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.

Post by:
Filed under: Abortion • Mississippi • U.S.
soundoff (1,721 Responses)
  1. Martin

    Just another power play to keep women in their place - its not just the abortion but if they don't behave themselves while pregnant then we can nail 'em for child endangerment. Its about time women - a slight majority of the population - stood up and said a resounding "NO" to this kind of BS. Its their body, their right to choose and their business.

    November 9, 2011 at 10:42 pm | Report abuse |
    • Word1917

      Well said. This whole "personhood" argument is a religious argument and many religions make it clear how they feel about women. What about a woman's personhood? Apparently to them women are incapable of making intelligent decisions about their bodies and a cluster of cells rights are far more important than women's rights.

      November 9, 2011 at 11:05 pm | Report abuse |
    • Chairman Meow

      I completely agree. Hopefully, this ruling will allow people who accidentally destroy bald eagles eggs from being prosecuted. After all, an egg isn't a bald eagle even if it is fertilized.

      November 9, 2011 at 11:25 pm | Report abuse |
    • Buzzer

      So if its their body and their decision, that baby is essentially considered their "property" and there is no point during the pregnancy that they be held responsible and should be able to kill the baby at their descretion correct? I know that you wouldn't apply that to a baby that was 3 hours old but doesn't apply to a baby 8 months old correct? The baby at some point has to be considered a seperate "person" when is that?

      November 10, 2011 at 12:11 am | Report abuse |
    • Buzzer

      ...correction, 8 months in the womb correct?

      November 10, 2011 at 12:37 am | Report abuse |
  2. Justin

    How can an intelligent human being ever ask another how they would feel if their mother aborted them without first considering that if they were an embryo/fetus they would be incapable of insightful thought and therefore could not protest their demise, never knowing what life was in the first place?

    Oh that's right! They wouldn't be intelligent in the first place if they posed such a poorly thought out point of view. Thank you humanity, you have failed yet again.

    November 9, 2011 at 10:46 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Kendra Souder

    Do people think that a pregnant woman wakes up in the morning and thinks to herself, "I think I will have an abortion today"? I am sure that any decision to terminate a pregnancy weighs heavy on the hearts and minds of women who make this choice. Government needs to stay out of peoples personal lives.

    November 9, 2011 at 10:46 pm | Report abuse |
    • Dr. Faustur

      Why is the issue a hard one? If it was clearly not a human life, why would it be a hard decision? If it was like the simple removal of a tumor, it would be a very simple decision, right?

      November 9, 2011 at 11:37 pm | Report abuse |
    • Buzzer

      Dr. Fasteur: Outstanding point!...hopefully someone that disagrees will give a valid counter argument.

      November 10, 2011 at 12:03 am | Report abuse |
  4. LJTuner

    In 1965 women had no reproductive rights. My Mother had a disease and got pregnant by my Father. The Doctor's told her she would die without an abortion but the laws didn't permit and, being Catholic, the Priest didn't agree either. It was God's Will. So she died and so did the baby. So, if you ask me, you killed my Mother AND her baby, instead of just her baby, at least by your logic. If that's not evil, I don't know what is. My mother left 4 children aged 4 – 15 and a husband who loved and needed her. We suffered for your ignorance. I salute Mississippi voters who had the courage and insight to appose such a stupid, that's right, downright stupid, bill.

    November 9, 2011 at 10:48 pm | Report abuse |
    • Kendra Souder

      So sorry to hear of your suffering due to others ignorance. What a tragedy.

      November 9, 2011 at 10:52 pm | Report abuse |
    • idiocracy82

      I'm so sorry for you and your family's loss. Thank you for sharing your story.

      November 9, 2011 at 11:07 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Maria Ashot

    An example that validates the "personhood" argument can be found in an August 2011 issue of the New York Times Sunday magazine, describing an option known as "pregnancy reduction" in which a mother can purchase from a medic the murder of one of her twins in utero.

    This is nothing more than a contract killing and should be viewed as such.

    A woman who undergoes fertility stimulation so she can keep one - but not two - perfectly healthy human babies is not at all like the woman too poor, or unhealthy, or bereft of support, to carry a first - unexpected, unintended, accidental - pregnancy to term.

    Such a woman is someone who has specifically conceived extra lives so that then someone, for a fee, can kill some of them.

    We may have good reason to be appalled by cases such as Nadya Suleyman's, but in truth this kind of calculation is every bit as unspeakable.

    The twin-murdering mom and Nadya Suleyman both have in common an utterly selfish view of the potential of their womb. Society as a whole is responsible for having promoted this notion. Such atrocity is born out of the misperception that ANY child, any baby, and yes even a cluster of cells, is not more important than a pair of shoes, an umbrella, a handbag. 'I want this one but not that one' - just like "I want them all" - reflects a complete failure to grasp that these are HUMAN LIVES.

    A baby gestating in a womb where a few of its healthy identical twins have been turned into corpses to satisfy someone's whim is not going to have the same gestational history and development as a baby who gestated undisturbed in a pristine womb. To a generation that comprehends the importance of consuming meat from animals that have suffered less stress, the notion that the peace & tranquility of the uterine home must have some kind of ultimate significance should be quite obvious.

    Personally, I have great reservations about the fertility industry as such. I view it as a service that panders to people who regard a child almost like some high-end accessory.

    It would be best to pass laws banning the implantation of more than two fertilized embryos, and prohibiting any pregnancy reduction at all that was not itself a spontaneous event driven by the natural flow of gestation.

    It would be best to encourage families, parents, and particularly young girls themselves not to get carried away overemphasizing the "obligation" to bear children, or the "fun" of being a mommy - and leaving those women to have children who are willing to accept a reasonable reproductive course (one that does not normally require heroic interventions, doctors playing God or the destruction of healthy babies), who are psychologically committed and willing to be engaged attentive mothers to however many children their wombs implant, and who stop altogether - via voluntary sterilization - when they have all the children they are willing to bring up. Without violence having ever been introduced into the reproductive experience.

    November 9, 2011 at 10:48 pm | Report abuse |
    • Kendra Souder

      Are you going to pay to raise these unwanted "babies?" I bet not.
      As a typical conservative would speak, you fight for the rights of the unborn but once you're born you are screwed.

      November 9, 2011 at 10:51 pm | Report abuse |
    • Buzzer

      Kendra: drop the blanket and ignorant statement about assuing that this person is conservative...there is no emperical evidence to support that assumption. Finally, outstanding that you put a "price" on the value of a human being...

      November 10, 2011 at 12:19 am | Report abuse |
    • JellyBeanMessiah

      But we as conservatives spat upon the New York Times as liberal fascim, so you are using this as a counter point meaning abortion is morally OK, right?

      November 10, 2011 at 12:26 am | Report abuse |
  6. Pey

    The Christian taliban lost for now. But be vigilante because they'll be back again and again to take away all YOUR rights.

    November 9, 2011 at 10:58 pm | Report abuse |
    • John

      well said

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

    Wow. There's so much hate filled speech in these comments. It's no wonder these "backwood, racist, incestual, uneducated hicks" won't listen. Regardless of which side of the fence you're on, there's ways to make your point without becoming what you supposedly hate. People want things for entirely different reasons. Try to be a little more empathetic and a little more gentle. The world would be a better place.

    November 9, 2011 at 10:59 pm | Report abuse |
    • Chris

      People get REALLY upset when you try to take away their rights.

      November 10, 2011 at 12:24 am | Report abuse |
  8. Aaron

    Thank God we live in America were we can all freely express our opinions

    November 9, 2011 at 11:03 pm | Report abuse |
  9. idiocracy82

    I've said it before and I'll say it again- Keep your rosaries off my ovaries.

    November 9, 2011 at 11:08 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Word1917

    Here's a question for pro-lifer's. You are in a building and it is on fire. There are two hallways. In one hallway there are 12 fertilized human embryos in a lab. In the second hallway there is a 6 year old girl. You can only get to one hallway to make a rescue in time. Which hallway do you choose? This was actually asked in an ethics class.

    November 9, 2011 at 11:20 pm | Report abuse |
    • Kyle

      Stupidest query I've ever heard to prove a point.. I guess the answer would be are your the girl, or the embryo? I'd chose the other.

      November 9, 2011 at 11:53 pm | Report abuse |
    • Kyle

      Okay that wasn't very nice of me... I'm sorry. The truth is, we are given two choices... to live, or to die. There really isn't any other. Your choices won't matter to anyone 100 years from now. There is no legacy. There is nothing. I choose life... salvation, and what it teaches. And it teaches life is sacred. Keep your rosaries off my ovaries? Why do we pursue women like this? Religious crazies? No, that's just religious. Somehow that's crazy now.

      You all can't fathom the judgement coming to this sad, sick country, and it's coming soon. Isn't it obvious? Or will you blindly go screaming to your graves?

      November 10, 2011 at 12:02 am | Report abuse |
    • Dr. Faustus

      My alternate question is this. The mother should have the right to choose no matter what correct? What about in China where mothers have abortions because they do not want daughters? How about if a mother finds out a child is mentally or physically handicapped what if she decides to abort the fetus because of that?

      November 10, 2011 at 12:09 am | Report abuse |
  11. The american brain

    The message is clear, fanatical christians need to stay out of our business.

    November 9, 2011 at 11:39 pm | Report abuse |
  12. mightyfudge

    That entire state should be fenced off and studied to protect future generations from whatever brain eating parasite infests it.

    November 9, 2011 at 11:40 pm | Report abuse |
  13. Jeff

    I think the safest route for liberals is to compromise. It is pretty clear that a third trimester fetus is close to a newborn infant in nearly every way that everyone could agree on. They even survive premature birth. If they conservatives are allowed to assign the right of personhood on a third trimester fetus, they will have difficulty establishing the basis for rights for a first trimester embryo because this is clearly a different sort of being than an infant. It cannot survive premature birth. Second trimester fetus is the grey zone that should be off limits to govt intervention because of the ambiguity of the state of the fetus. Liberals fear if they give that inch, conservatives will try to grab the whole yardstick. Some will, yes, but not enough to change laws.

    November 9, 2011 at 11:50 pm | Report abuse |
  14. Kyle

    I'd say we're slipping towards Gamorrah every day. Gonna suck when that million ton sledge comes down once the prayers of the faithful cannot suspend judgement any longer.

    November 9, 2011 at 11:55 pm | Report abuse |
  15. redman83

    Oh look! A Christian spewing nonsense about Judgement days and Revelations. How cute. How you people are still allowed to preach your idiocy to your poor innocent children is beyond me.

    November 10, 2011 at 12:13 am | Report abuse |
    • Buzzer

      And some people like yourselves just can't seem to get past your self centered and arrogant nature to come to admit that your understanding of the world is limited.

      November 10, 2011 at 12:35 am | Report abuse |
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30 31 32 33 34 35 36 37 38 39 40 41 42 43 44 45 46 47 48 49 50