personhoodAs the dust settles after the defeat of Mississippi’s personhood initiative  last week, here are five reasons I think it lost.

These  have nothing to do with the whopping lies the other side told. In other words, these are constructive criticisms.

I ran my thoughts past Keith Mason of Personhood USA, who took them well. He even gave me one I hadn’t thought of. This is a learning process.

1. We should have anticipated and precluded their whopping lies.


Planned Parenthood et al followed the same successful playbook they used to defeat Colorado’s personhood initiative – twice. We knew they were going to say miscarrying mothers would be interrogated by police if Initiative 26 passed, and that mothers with ectopic pregnancies would be allowed to die on the gurney.  We should have run ahead of their talking points.

2. Our people need to talk.

The morning after the defeat of Initiative 26, two highly respected pro-life organizations released two utterly contradictory legal analyses. Click both to enlarge…



This is at the very least awkward. Someone’s right, and someone’s wrong. Pro-lifers have varied opinions on lots of things, but either Initiative 26 would have prompted the Supreme Court to take a second look at Roe v Wade, or it wouldn’t have. For the sake of the movement, pro-life legal eagles need to “reason together,” as another Someone once said.

3. Their GOTV overwhelmed our GOTV.


A well-intentioned rag-tag bunch of personhood supporters was completely overrun by the pro-abortion machine in getting out the vote. I watched on Twitter and Facebook as Planned Parenthoods across the country worked together to get like-minded Mississippi voters to the polls on Election Day. We did not have the same sort of organization.

4. We sent conflicting messages.

personhoodWould Initiative 26 impact IVF or not? Would it ban certain contraceptives? The basic problem here was trying to balance Catholic personhood supporters and Protestant personhood supporters, who hold opposing views, generally speaking. But trying to tiptoe between the factions ultimately added to the confusion and hurt the cause, for instance a spokesperson saying contraception would be impacted by Initiative 26 and a viral ad saying it would not.

Lila Rose was scheduled to speak at an Initiative 26 rally the day before Election Day but pulled out when she couldn’t get a commitment from organizers that IVF and hormonal contraceptives wouldn’t be condoned.

5. Friendly fire ultimately killed personhood, namely Haley Barbour.

Personhood USA has commissioned a scientific analysis of the election. Preliminary results show 8% of previously undecideds voted “no” after hearing Barbour express misgivings about Initiative 26.

Mason told me the Secretary of State’s final vote count, out tomorrow, will show ~45% voted for the measure. So Haley Barbour killed Initiative 26. As one person from the other side told Mason, “Haley Barbour was a gem to us.” Here’s just one facet of that gem…


But still the drum beat

More of Personhood USA’s after-election analysis:

  • There were 4,300 television newscasts around the globe about the personhood initiative the week of the election, translating into 117 million viewers. The value of those newscasts was over $11 million.
  • There were 5,900 printed news articles – from the Associated Press to Al Jazeera – in every state and in many countries.
  • The day after the election the word “personhood” trended #4 on Google.

Regarding the instructive value of personhood initiatives, I could say it no better than did Time magazine writer Dominique Browning, believe it or not:

Yet the national conversation that was triggered by this radical proposal was instructive. The issue of when life begins, and how much control over a woman’s body the government should have, and how a society weighs the value of one against the other, is of such profound importance that it should be constantly revisited – at the risk of provoking outrage.

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