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. Jan in Mississippi

    Mississippi is tough on abortions with its current laws. This new proposition left way too many open doors. Abortions are tragic, as are miscarriages; but I feel that both are health issues, not legislative outcomes.

    November 9, 2011 at 2:44 pm | Report abuse |
    • Nord Jim

      Are you sure you're from Mississippi?

      November 9, 2011 at 2:50 pm | Report abuse |
  2. rh

    Pretty simple. Whether or not you believe life begins at conception (I do and I'm an atheist in a scientific field) or not, this would significantly affect not only abortion (which should definitely be legal at least in the first trimester as the mother's rights are more important than those of the unborn up until a survivable gestation period) but also stupid stuff like child abuse, social security cards, and the list goes on and on.

    Imagine how the census would look if you counted all the unborn for Mississippi.

    November 9, 2011 at 2:45 pm | Report abuse |
    • Nord Jim

      Can a pregnant woman drive in the HOV lane?

      November 9, 2011 at 2:52 pm | Report abuse |
    • Bill TX

      "Can a pregnant woman drive in the HOV lane?"....if she can then she should have to pay for two at the buffet line, especially considering how much she is going to eat.

      November 9, 2011 at 3:09 pm | Report abuse |
  3. FloridaVoter

    It is highly doubtful that the Personhood Amendment will make it on the Florida ballot in 2012. So far, they have received @ 20,000 signatures but they need over 600K. They can't reach that number by February and because the Florida Legislature changed the voting laws the signatures already obtained are only good for 2 years instead of the 4 it used to be. Looks like the Republican legislature has shot itself while trying to curb Democratic turnout.

    November 9, 2011 at 2:48 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Debbie

    And defeat the personhood ballot again and again and again.......

    November 9, 2011 at 2:48 pm | Report abuse |
  5. IceT

    I believe we need to define when a human is fully human for many reasons, not just abortion. But at the moment of conception is obviously not it. We need to base it on common sense & medical science not religious interpretation.

    November 9, 2011 at 2:48 pm | Report abuse |
    • Bert in UT

      Back before science showed now conception and fetus development worked, the religious definition was that life began at birth. It's amazing to watch the religious people latch onto one little piece of scientifically obtained knowledge to decide that a fertilized egg is a person while rejecting so much other science like evolution and global warming. Why not stick with the Bible where life begins at birth?

      November 9, 2011 at 2:57 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Wired

    Typical Republicans. All about making a new category of criminal out of the middle and lower class while giving the rich a free ride.

    November 9, 2011 at 2:49 pm | Report abuse |
    • IceT

      a rich fetus?

      November 9, 2011 at 2:50 pm | Report abuse |
    • L

      What does this have to do with rich people vs lower and middle class? Are you trying to say that the lower and middle class have way more abortions? Why is that? They can't afford to raise their unwanted kids? Use birth control! If you can afford to pay for an abortion, then you can afford to pay for a box of condoms or some birth control pills at Planned Parenthood.

      November 9, 2011 at 3:08 pm | Report abuse |
    • AndrĂ©

      What he meant was that rich people can afford to go out of state to get abortions, while poor people in Mississippi are restricted to what's available (or not available) in their state.

      November 9, 2011 at 3:57 pm | Report abuse |
  7. trigtwit palin... America's favorite tard baby

    What kind of life will I have ?

    November 9, 2011 at 2:50 pm | Report abuse |
  8. rene

    Roe V. Wade has been under attack for over 30 years now. Enough already – If you don't believe in abortion, DON'T HAVE ONE!

    November 9, 2011 at 2:50 pm | Report abuse |
    • rschier

      EXACTLY....could not be possibly put any "simpler" or "plainer"

      November 9, 2011 at 2:55 pm | Report abuse |
    • Bill TX

      Thank you.....to all Republicans reading this, this is called "stating the obvious!"

      November 9, 2011 at 3:12 pm | Report abuse |
    • Jamie

      The traditional definition of marriage has also been under attack for sometime. Should we tell those that disagree with the traditional stance to just accept it then? By your logic, I think that's a yes. I'm guessing that just as those who believe gays should be able to marry are passionate about their quest pro life people are also passionate about saving babies and don't want to give up either. Pretty simple!

      November 9, 2011 at 3:23 pm | Report abuse |
  9. UnSub

    Perhaps this just simply got voted no because people are sick of the government trying to tell them what to do. No man (myself included) has the right to tell a woman what she can and can't do with HER body.

    November 9, 2011 at 2:50 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Mike,Albany

    Jamie, if woman has a miscarriage, is she guilty of involuntary manslaughter? Would you force her to endure an ectopic pregnancy? If her pregnancy is deemed risky because of age or other medical factors but she carries the baby to term and the baby is born with some severe birth defect, is she then guilty of endangering the welfare of a child? If a woman who has had many miscarriages and yet still tries to carry a baby to term and miscarries gain, when would you charge her with criminally negligent homicide? I think we have to agree pregnancy carries certain risks both to the mother and the fetus and they simply will not all be successful - this is just a medical fact. But we cannot have criminal investigations into every unsuccessful pregnancy. If this were the case, women in my own family who have miscarried would probably be in prison right now. I think we have to agree, then, that life begins when the fetus could survive on its own outside the womb.

    November 9, 2011 at 2:52 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Brian

    This failed because a person isn't a human until they are sentient. There is no proof at all that you are truly sentient until you are at least 4 months old after birth, and nobody I know can remember anything about any time or occurance before they were 2 years old. There is a reason you can't vote until you are 18 – most people can read and write and think for themselves by that age.

    November 9, 2011 at 2:52 pm | Report abuse |
    • Bert in UT

      What's wrong with you, using logic and facts in one of these blog-fests. Don't you know that's not appreciated? Rants only!

      November 9, 2011 at 3:00 pm | Report abuse |
  12. aNN

    What's next......? Everytime a woman has her period she is killing an innocent "possible baby". ALL women are monthly murderers  !!!!

    November 9, 2011 at 2:53 pm | Report abuse |
  13. Dolores

    Abortion is a dead issue in the US. Rowe Vs Wade cannot be challenged successfully. Even the conservative states have managed to keep their religious craziness in check and slapped crap like this down.

    November 9, 2011 at 2:53 pm | Report abuse |
  14. LK

    Keep you rosaries off my ovaries!

    November 9, 2011 at 2:53 pm | Report abuse |
    • SteveHC

      – It wasn't Catholics who were pushing this ridiculous, un-American thing it was BAPTISTS.

      November 9, 2011 at 2:57 pm | Report abuse |
  15. Cynthia

    A lot of people consider the unborn easier to care about because they are a blank slate. They can pretend that every glob of cells wil grow up to cure cancer, make the next great invention, write a life-changing book, etc. etc. They lose interest when it's a real tantrum-throwing child that needs care and support. It's kind of like having a crush on a fictional character who is always adoring and says/does just the right thing instead of a real-life relationship with someone who has an annoying laugh and forgets to change the toilet paper roll.

    November 9, 2011 at 2:53 pm | Report abuse |
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