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. Jim in San Mateo

    These nutcases are too much. If my "personhood" date is moved up 9 months, I want 9 more months of social security.

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


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

      It's a nice thought, but SS lasts until you die as soon as you qualify. Maybe you can ask the extra nine months be part of your estate.

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

      Will be happy to give it to you. They are talking about life, my friend. get it! This is about Life in the womb!.

      November 9, 2011 at 3:14 pm | Report abuse |
    • My man-sack is full of half-people?

      My man-sack is full of half-people?

      November 9, 2011 at 3:16 pm | Report abuse |
    • EdNV

      there is no life in the womb, it begins at birth == you haven't been paying attention.

      November 9, 2011 at 3:17 pm | Report abuse |
  2. lineman

    If the people behind this amendment are going to pursue this issue they are going to need a lot of money to do it. They will need to hire a lot of public relations people and of course these people will need excellent salaries, health benefits, 401Ks, two week vacations, sick pay etc. It is going to be costly because those at the top can make a lot of money in private business so they will not come cheap. If you believe, get ready to pay and don't expect it to happen soon because no one works their way out of a great job.

    November 9, 2011 at 3:02 pm | Report abuse |
    • durundal

      theyve had years of dogmatic religious conversions to both supply and fund a zealous base. Even worse, they have nothing better to do than thump bibles and judge others based on their silly little preconceptions of things be 'of god' or 'of the devil'.

      November 9, 2011 at 3:05 pm | Report abuse |
    • Jason

      These folks will just continue convincing gullible church officials to turn over their congregation's hard earned donations. Anything to keep these wackos from having to go out and find a real job right?

      November 9, 2011 at 3:18 pm | Report abuse |
  3. littleBearCB

    This bill was bad. It needed to focus on the main issue of personhood. If they can clean it up and it passes, it can set precedence for non-abortion of 'non-perfection.' For example, lets say it is proven to be a 'Gay' gene. Some would day, "OMG, I need to get rid of this baby..." A measure such as this would protect this baby...

    November 9, 2011 at 3:02 pm | Report abuse |
    • agavemike

      How much money given to antiabortion groups actually goes towards helping unwanted children?

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

      exactly agavemike.. There needs to be a reconsideration of priorities...

      November 9, 2011 at 3:14 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Larry

    So, another attempt by the American Taliban to make their religion the law of the land has has failed. Like the Taliban in Afghanistan, this is nothing more than people using religion as an excuse to exert power over other people. Unfortunately, those that stand for liberty will be tested again and again.

    November 9, 2011 at 3:03 pm | Report abuse |
    • EdNV

      Well said

      November 9, 2011 at 3:09 pm | Report abuse |
    • reACTIONary

      Right on!

      November 9, 2011 at 3:47 pm | Report abuse |
    • Chris


      November 9, 2011 at 3:55 pm | Report abuse |
  5. BCH

    What happened?? People realized that forcing women to have children they don't want, can't or won't care for is STUPID. People realized that it's a PERSONAL issue best left to the woman involved–not some damn politician/the Pope. People realized that Pro Choice is COMMON SENSE!!

    November 9, 2011 at 3:04 pm | Report abuse |
  6. pn

    Maybe it is just a bad idea? Should we have funerals for dead embryos? Should we claim embryos as dependents?

    November 9, 2011 at 3:04 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Jim

    No one is suggesting we use abortion as birth control. Comments like "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?" are meant as scare tactics. The same people who support the elimination of abortion rights are the ones who support "Smaller Government". How do you justify the 2??? As it's been said, if you don't believe in abortion, I supoprt your right not to practice it. But don't tell my wife and I that she can't have one because of your narrow mindedness. In some cases, the health and life of the mother AND the child are at risk if the mother is forced to carry the child to term. If you were really pro-life, this would not be a question.

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

      I support abortion to protect the health of the mother – though you could never argue that abortion protects the health of the child. So don't try to paint me into some extremist corner to which I don't belong...and if you'll notice, I didn't tell "you and your wife" – I'm saying that the woman shouldn't be able to run off behind her husband's back and abort THEIR child without his knowledge or consent for no medical reason.

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

      it is not OUR baby until it is born. sheesh

      November 9, 2011 at 3:12 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Matthew

    abortion has been a war against this country – against the people in it, against its future, and against its well being.

    50 million abortions since Roe...no sign that they'll really drop to the point that it doesn't matter. Add in the future children and gradchildren of the aborted and you're literally at a number that you can't ever finish counting – even if all abortions ceased today.

    How much damage have we done to our future through this disgusting excuse for personal freedoms?

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

      Keep your fking religious view for you !!!!go to hell !!!!

      November 9, 2011 at 3:18 pm | Report abuse |
    • My man-sack is full of half-people?

      Maybe you should have been aborted?

      November 9, 2011 at 3:18 pm | Report abuse |
    • ginamero

      Dude, you kind of a nut. People like you scare me...so do people who practice Sharia law...you are both one in the same to me...and many others like me. You don't want an abortion...Dude, don't have one. Get a vasectomy so you can't reproduce anymore and practice abstinence...you are nuts...get serious help.

      November 9, 2011 at 3:19 pm | Report abuse |
    • EdNV

      those 50 million would have been poor Democrats so shut it.

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

    Bottom line is these anti-abortion/personhood groups wants to very directly become a country just like the muslim countries where Women have no rights. Once menses began and until menopause has been passed the sole purpose of a females body would be to procreate and they could do nothing that would or could be seen as impeding that. Out goes all birth control because it all impedes the fertilization of the egg. Most certainly anything like birth control pills or the IUD that stop the implantation of the blastocyst in the uterine wall. Females that could have a blastocyst in their bodies would be prohibited from doing anything that could jeopardize that "person" in their bodies..... taking any drugs (not just illegal ones), drinking (even casually), smoking, sports, and the list goes on. Would working be an unacceptable risk to those advocating that the person being carried in the females body could be lost? Driving? Heaven forbid a female miscarries for any reason as that could mean she is brought up on charges for having somehow killed that person in her body.

    These are not extreme issues. Had they not been part of the intent of these anti-abortion visionaries trying to push their theocratic notion of what is and is not acceptable for females to do then they would have addressed them in the legal language of the amendments they have attempted to pass thus far. Certainly these arguments came up each time they have tried to pass this in Colorado which is typically a very conservative state. That they do not do so, that is modify the language to address these issues, completely validates the above arguments against this amendment that this is the true intent behind these peoples efforts.

    They are no different than the islamists so many of these people rail against in other venues. Too many of them seem to have read the Handmaid's Tale and taken it to heart

    They are scary and very dangerous people.

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

      Colorado Springs is very conservative, but as for the state, we have two Democratic Senators and a Democratic Governor. Colorado is a fairly socially liberal state so I'm not sure where you're basing your characterization of Colorado on.

      November 9, 2011 at 3:21 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Ted

    You simply cannot try to pass a law to make it legal to cause suffering and even death of women. You misogynists will fail every time.

    November 9, 2011 at 3:08 pm | Report abuse |
  11. sequoia

    Good grief. Why don't these wacko religious fanatics MIND THEIR OWN DAMNED BUSINESS and stop trying to make their idiotic religious beliefs the law? In a free country, the government doesn't force women to give birth against their will (or dictate who can marry whom for that matter) and THIS is a secular democratic republic, not a backwards oppressive theocratic state a la the friggn' Taliban.

    November 9, 2011 at 3:08 pm | Report abuse |
  12. Gail

    If women are forced to have babies they do not want, they should hand the babies over to this personhood group to raise and care for them. I felt this proposal was badly worded and would impact not only abortion but birth control and women's health issues.

    November 9, 2011 at 3:09 pm | Report abuse |
  13. Limbaugh is a liberal

    Wow, that's big news... 58% of people in Mississippi have brains, and they are using it to think...

    November 9, 2011 at 3:10 pm | Report abuse |
  14. Sitnalta

    It's ironic that the Yes on 26 website has a picture of a dead fetus in formaldehyde in a positive light.

    November 9, 2011 at 3:10 pm | Report abuse |
  15. Matthew

    Yeah – lets keep exterminating our nation's future!

    Thats the perfect way to go about things

    November 9, 2011 at 3:11 pm | Report abuse |
    • Frank marino

      Matthew who the hell are you to tell a woman what to do with is body? Your mother should have abbort you

      November 9, 2011 at 3:21 pm | Report abuse |
    • Gail

      Matthew – until you get pregnant, you don't have a say in what pregnant women can and cannot, should and should not do.

      November 9, 2011 at 3:29 pm | Report abuse |
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