Last night the voters of Mississippi rejected Initiative 26, also known as the “Personhood Amendment” by a wide margin. The results were surprising to many analysts, who believed the initiative would either pass, or in the alternative fail by only a few points. Instead, 58% of Mississippi voters checked “no” on the ballot with only 42% checking “yes.” The failure of the Personhood Movement in Mississippi is significant in itself, but also has larger implications across the nation in 2012.
The Personhood Amendment would have defined life as beginning at the moment of conception, when the woman’s egg is fertilized. Supporters argued that life, as defined by the amendment, must be protected in all instances. One advocate even compared abortions in America to the Nazi Holocaust.
Opponents, of course, disagreed with the the initiative’s definition of life. Critics also argued the amendment went too far by outlawing all abortions, even those involving cases of rape, incest, or the health of the mother. The amendment also would have outlawed many fairly common form of birth control such as the “morning after pill. Even if it passed, the law would almost certainly be overturned by federal courts, but advocates still argued the law was worth passing in order to make a point.
If the Personhood Amendment failed in Mississippi many political analysts are asking whether it can pass anywhere. Mississippi is one of the most socially conservative states in the country. Over 47% of Mississippians identify themselves as “Republican” compared to just 38% who identify as Democrats. Only Idaho, Utah, and Wyoming have a stronger Republican base. Senator John McCain (R-AZ) won the state of Mississippi by a 13-point margin over President Obama in 2008 even though Obama won the popular vote across the country by seven points. The Personhood Movement had spent years preparing for this vote, with a great deal of funding and volunteers behind their effort.
Despite all these positive factors, the Personhood Amendment not only failed, but did not come close to passing. In the end Mississippi voters were scared by the potential ramifications of the bill, and if Mississippians get scared off by the “extreme” nature of the Personhood Movement, it will likely not go over well in more moderate states.
Personhood will once again be an issue in the 2012 election. The Personhood Movement was undeterred by last night’s defeat, and vowed to press on across the country to put the issue up for a vote. Originally, it was thought that these Personhood ballot initiatives would help Republicans by drawing out social conservatives to the ballot box. The Mississippi results suggest that the opposite may be true.
Even without ballot initiatives, conservative voters will demand that their GOP presidential and senatorial candidates support the Personhood Movement. Perhaps the leading Republicans presidential candidate, Mitt Romney, has already expressed support for Personhood laws. Based on the Mississippi results from last night, the support for Personhood laws could turn off independent and moderate voters, thereby aiding President Obama and other Democratic candidates.