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. Really??

    How many of these folks that push this bill complain about the poor paying no taxes? I wonder how many 53% in this movement complain about taxes and yet don't wont to help the tax cause by paying for public abortions? Poor having baby's all over the place gets very expensive.

    November 9, 2011 at 3:14 pm | Report abuse |
    • Fred

      An abortion is far cheaper to society then a lifetime of welfare payments and a continuation of the welfare circle of life.

      November 9, 2011 at 3:26 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Al

    Seems to me that it is the courts that should decide what a person is. Rights are not granted or reprieved by popular vote,

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

    We need to send a strong message to all the right wing extremist who are trying to take us backwards instead of forwards, contrary to popular belief the world is not flat and the sun does not revolve around the earth. I hate the tea baggers.

    November 9, 2011 at 3:15 pm | Report abuse |
  4. charles bowen

    Wack-job Republicant Christian Right Bull. Love watching the Republicans Crucify their fellow Republican'ts. Your Gonna Loose Big Time ...... Charles Bowen Solomon Stone

    November 9, 2011 at 3:16 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Tired of Stupid People

    "A" person is not present at conception, only biological life is. It is not "a" 'human being,' but rather that which is conceived by two human gametes. The zygote, blastocyst, or unviable embryo is no more of "a" person than an acorn is an acorn tree, an apple seed is an apple, etc. Theree is a biological, physiological, psychological, and legal difference between potentiality and actuality. Anyone who asserts that which is conceived is "a" person is someone who is ignorant and clearly failed third basic biolo courses that covered human reproduction and what the concept of "life" is.

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

      I agree with you but I would like to know what an "acorn tree" is.

      November 9, 2011 at 3:27 pm | Report abuse |
    • Devon

      I agree that the ignorance is staggering but we are not talking about a rational movement or rational people. Their point of reference is from the 11th century where demonic possession and faith healing is very real to them. I am thankful that women have stood up and said; "wait a minute guys, can a prosecutor use my ovaries against me if this a law?".

      November 9, 2011 at 3:31 pm | Report abuse |
  6. JEM

    If abortion is ever banned based on the idea that a fetus is a life, than it will likely lead to a ban on Birth Control Pills, Norplants, IUD's, Contraceptive Shots and Contraceptive Patches. Google BIRTH CONTROL PILL ABORTION and check out some of the sights

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

      Among the great things you will find is that birth control pills killed more people than the holocaust.

      November 9, 2011 at 3:27 pm | Report abuse |
    • Devon

      Actually Jason, religious intolerance has killed more women in human history than any "Holocaust". You are using a reference of Nazi Germany who's policies included euthanasia of those deemed "unfit" and it is clear that in your mind, Nazi ideology is equated with women's reproductive rights. If the westboro baptist church wanted to control your testicles, would you not be upset? And if the westboro baptist church were using Nazi Germany to support their argument don't you think it would be irrational?

      November 9, 2011 at 3:39 pm | Report abuse |
    • bushcandy

      Please explain how birth controls kills anything

      November 9, 2011 at 3:40 pm | Report abuse |
  7. IceT

    If it's your womb, it's your right to use it as you wish ... but it's also your sole responsibility what you allow in it. If a Father has no say & no rights he should not be held responsible for how recklessly a woman treats her personal property.

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

    'god' is an idiotic idea promoted by immoral people to control and pacify the weak minded.

    Throughout history, embryos of all species have died in utero – we call it a miscarriage. It’s just a part of life. Statistically, enough survive to ensure the propagation of the species. No matter what these christian nut jobs think about “the right to life”, we are irreversibly damaging the planet, our ecology, and our economy with the overpopulation of the human species.

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

      I am concerned that if "life" is defined by any government to begin at the moment of conception, then can't that same government also charge a woman with involuntary manslaughter if she suffers a miscarriage? It's an incredibly slippery slope.

      November 9, 2011 at 3:31 pm | Report abuse |
    • Matt

      God is not a ridiculous concept. What is ridiculous is the extremes SOME people go to impose their beliefs as policy on others. God and religion brings people together as a community to make them better people, in general, but there will always be those on the fringe that yell the loudest and stomp their feet the hardest.

      November 9, 2011 at 3:42 pm | Report abuse |
  9. mypitts2

    There's no "what's next" for this kind of law. If it can't pass in Mississippi, it can't pass anywhere.

    November 9, 2011 at 3:19 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Stephanie Palmer

    I'm going to guess it lost because it was asinine.

    November 9, 2011 at 3:19 pm | Report abuse |
  11. DP

    The arguments against abortion may be promulgted by "religious people," as almost all Americans are "religious people," but that dosen't mean their arguments are beased, necessarily on divine revelation. to say that life begins at conception is a philosophical argument based on a proper anthorpology, and supported by scientific research...a babies heart beat and brain activity begin very early in pregnancy. So let's stop these false accusations that "religious people" are trying to create a "theocracy" or trying to "froce their believes on others" afterall they are American citizens with a right to free speech and suffrage as much any of their opponents...stop being so emotionally charged and look at the facts...seek the truth and you'll see: Fetuses are actually actually human person's, therefore we have no right to take their lives.

    November 9, 2011 at 3:24 pm | Report abuse |
  12. Jason

    Of course Personhood USA will keep trying even if they don't have a chance of winning anything. If they closed up shop they would have to actually go out and get real jobs and not have cush salaries paid for by church donations. Personhood USA does not publicly disclose their tax filings or financial statements which is what responsible charities do. What are they hiding? Are they too afraid to let the public know they are poor stewards of other people's money?

    November 9, 2011 at 3:24 pm | Report abuse |
  13. durundal

    Someone needs to do something about these wackos, this is beyond creepy and a religious assault on the rights of all american citizens.

    November 9, 2011 at 3:26 pm | Report abuse |
  14. Matthew

    How can you argue abortion has not done enormous and irreversible damage to our nation's future? Really, set aside the relgiion issue, and the women's rights issue...how can you believe that we could abort the equivilent of 1/6 of our population, without having serious adverse consequences? Thats a reasonable question...I hope one of you is brave enough to try and justify the practice with a reasonable answer.

    November 9, 2011 at 3:26 pm | Report abuse |
    • Jason

      Thousands of women each year have ectopic pregnancies that are life threatening. Removing their ability to have a life saving abortion would potentially cause thousands of mothers to die and create more orphans. That good enough for you?

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

      Way less than 1/6 the population used to survive before modern medicine that's why it will not have serious adverse consequences. Sustaining all this life with modern technology is what is going to end up hurting our species and planet.

      November 9, 2011 at 3:31 pm | Report abuse |
    • bushcandy

      What sort of damage has been done due to abortion? Look at the starving children all across third world nations, that is the damage done without birth control and abortion.

      November 9, 2011 at 3:44 pm | Report abuse |
    • Matt

      Adverse? No. There are 7 billion people on this Earth. You think hunger and poverty are bad now? Now, is that a reason FOR abortion? No, but its even less ignorant as saying that abortions have cause irreparable harm to the world. Are you therefor against medical procedures and medicines that allow people to live longer than they would naturally? Do you think people should be able to live forever if we have the ability to? Make the choice of abortion for yourself, share it with your family and make it a moral decision. Don't try to decide it for someone else, they can make their decision on their own, just like you.

      My wife and I chose against abortion 13 years ago. Having been in that situation, we're glad we had the choice.

      November 9, 2011 at 3:53 pm | Report abuse |
  15. Paul

    What happened is that the good people of Mississipi aren't quite as stupid and ignorant as everyone thinks they are.

    November 9, 2011 at 3:27 pm | Report abuse |
    • MSWoman

      Thank you for your kind comment. A majority of us really aren't as backwoods as most think.

      November 9, 2011 at 3:35 pm | Report abuse |
    • Matt

      :thumbs up:

      November 9, 2011 at 3:54 pm | 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