Personhood amendment voted down

The people of Mississippi rejected a state constitutional amendment that would classify a human embryo as a “person” entitled to all legal protections.  According to the latest count, the margin was 59% to 41%.  This, even though both Republican and Democratic leaders in that conservative state supported the amendment.  See Mississippi anti-abortion ‘personhood’ amendment fails at ballot box – The Washington Post.

Some pro-life activists opposed the tactic of trying to push through a personhood laws, something also being considered in other states, reasoning that while it can be demonstrated scientifically that a fetus is a human being, the notion of “personhood” adds all kinds of philosophical considerations that are likely to be voted down, to the harm of the pro-life cause.

If a personhood amendment can’t be passed in Mississippi–MISSISSIPPI!–then where can it be passed?  And this failure suggests certain inconvenient truths:

(1)  The voting public is not as conservative as conservative activists. Voters are not liberal, exactly, probably more centrist or center-rightists.  But they will vote against anything they consider, rightly or wrongly, “extremist.”  We conservatives, being purists, tend to hunt for the most conservative candidates.  But the most conservative candidates cannot be elected.  (I lament that, but I submit that this is a fact.  As I do so often, I hope I am wrong.)

(2)  Christians and Christian causes these days are not popular in the political arena.  We think people like us, but they don’t.

(3)  These two points are not reason to pull away from political engagement, properly entered into, but they make it harder than certain activists realize that it will be.

About Gene Veith

Professor of Literature at Patrick Henry College, the Director of the Cranach Institute at Concordia Theological Seminary, a columnist for World Magazine and TableTalk, and the author of 18 books on different facets of Christianity & Culture.

  • Michael

    “Christians and Christian causes these days are not popular in the political arena. ”

    Good article, but this sentence is wrong. When people say this, they’re confusing Christianity with the Religious Right.

    In the presidential election of 2008, if I were to tell you someone was Catholic and voted, who would you bet they voted for? If you answered Barack Obama, you are right. 54% of Catholics voted for Obama to McCain’s 45%. That means Obama was as popular among Catholics as Republicans were popular in a state like Texas.

    If that doesn’t drive the point home, try this: 85% of Blacks are Christian. And 97% of Blacks voted for Barack Obama. In 2004, the democrats did a little worse, with Kerry only taking 88% of the Black vote.

    Imagine your average student at Liberty university (white, middle-class, and socially conservative), and you imagine how many people view the average Christian. It’s just not true.

  • Michael

    “Christians and Christian causes these days are not popular in the political arena. ”

    Good article, but this sentence is wrong. When people say this, they’re confusing Christianity with the Religious Right.

    In the presidential election of 2008, if I were to tell you someone was Catholic and voted, who would you bet they voted for? If you answered Barack Obama, you are right. 54% of Catholics voted for Obama to McCain’s 45%. That means Obama was as popular among Catholics as Republicans were popular in a state like Texas.

    If that doesn’t drive the point home, try this: 85% of Blacks are Christian. And 97% of Blacks voted for Barack Obama. In 2004, the democrats did a little worse, with Kerry only taking 88% of the Black vote.

    Imagine your average student at Liberty university (white, middle-class, and socially conservative), and you imagine how many people view the average Christian. It’s just not true.

  • Carl Vehse

    Just as there are RINOs, there are also many CINOs.

  • Carl Vehse

    Just as there are RINOs, there are also many CINOs.

  • Kirk

    @1 Win

  • Kirk

    @1 Win

  • Dennis Peskey

    It can be demonstrated scientifically that a fetus is a human being.” This is most certainly true; ergo, why this vote? This only reinforces my distain for a very real oxymoron called political science. In our unrighteousness, we suppress the truth and claiming to be philosopical (wise by human standards) we continue in our disobedience. I am unable to find the asterisk in “You shall not murder” where we find exemption to this command by redefinition. If our legislators and courts declare a particular class of humans to be unhuman or less than, pray that your status in mankind does not come under legislative or judicial review. Apparently, the Declaration of Independence’s recognition of “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness” does not apply to all mankind. So much for “all men are created equal**” [**unless you haven't been born].
    Pax,
    Dennis

  • Dennis Peskey

    It can be demonstrated scientifically that a fetus is a human being.” This is most certainly true; ergo, why this vote? This only reinforces my distain for a very real oxymoron called political science. In our unrighteousness, we suppress the truth and claiming to be philosopical (wise by human standards) we continue in our disobedience. I am unable to find the asterisk in “You shall not murder” where we find exemption to this command by redefinition. If our legislators and courts declare a particular class of humans to be unhuman or less than, pray that your status in mankind does not come under legislative or judicial review. Apparently, the Declaration of Independence’s recognition of “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness” does not apply to all mankind. So much for “all men are created equal**” [**unless you haven't been born].
    Pax,
    Dennis

  • michael henry

    “…we go where the science goes…” and then don’t since no one says a fetus isn’t a person anymore, and ignore a living person-Obama quote

    “genes are pitiless…”- paraphrase of one of the neo athiest twins

    “pregnancy interruption” abortion renamed yet again- recent MSM article,

    When we go this route as a culture and not call it what it is, murder, life is just what this vote result says, life is cheap. A stinky little east coast fish, Menhaden, which most left coasters don’t even know about, gets more consideration than the “unborn”, “pre-born”, or whatever nicely packaged roll off the tongue label one wants to slap on a living person.

  • michael henry

    “…we go where the science goes…” and then don’t since no one says a fetus isn’t a person anymore, and ignore a living person-Obama quote

    “genes are pitiless…”- paraphrase of one of the neo athiest twins

    “pregnancy interruption” abortion renamed yet again- recent MSM article,

    When we go this route as a culture and not call it what it is, murder, life is just what this vote result says, life is cheap. A stinky little east coast fish, Menhaden, which most left coasters don’t even know about, gets more consideration than the “unborn”, “pre-born”, or whatever nicely packaged roll off the tongue label one wants to slap on a living person.

  • Pingback: Lessons learned from MS’s Personhood Amendment fail « thereformedmind

  • Pingback: Lessons learned from MS’s Personhood Amendment fail « thereformedmind

  • Ronnie

    Greetings. I’m a frequent reader/lurker of Gene Veith Blog and also a long time Mississippian. Personally, I was shocked to learn that the personhood amendment did not pass here (in Mississippi!) of all places. That life begins at conception is a commonly held belief here and most Christians in this state are members of very conservative denominations which also believe and teach the value of all human life. In addition this election was dominated by conservative politics. On my ballot were many conservative republicans running completely unopposed and many more who would win by a landslide. I would have expected that conservative voters, who tend to vote more pro-life, would also dominate the voters as the conservative candidates dominated the ballots.
     
    In the weeks leading up to the election the national media put an intense spotlight on Mississippi and the coverage was largely negative. This may have had an effect on the voting, though negative publicity is something Mississippi should be used to by now. Also, it is possible that the propaganda spread by the Planned Parenthood folks in which small government language was co-opted against the amendment had some sway among the conservative voters. Gov. Barbour didn’t do the amendment any favors either when he talked about his “concerns” about the vague language to the national media. All of these things may have contributed to the defeat of the amendment, but I fear this vote may indicate something far worse. It may show that the even here in the buckle of the Bible belt the culture of death still reigns. Folks may know what to say in Church about the subject of abortion, but when the voting booth is closed and no one else is watching they vote differently.
     
    One of the commonly heard objections to this amendment was that it would limit IVF and many kinds of birth control. The truth is that the amendment would likely have done just that. It is only logical that if life begins at fertilization then IVF should be limited and some kinds of birth control should be avoided. I fear the sad truth is that Christians here in Mississippi like IVF. Many of them have used it or know someone who has. Many in Mississippi don’t want any limits placed on the type of birth control they use either. If there is a chance that the pill could work by preventing the implantation of a fertilized egg, well then they like that better than not having the pill. (I’m not a medical professional, and I don’t know for a fact whether birth control pill can do this or not, but this was one argument against the amendment that was floating around here in Mississippi.) The benefits of the culture of death are being used and enjoyed by Christians. If Christians want to see the evils of abortion stopped I think the first step is going to be repentance among the Christians themselves.

  • Ronnie

    Greetings. I’m a frequent reader/lurker of Gene Veith Blog and also a long time Mississippian. Personally, I was shocked to learn that the personhood amendment did not pass here (in Mississippi!) of all places. That life begins at conception is a commonly held belief here and most Christians in this state are members of very conservative denominations which also believe and teach the value of all human life. In addition this election was dominated by conservative politics. On my ballot were many conservative republicans running completely unopposed and many more who would win by a landslide. I would have expected that conservative voters, who tend to vote more pro-life, would also dominate the voters as the conservative candidates dominated the ballots.
     
    In the weeks leading up to the election the national media put an intense spotlight on Mississippi and the coverage was largely negative. This may have had an effect on the voting, though negative publicity is something Mississippi should be used to by now. Also, it is possible that the propaganda spread by the Planned Parenthood folks in which small government language was co-opted against the amendment had some sway among the conservative voters. Gov. Barbour didn’t do the amendment any favors either when he talked about his “concerns” about the vague language to the national media. All of these things may have contributed to the defeat of the amendment, but I fear this vote may indicate something far worse. It may show that the even here in the buckle of the Bible belt the culture of death still reigns. Folks may know what to say in Church about the subject of abortion, but when the voting booth is closed and no one else is watching they vote differently.
     
    One of the commonly heard objections to this amendment was that it would limit IVF and many kinds of birth control. The truth is that the amendment would likely have done just that. It is only logical that if life begins at fertilization then IVF should be limited and some kinds of birth control should be avoided. I fear the sad truth is that Christians here in Mississippi like IVF. Many of them have used it or know someone who has. Many in Mississippi don’t want any limits placed on the type of birth control they use either. If there is a chance that the pill could work by preventing the implantation of a fertilized egg, well then they like that better than not having the pill. (I’m not a medical professional, and I don’t know for a fact whether birth control pill can do this or not, but this was one argument against the amendment that was floating around here in Mississippi.) The benefits of the culture of death are being used and enjoyed by Christians. If Christians want to see the evils of abortion stopped I think the first step is going to be repentance among the Christians themselves.

  • Holly

    I’m still waiting for someone to explain to me how you can be a human being but not a person (ethically, not legally). If the two are not synonymous, then at what point does a non-person human being become a person? How do you draw that line without being arbitrary? If it’s at birth, then the necessary conclusion is that a fetus born at 32 weeks is a person but one still in the womb at 39 weeks isn’t. If it’s viability, then the necessary conclusion is that anyone who cannot live on their own without support from another human is not a person. In any case, I think it should fall on those who think you can be a human being without being a person to explain how and why this distinction can be made without endangering the personhood of human beings already born.

  • Holly

    I’m still waiting for someone to explain to me how you can be a human being but not a person (ethically, not legally). If the two are not synonymous, then at what point does a non-person human being become a person? How do you draw that line without being arbitrary? If it’s at birth, then the necessary conclusion is that a fetus born at 32 weeks is a person but one still in the womb at 39 weeks isn’t. If it’s viability, then the necessary conclusion is that anyone who cannot live on their own without support from another human is not a person. In any case, I think it should fall on those who think you can be a human being without being a person to explain how and why this distinction can be made without endangering the personhood of human beings already born.

  • John C

    “Christian and Christian causes are not popular.”
    Christianity has become politicized. It is difficult to tell the difference between a Rightwing Christian and a Republican.
    So when Governor Perry sponsors a prayer rally that features Christian extremists, alarms are raised about the influence of Christians on the secular domain of government.

  • John C

    “Christian and Christian causes are not popular.”
    Christianity has become politicized. It is difficult to tell the difference between a Rightwing Christian and a Republican.
    So when Governor Perry sponsors a prayer rally that features Christian extremists, alarms are raised about the influence of Christians on the secular domain of government.

  • Booklover

    Montana is going to go ahead and try what has failed in Mississippi.

  • Booklover

    Montana is going to go ahead and try what has failed in Mississippi.

  • fws

    Christians are always wrong to reach for the power of the 51 percent to make God’s Goodness and Mercy happen. Always wrong.

    It doesnt work, and it is a tactic that will turn against us in the not so distant future.

    Christians will best change things by doing Goodness and Mercy and acts of love rather than trying to enforce behavior in others. Yeah , I know…. one could apply this same logic to other statutes about murder etc for evil effect, but fortunately society is not there yet…..but when that does eventually also happen in the form of infanticide and euthanasia…. my advice is still the same…

    abortion and infanticide were commonplace in NT and OT times and the bible doesnt really address it directly. Yet within a few hundred years this all changed without christians having any political power at all. How did that happen? It is what we need to be doing.

    Christians used to singlehandedly support christian hospitals etc…. now… not so much…. alot of talk of the “chritian right” is just that…. and I would point out that most of those hospitals were founded by those with traditionally low political profiles such as , adventists, roman catholics, prestbyterians and lutherans….

  • fws

    Christians are always wrong to reach for the power of the 51 percent to make God’s Goodness and Mercy happen. Always wrong.

    It doesnt work, and it is a tactic that will turn against us in the not so distant future.

    Christians will best change things by doing Goodness and Mercy and acts of love rather than trying to enforce behavior in others. Yeah , I know…. one could apply this same logic to other statutes about murder etc for evil effect, but fortunately society is not there yet…..but when that does eventually also happen in the form of infanticide and euthanasia…. my advice is still the same…

    abortion and infanticide were commonplace in NT and OT times and the bible doesnt really address it directly. Yet within a few hundred years this all changed without christians having any political power at all. How did that happen? It is what we need to be doing.

    Christians used to singlehandedly support christian hospitals etc…. now… not so much…. alot of talk of the “chritian right” is just that…. and I would point out that most of those hospitals were founded by those with traditionally low political profiles such as , adventists, roman catholics, prestbyterians and lutherans….

  • Pingback: Personhood amendment fails: some inconvenient truths « Strengthened by Grace

  • Pingback: Personhood amendment fails: some inconvenient truths « Strengthened by Grace


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