Yesterday, Mississippi voters sent Initiative 26— the so-called "Personhood" Amendment— shrieking off into the night like a vanquished horror movie antagonist. Even though 58% of voters in the reddest of red states rejected the extreme abortion ban, advocates of calling zygotes people are undaunted and insist that this isn't the last you'll see of them or the personhood fight. Coming to a state or local ballot near you: get ready for Personhood II: Electric Fetus Boogaloo.
Keith Mason, President of Personhood USA, says that he has no plans to give up or even interpret this as a hint that people mostly don't agree with him; he plans on taking his talents to South Beach, where he'll attempt to get Personhood on Florida's ballot next year and solidify his status as the LeBron James of terrible ideas. He's also trying again in Montana, Oregon, California, Nevada, and Ohio. While Personhood was on the ballot in Colorado in 2008 and 2010, voters rejected the measure both times. They're 0-3, yet, if you ask Mason, they're still headed to the championship.
Mason doesn't blame his cause's latest defeat on the fact that maybe women kind of like having control over their reproductive capacities and men are cool with that; instead he blames people being confused by the lying liars at Planned Parenthood and other such organizations. Of the rejection of Initiative 26, he says,
...it's not because the people are not pro-life. It's because Planned Parenthood put a lot of misconceptions and lies in front of folks and created a lot of confusion.
Planned Parenthood, by the way, didn't create any "lies" or "misconceptions;" it just told people what the amendment would actually do, using facts. It's not like the organization swooped down the river with dry ice and special effects, claiming that all the zygotes would take Mississippians' jobs and pay no taxes like a bunch of racist political caricatures that got forwarded around Liberty University's College Republicans listserve. Anti-Personhood advocates simply pointed out that Initiative 26 would ultimately harm women.
Of course, no cause or candidate is going to follow an election night defeat with a speech wherein they admit to their supporters that their idea was kinda crappy to begin with and that maybe everyone should feel a little bit ashamed of themselves, head home, maybe go to their rooms for awhile and think about what they've done. Sit the next couple of rounds out. What's disturbing about Personhood USA's response to this defeat is the degree to which they believe that they'll eventually succeed. Their response is the wholesale rejection of the idea that it's possible for someone to have all of the necessary facts and fully understand Personhood USA's position, yet disagree with it.
If Personhood USA doesn't have popular support even among conservatives, at least they have high profile politicians willing to pay them lip service. The degree of disconnect between what politicians say they believe and what voters actually want has reached nearly comical levels. In the Mississippi gubernatorial race, both the defeated Democrat Johnny Dupree and the victorious Republican Phil Bryant publicly supported the Personhood amendment. As Salon's Irin Carmon points out, it was difficult to find more than a handful of public officials willing to publicly declare that they were opposed to personhood in the state. Out of step support for the measure doesn't stop there, though; GOP Presidential field (with the exception of poor forgotten Jon Huntsman) has reached a general consensus that personhood is a dandy idea. Even Mitt Romney, who this side of the airing of the last episode of The Wonder Years was speaking out in favor of abortion rights, has said he would sign personhood legislation into law as the country's executive.
Not to sound like a campaign ad, but if candidates of a major party feel compelled to align themselves with an ideology that is too extreme for even America's most conservative state, something is amiss.
For now, at least, let's hope politicians have gotten the hint that people simply aren't interested in inviting the government any further into our reproductive organs. Let's enjoy the rueful sense of victory that comes from being declared more important than a fetus by ballot initiative. And let's ponder the irony of an organization that believes that life begins at the moment of conception, yet doesn't believe that the game ends after they've clearly lost.
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