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. Rich

    The people in Mississippi don't even yet realize BP screwed up your coast.All you care about is other peoples business...
    Something that really matters like black oil on the shores is no problem it's the poor people that have no joba and don't need any more children,especially in Miss,that you are dumb enough to go against...

    November 9, 2011 at 7:45 pm | Report abuse |
    • Summ1Dial911

      You may go by the name Rich, but you are intellectually bankrupt (poor)! Not all people in MS, including myself, are what you claim they are. I've read much of what you have posted on this blog and you sound as ignorant as the people you are condemning. Maybe you should move here, to the northern part of the state, and find a group of like-minded individuals. YES! We are aware that our seafood and tourism industry has been ruined by the oil spill. Apparently you do not live here to know the many people who are unemployed due to their businesses failing because of this. I am sure THEY KNOW what BP has done. Please stick to something you know about.. Because it is not about the people of this state.. You have ignorant people all over the country.. EXAMPLE – PROP 8 (Banning Gay-Marriage) in California, the most LIBERAL state of all. Don't come here spreading your lies about ALL people from this state being stupid.. Just 75% of them.. =) And yes, I VOTED AGAINST PROP 26 because it was a retarded law to begin with!

      November 9, 2011 at 8:01 pm | Report abuse |
    • Truth

      Well there is always Animalhood. I'm sure most of you would support that considering you have the brains of reeses monkeys.. Right?

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

      since when was an embryo a "blob of cells"? should a mom get rights to kill a ten year old because they can't support the kid? I notice "rich" that you've been born, what about them?

      November 9, 2011 at 9:01 pm | Report abuse |
  2. todwil

    all we can do is pray for the mislead and disillusioned part of society. They live in the here and now with no sense of the bigger picture outside of themselves

    November 9, 2011 at 7:48 pm | Report abuse |
    • Satsuki

      And your not part of this disillusioned group? You believe in an idea that was created from the minds of people and spread from a book that has been warped. Criticize your-self before you go and tell others that they are wrong do what they believe in or have to do because they have no other choice.

      November 9, 2011 at 8:34 pm | Report abuse |
  3. raggmopp

    Another attempt to legislate morality. As usual, it failed.

    November 9, 2011 at 7:50 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 won't give them emergency contraception after the crime. Or that you would allow a mother to die and leave her children because she had the misfortune of an ectopic pregnancy.

      November 9, 2011 at 7:56 pm | Report abuse |
  4. todwil

    someone once told me they believe God and religion are becoming obsolete. humans have been believing in God for thousands of years and we seem to be the ones who die and become obsolete not God.

    November 9, 2011 at 7:54 pm | Report abuse |
    • Satsuki

      ...we have been dieing since the beginning of our race... but "god" and religion are only ideas that have been in human minds for a few thousand years... which is obsolete, an idea or a species?

      November 9, 2011 at 8:30 pm | Report abuse |
    • John

      Do you realize how many "gods" have died on this planet? Just because the one you believe in now is still believed in does not make you any more correct than the Romans or the vikings, all of it is just complete ignorance.

      November 9, 2011 at 9:09 pm | Report abuse |
  5. 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 at your next conference "guarantee" any woman that you will provide a home for every unwanted birth.

    If you can do that then you will be more righteous then the rest of us and you can save lives or fetuses or cells.

    You have got to agree with that ... Now ... Ok .. I can't hear you .. Speak up, a show of hands then ... Hmmm I THOUGHT SO!

    November 9, 2011 at 7:58 pm | Report abuse |
    • Kiki

      I think of all those poor children suffering on dialysis and think that everyone should be forced to donate a kidney to save children. Id not your a selfish person who hates life.

      November 9, 2011 at 8:01 pm | Report abuse |
  6. todwil

    what does it matter???????? we are all going to die someday. no matter how hard we try to avoid it. we should at least take responsibility for our actions. abortion was never intended for contraceptive purposes.

    November 9, 2011 at 8:00 pm | Report abuse |
    • Kiki

      Haven't studied any history I take it? It has always been a method of birth control.

      November 9, 2011 at 8:03 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Kelley28923

    I am going to make a prediction right now. "Personhood Amendments" scheduled to be on the ballot in several key states in 2012 will actually HARM Republican candidates – especially in the Presidential race. Why? I think Personhood will actually draw out MORE liberal/moderate voters who disagree with its premise... and by default tip the national elections in favor of Democratic candidates. Especially in the wake of this MS outcome... how can conservatives not see what's coming? Backfire FAIL = inevitable.

    November 9, 2011 at 8:03 pm | Report abuse |
    • Summ1Dial911

      No Kelley, you are wrong.. We voted for Governor, Lt. Governer, Treasurer, etc, and all of those offices were won by REPUBLICAN candidates yesterday.. Sorry to poke holes in your theory, but its the truth. I was kinda bummed about that too! =)

      November 9, 2011 at 8:07 pm | Report abuse |
  8. todwil

    why do so many people put themselves through this when there is so many ways of avoiding pregnancy?? Is this some kind of weird fetish? accidentaly getting pregnant by strange men then aborting the baby???????????

    November 9, 2011 at 8:11 pm | Report abuse |
  9. todwil

    im not trying to be mean. I just want to understand why women like to get pregnant and then have abortions. if you dont want kids then tie your tubes. that just makes more sense to me

    November 9, 2011 at 8:18 pm | Report abuse |
    • Kiki

      You do sound mean and uninformed and misogynistic. Trifecta!

      November 9, 2011 at 8:23 pm | Report abuse |
    • JLBM

      You can't get your tubes tied until you are in your 30s. A friend of mine who didn't want kids tried unsuccessfully to find a dr that would tie her tubes so she wouldn't have to worry about pregnancy. They all refused saying she was too young and may change her mind. She was rather mad about the whole experience.

      November 9, 2011 at 9:04 pm | Report abuse |
  10. steven

    One religion trying to tell everyone what to do. "Our" religion is the truth and you have to follow it. Fanatics.

    November 9, 2011 at 8:28 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Jean

    Why put the total blame for unwanted pregnancies on women? It would seem that since men are equally responsible for the condition, they should shoulder their share of the blame.

    November 9, 2011 at 8:37 pm | Report abuse |
  12. Jeff Frank ( R - Ohio ) "Right Wing Insanity"

    In about 50 yrs. the State Of Mississippi will be run by an actual fertilized egg. It'll have all kinds of fancy high tech gear to pick up it's tiny voice way up in the fallopian tube of some baboon.

    November 9, 2011 at 8:38 pm | Report abuse |
  13. todwil

    Just like abortion is in the power of the woman because its her body then she should not let indiscriminate men into without knowing if they can get her pregnant. I mean she can also catch AIDS in the process. that is the most private part of your body. why let just anyone in and risk getting pregnant with their baby just to go through an abortion later?

    November 9, 2011 at 8:41 pm | Report abuse |
  14. Pacific View

    The absurdity of giving rights to a puddle of dna is beyond comprehension. These poor misguided souls need a real problem to work on.

    November 9, 2011 at 8:47 pm | Report abuse |
  15. Jean

    What if Personhood USA put their time, energy and money into trying to prevent unwanted pregnancies rather than abortions? Why don't they do so? They might have more success and then be able to reach their goal in an indirect way.

    November 9, 2011 at 8:48 pm | Report abuse |
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