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. Matthew

    Men can't tell women what to do with their boddies?

    you do realize it takes two to make a baby, right? How would you liek it if your wife ran off to an abortion clinic without your knowledge or consent?

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

      I wouldn't like it, but it's here body and i have no right to control it. Nor does anyone else but her.

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

      That would be your problem – not ours.

      November 9, 2011 at 2:56 pm | Report abuse |
    • Matthew

      so its alright to trample any and every right of the man/father/husband?

      November 9, 2011 at 2:56 pm | Report abuse |
    • IceT

      With rights also come responsibilities.

      November 9, 2011 at 2:58 pm | Report abuse |
    • SwissMiss

      If the man wants to be the one to carry the pregnancy to term and go through the birth process, sure he has rights. But since he doesn't, it isn't his body that is being forced to accept the risks of pregnancy. So to answer your question, no, he doesn't. His "rigths" do not trump those of the woman's.

      November 9, 2011 at 2:59 pm | Report abuse |
    • SlayFalseGod

      So it went from your situation to EVERYONE ?
      Wow – keep grasping.
      I dont like the idea of a govt creating laws just so you can control your wife.
      Sounds like you have control issues.

      November 9, 2011 at 2:59 pm | Report abuse |
    • barbara451

      you are correct. Men cannot tell women what to do with their bodies.

      November 9, 2011 at 3:01 pm | Report abuse |
    • IceT

      Matthew .. I agree with you. If it's only her right it would follow that it would also be her responsibility. I for one choose to be a father with all the rights & responsibilities that brings, but no woman should have the right to decide my parenting future without my consent.

      November 9, 2011 at 3:01 pm | Report abuse |
    • Howie76

      It is the woman's choice not the man's.

      November 9, 2011 at 3:04 pm | Report abuse |
    • Roy

      To turn it around, how would you like it if your wife/girlfriend demanded that your get a vasectomy for the purpose of birth control? The rights that you have end where she begins, and there is no argument about that.

      November 9, 2011 at 3:04 pm | Report abuse |
    • sarah

      Sorry, you don't have rights until the baby is born. No one is trampling your right. Your right simply does not exist. Men would feel the same way if the role was reversed. They would not want to ask a woman's permission for a medical procedure.

      November 9, 2011 at 3:07 pm | Report abuse |
    • Lisa

      Why is that it is always a man who makes these inane comments?

      As to the group itself, as you proceed with your quest, please tell me what your plans are for these POTENTIAL lives - where will funding come from if they end up wards of the state? What about medical resources and social programs? It's not just forcing someone to maintain a pregnancy; it's the care for that life once it's born. The obligation does not stop at birth. So you better have all those ducks lined up. You don't get to force your beliefs onto the masses then walk away. You want it, you had better be prepared to pay for it.

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

    What's next? ........If these people had their way, Giving someone a Blo J could result in murder. 

    November 9, 2011 at 2:53 pm | Report abuse |
    • Dave in Portland

      Or Cannibalism.....LOL

      November 9, 2011 at 7:13 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Cat

    I It was voted down because, people should have the right to make their own decisions, not have them forced on them by a bunch of religious fanatics!!!! It you do not believe in abortion, then I suggest and fully support your decision NOT to have one. BUT do not make that decision for me, I can make my own decisions. And if GOD does not like that ,then that is between me and GOD, and NOT, me, GOD and some third party. In other words, you live your life and I will live mine.

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

      EXACTLY!!!!...... that's the whole issue in a nutshell. Well said Cat.

      November 9, 2011 at 3:01 pm | Report abuse |
    • SouthernCelt

      As you and most others have shown, this is a highly personal issue and everyone has an opinion. Since most comments are faith based, the real question is, Why did the Supreme Court violate the First Amendment when they started this whole mess? The Government should get out of the abortion business and leave each person to make up their own mind.

      November 9, 2011 at 3:07 pm | Report abuse |
  4. kim

    The voters stopped this measure that's a big clue that that this is a personal choice and not the government business. People need good paying jobs to support a family. It no onr elses buusiness. A few should never have the answer for many the voters proved they didn't want the personalizemeasure its a victory women.

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

      It's always very interesting to me how the conservatives want government off their backs except in those cases where they have their own agenda to push... You can't pick and choose when government gets on your back or off your back...

      November 9, 2011 at 3:10 pm | Report abuse |
  5. scott

    Now the gencide of blacks can continue. Think I am lying. The founder of planned parenthood was a racist and over 70% of abortions are committed by black women. Check it out for yourself.

    November 9, 2011 at 2:56 pm | Report abuse |
    • Howie76

      Why are men so interested in the issue? Your stats your stated are wrong and flawed. Go crawl under your rock.

      November 9, 2011 at 3:07 pm | Report abuse |
    • sarah

      They are still choosing abortion, not having it forced upon them. Poverty, lack of education about bc, lack of dedicated fathers is what drives abortion. So why don't you fix that problem first?

      November 9, 2011 at 3:14 pm | Report abuse |
  6. RIALgal

    Reporduction is a medical issue between a woman and her doctor. The decision about abortion is between a woman and her God. The government does not belong in the doctor's office with women - or with men either, for that matter. This is a purely religious discussion and does not belong in politics or the law. Each of us must decide the issue for ourselves and to try to force others to think or act our way is not the freedom we so cherish.

    November 9, 2011 at 2:56 pm | Report abuse |
    • barbara451

      it only has to do with religion becuase you are religious. It is a human rights issue. A person's body should not be under the control of any one else, let alone a government. I think that is called slavery.

      November 9, 2011 at 2:59 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Henry Miller

    Let's hear it for the rights of DNA molecules! Genes and chromosomes unite!

    November 9, 2011 at 2:56 pm | Report abuse |
    • Zeb

      Next on the fanatics' agenda: eggs "flushed out" from a woman's body during menstruation will be made illegal because that egg has the POTENTIAL for a future life. These folks are moronic...

      November 9, 2011 at 3:17 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Jon

    Even before Roe v. Wade, the unborn were not considered persons under the law. That is why, where abortion was punished, the punishment was less than that for murder. The personhood-from-conception group are really really far right wingers. At no time in history were their ideas dominant. Can you imagine a society where someone who receives an abortion could go the electric chair? Neither could I, and neither could the people of Mississippi. Even in the Catholic Church, though abortion is a sin according to tradition, the idea of personhood from conception is certainly not - see Thomas Aquinas - rather, it is an invention of the modern far right.

    November 9, 2011 at 2:56 pm | Report abuse |
  9. trigtwit palin... America's favorite tard baby

    I should have been aborted.

    November 9, 2011 at 2:57 pm | Report abuse |
  10. barbara451

    I dream of the day when women will own their own bodies. If men could get pregnant, you could get an abortion at the 7-11.

    November 9, 2011 at 2:57 pm | Report abuse |
    • mill1978

      AMEN!!!!!!!!!

      November 9, 2011 at 6:23 pm | Report abuse |
  11. NATHAN WIMBERLY

    Just a warm up for the all out purge of radical extremists in 2012.

    November 9, 2011 at 2:57 pm | Report abuse |
  12. Kam

    The American Taliban trying to strike again to control and enslave women. What a bunch of loonies. And all of this comes from the poorest state in the US. What a joke!

    November 9, 2011 at 2:57 pm | Report abuse |
  13. Matthew

    "Reporduction is a medical issue between a woman and her doctor."

    How many women who get knocked up partying in high school actually sit down and consult a doctor before they go to planned parenthood?

    Medical decisions have nothing to do with the vast majority of abortions.

    November 9, 2011 at 2:58 pm | Report abuse |
    • Lisa

      Perhaps, Matthew, you should go to Planned Parenthood yourself and find out exactly what services are available, which include counseling and pre-natal support should you decide to KEEP the fetus.

      November 9, 2011 at 3:17 pm | Report abuse |
    • Zeb

      It's called Planned Parenthood, not Planned Abortionhood, for a reason. You get to make decisions having *PLANNED* for having, or not having, a baby.

      November 9, 2011 at 3:20 pm | Report abuse |
  14. Justin

    I'm a Mississippian who voted against this amendment not only because of ambiguity, but because of womens' rights in which my preceding ancestors fought for. I'm a male student at a local community college who has educated myself on this topic. Bottom line: it should be the mother who decides to abort rather than the government.

    November 9, 2011 at 2:58 pm | Report abuse |
    • Matthew

      and the father can just go to hell, right?

      November 9, 2011 at 3:00 pm | Report abuse |
    • Roy

      @matthew: yeah, pretty much.

      November 9, 2011 at 3:06 pm | Report abuse |
    • sarah

      The father needs to throw throw more money into research so he can bear children if he wants one so badly. No man would put up with a woman telling him what medical procedures he should have because its his body. Suggesting that he should be able to control hers is a creep show.

      November 9, 2011 at 3:23 pm | Report abuse |
  15. Andreas Moser

    This is the best paper I have ever read about personhood: http://andreasmoser.wordpress.com/2011/03/16/desires-and-values/

    November 9, 2011 at 2:59 pm | Report abuse |
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