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. Justin

    The vocal minority is called the minority for a reason.

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

      The crazy religious people that are anti-abortion should have their names entered in a computer. And for every unwanted birth, the computer randomly selects one of them and they have to raise the baby. You would see a lot of those people suddenly rethink their abortion stands and stupid thoughts.

      November 9, 2011 at 10:45 pm | Report abuse |
  2. larry5

    Will the politicians accept the fact that the people don't agree with them? They usually don't.

    November 9, 2011 at 9:02 pm | Report abuse |
  3. hello

    No, but what's wrong with Personhood?

    November 9, 2011 at 9:04 pm | Report abuse |
  4. 1thc

    I just find this argument so preposterous at this junction in history. If you don't believe in abortion feel free not to have one. I do find it interesting that they believe it acceptable to stop abortion by killing the doctors who perform abortions and terrorizing them to the point they stop their practice, They're domestic terrorists and their self righteous, sanctimonious crap bores me.....

    November 9, 2011 at 9:09 pm | Report abuse |
    • mickey1313

      agreed, most "conservitives" dont know what the term means, and they are so filled with hate, that there arguments hold no weight.

      November 9, 2011 at 10:05 pm | Report abuse |
  5. hello

    why not let parents kill their born children right? If a mom can't support her ten year old, why not just get rid of him?

    November 9, 2011 at 9:12 pm | Report abuse |
    • Kiki

      If you cannot differentiate between a clump of cells and a 10 year old child you have serious issues.

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

      Wow! Great argument! You have me convinced.

      November 9, 2011 at 9:40 pm | Report abuse |
    • court

      exactly my point if we can choose to terminate a human at conception then why isnt everyone going around killing people of all ages just because they have the choice.

      November 9, 2011 at 10:00 pm | Report abuse |
    • RoadZombie

      I think therefore i am. A fetus can not think, it does not show any signs of brain waves until the second trimester, once brainwaves are shown i will believe that it is alive and should not be aborted.

      November 9, 2011 at 10:13 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Zaphod617

    Why not place philosophical and moral issues to a majority vote!

    They should have tied in the issue of when death begins or since souls go to heaven does anyone ever really die? If so, the vote for when lfe begins is moot. If no one really dies, then what difference is it when life begins since no one ever dies! Missing out on the worldly part is just skipping the hard stuff!

    November 9, 2011 at 9:17 pm | Report abuse |
    • mickey1313

      well you hit the nail on the head. When you think about things with the taint of thiesm, then your whole argument is moot. We as a nation need to compleatly ignore all thiestic arguments.

      November 9, 2011 at 10:07 pm | Report abuse |
    • Justin

      i couldnt agree more, the path forward for this nation is through logic and reason. Two concepts which are cornerstones of progressive thought, which coincidentally have become taboo to those who follow archaic invented deities.

      November 9, 2011 at 10:23 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Mike


    November 9, 2011 at 9:19 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Mike


    November 9, 2011 at 9:21 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Justin

    Why would Christians be against abortion in the first place? Every child slain before adulthood is automatically transported to heaven (according to them). In addition, in the story of the Canaanites, all people of Canaan, including children were slain by Christians, with the promise of eternal life in heaven with their imaginary deity. It would seem to me the Christian bible not only condones the murder of all children, it actively supports it and provides reasons to boot.

    November 9, 2011 at 9:32 pm | Report abuse |
    • Kiki

      None of that is true...There's no reason to make stuff up.

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

      It's actually all true, do you actively practice your faith? Are you embarrassed at the blatant contradictions found in your faith? Do some research and actually read that book you claim to follow.

      November 9, 2011 at 9:39 pm | Report abuse |
    • Justin

      The story of the Canaanites is old testament by the way. You know, the part of that book you choose to pretend is not actually there. The mean god part. Read it.

      November 9, 2011 at 9:42 pm | Report abuse |
    • Kiki

      My faith? lolz....You don't need to practice any faith to know that your post is bull.

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

      selectively following certain passages in your book is what makes christianity such a weak and flawed religion (yes a lower case c). If you actually followed what it said, you would be stoned to death for working on the sabbath, not your job, ANY work (mowing the lawn, cutting meat). Why aren't christians stoning eachother today? They don't follow THAT part of the book silly!

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

      And resorting to ad hominem attacks based on false suppostions makes your argument moot.

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

      Obviously Kiki you think my post is bull for one of two reasons... 1) you choose not to read the bible and follow it. Or 2) you cannot read and are only aware of the christianity that is fed to you. Either way it is you, and not my post that is bull. Lolz btw.

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

      St Augustine said that all unbaptiszed infants burn in hell and the Christians never fought anyone in the time period you mention. You're talking out your a r s e.

      November 9, 2011 at 9:50 pm | Report abuse |
    • Justin

      it is specifically not ad hominem when those passages of the bible deal with exactly that which you are arguing against. Namely the death of children. You would consider a fertilized egg a person, therefore the same as a child. Ip so facto passages apply to children apply to children. Alas, fancy words but failed logic

      November 9, 2011 at 9:53 pm | Report abuse |
    • Kiki

      Or third, I've actually studied world religions, western and eastern and so know that you are ignorant of basic facts.

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

      I am not on the side of this law and don't consider a fertilized egg a person at all but I guess if that fits in to your simplistic, dualistc thinking....rock on. You assume too much and think too little.

      November 9, 2011 at 9:56 pm | Report abuse |
    • Justin

      modern christianity believes even unbaptised youths that die go to heaven, and also that they can be baptised even after death. Your spiel on saint Augustine is further proof of the malleable nature of your faith, which further strengthens my argument about the contradictory nature of christianity. You are fooling anyone with your self proclaimed educational level or large words.

      November 9, 2011 at 9:57 pm | Report abuse |
    • Kiki

      Try reading for comprehension. Really.

      November 9, 2011 at 9:59 pm | Report abuse |
    • Justin

      It is a great idea to come to battle dressed as the enemy, then disrobe and declare your innocence at the first whiff of defeat. Turn tail and run, it's your only way out of this one.

      I do not care what you believe, who you are, or how educated you claim to be. I did not begin my argument by stating I held a doctorate degree, and I am not introducing that now to strengthen my position, just to display how foolish it is to argue with educational level and not with facts and logic.

      I am merely stating, with biblical evidence, how contradictory this overall stance on abortion by christians really is. You have attempted, and failed, to discredit me. While providing examples that only discredit yourself further.
      Enjoy any additional typing you may deem necessary, I have made my point, and it is valid and sound. 😀

      November 9, 2011 at 10:05 pm | Report abuse |
    • mickey1313

      kiki, if you are to stupid to read your own evil bible, then stay out of the conversation, because you are wrong

      November 9, 2011 at 10:08 pm | Report abuse |
    • Kiki

      Uh huh. You wouldn't know a sound or valid argument if it p i s s ed in your cherrios dude. Casting aspersion will not make your weak A s s c c r a p any more valid. If you look back at any of the past three pages my position is clear but if you need to create a strawman to battle instead of dealing with me go for it.

      November 9, 2011 at 10:09 pm | Report abuse |
    • Kiki

      Justin, you must be one angry Chrisitan, Im sorry your Bible let you down.

      November 9, 2011 at 10:13 pm | Report abuse |
    • Justin

      One last but important detail. In the story of the Canaanites, god directly conveys his position, that all children who are killed are brought straight to heaven.

      Now, as a christian, to attempt to counter my position with a quote from a saint is pathetically weak. Any christian would take the direct word of their god over that of a saint, some christians do not even believe in sainthood afterall (Protestants for one).

      This stands as the final nail in the coffin of your argument I'm afraid. It also serves as a reminder to us all, that any religious human being will attempt to justify their current position, or the current position of their particular religion, by ANY means necessary. Including blatant contradiction of previous teachings from their holy book, and deities.

      Religion attempts to remain relevant by any means necessary, including the continual denial of logical thinking processes, and continued persistence in viewpoints, even with clear cut evidence to the contrary.

      Be sure to have a wonderful evening, your god desires it, or does he? 😉

      November 9, 2011 at 10:20 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Mendrys

    For some reason every time I see something about this very ill conceived amendment I keep hearing in the back of my head.. "Every sperm is sacred...."

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

      lol... I see what you did there.

      November 10, 2011 at 12:25 am | Report abuse |
  11. michael

    this stinks of a rat i would ask for a recount!

    November 9, 2011 at 9:43 pm | Report abuse |
    • Justin

      you are an idiot. Your stance is the only thing stinking like a rat.

      November 9, 2011 at 10:41 pm | Report abuse |
  12. court

    SELFISHNESS. IT HAS NOTHING to do with Christianity has nothing to do with any religion. It comes to one thing and one thing only. If it has been your mother choosing to terminate you how would you feel. 2nd FOR NO reason should life be terminated. I dont agree with it even in the case of abuse. I fell victim to an assault and afterwards I had to make a decision if I were to be with child from that situation what would i do. I WOULD NOT TERMINATE B.C IT IS NOT THE CHILDS FAULT. Evil exists unfortunately in the world and can be painful however in a general basis if you are old enough and adult enough to spread your legs open then you better be adult enough to realize a child could be a product and termination is simply a decision of selfishness and lack of responsibility it has nothing to do with your "rights" as a woman. IF you are stupid enough to think you can so selfishly choose to end a life then do you selfishly end the lives of those you dislike on a day to day basis.? such as the person at work that made you angry or the person at the store that cut you off in the parking lot? Its an easy way out. You are not an adult, you should not be allowed to make and decisions based on your "feeling" that at the moment you dont want that responsibility. would be a sad world if we all went around terminating those we didnt like in that moment or didnt feel deserved to live. and if thats how you feel watch our b.c if that were peoples choice some one might choose to terminate you.

    November 9, 2011 at 9:57 pm | Report abuse |
    • Kiki

      Well luckily the majority do not share your ignorant, misogynistic opinions.

      November 9, 2011 at 10:01 pm | Report abuse |
    • mickey1313

      you are an a** ramming POS. I am alive because my ignorant christian mother had me, with someone she did not love, because she "knew" if she did not get married and have a kid, her soul would go to hell. It is an awful reason to have a kid. Anyone who cannot take care of a kid, who has one, should be arested for felony child abuse.

      November 9, 2011 at 10:11 pm | Report abuse |
    • Zaphod617

      In the scriptures Jesus said "he who is free of sin cast the first stone". The idea behind that statement is that no one is in a position to judge another. Everyone has their own skeletons in the closet. If you feel you can tell others how to run their lives, unless you are part of the diety, then you are a hypocrite.

      November 10, 2011 at 11:46 am | Report abuse |
  13. cynthia hicks

    The reason it failed, is proof that the United States Of America is NOT Religious dictatorship... If you want that, feel free to go to Iran, or Saudi Arabia, where women are still treated as Second-class citizens. No government or CHURCH has command over our reproductive rites.

    November 9, 2011 at 10:23 pm | Report abuse |
  14. JJP

    Sounds like Americans coming to their senses!

    November 9, 2011 at 10:37 pm | Report abuse |
  15. redman83

    We men should not have ANY say in this! I think an all female committee should overtake this debate from the religious fanatics who think they are helping humanity by attempting to force their archaic mentality on to the rest of us who would rather THINK than fear some man-made "God".

    I can't believe this is even an issue in the 21st century!!!!

    November 9, 2011 at 10:41 pm | Report abuse |
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