boardroom and into the bedroom!

      November 9, 2011 at 7:30 pm | Report abuse |
  12. John Simpson

    We don't want to pay for the child we are forcing you to have? I'm all for abolishing welfare, but my perfect party would be one that also believes in abortion rights. Lower the population and hold people accountable if they are dumb enough to have too many children.

    November 9, 2011 at 7:25 pm | Report abuse |
  13. GeoBoy

    Why don't you right wingers have your babies and let the rest of us do what we want to do.

    I do not tell you what to do, leave us alone my business is not your business.

    Tell you what .. If you Christians really believe in what you are saying then "guarantee" any woman that you will provide a home for every unwanted birth.

    Ok .. I can't hear you .. Speak up!

    November 9, 2011 at 7:28 pm | Report abuse |
  14. Tman

    Whoa now....you mess'n with the almighty dollar. Imagine how much ICSI clinics will loose because now they cannot assure high rates of success due to the fact that they can only fertilize one egg instead of three or more then pick the best from the lot. Hahahaha! It's a GOP paradox which came first the money or the egg.

    November 9, 2011 at 7:29 pm | Report abuse |
  15. banasy©

    I suggested that a few days ago, and then yesterday.
    I said, "would one vehement pro-lifer go down to a clinic, get one woman, pay all of her pre- and post-natal costs, and raise the baby, by their self, without the woman's imput at all?"
    One poster said to me, " heck no! Why should I pay for her sin?" (Paraphrasing)

    Pretty much summed up the whole thing for me.

    November 9, 2011 at 7:45 pm | Report abuse |
    • Kiki

      There's no greater sin to them than to be born a woman.

      November 9, 2011 at 7:53 pm | Report abuse |
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