BY: B. Keith Plunkett @Keithplunkett
Personhood Mississippi announced Tuesday they are planning to take another shot at a Personhood Amendment in Mississippi defining life as beginning at conception. The sponsors filed paperwork with the Secretary of State’s office to begin the process of collecting signatures to get the measure on the ballot. The last initiative was defeated by 58 percent.
Countless hours will go into preparing the new initiative, gathering signatures and promoting the movement across the state. Much money will be spent. Much heartache, argument and self righteous piousness will be endured.
And in the end, it will all be for nothing . . . again.
Just saying that will no doubt get me labeled as a sinner and a charlatan, despite the fact that my wife and I have two handsome sons and would not consider for one moment snuffing out the life of an unborn child. Therein lies a big problem for Personhood Mississippi. The allegiances of even those who support pro-life, pro-family policies will be doubted and demonized if we ask too many questions.
Too much division.
Unwillingness to prepare for serious discussions about in-vitro fertilization, ectopic pregnancies and contraception led to the downfall of the last Personhood Initiative beginning within the medical community. Personhood proponents continue even today to further the idea that “outside agitators” came in to Mississippi and confused the masses. As if the people of the state can’t think for themselves.
Further discussion regarding allowances of abortion in the case of having to save the life of the mother, or of rape and incest brought on more division within the ranks of the pro-life movement itself. At every turn, the representatives of Personhood Mississippi communicated that the 2011 ballot initiative was all or nothing. No exceptions. You’re with us or against us.
In our Mississippi PEP 2013 Conservative State of the State Survey, conservatives ranked abortion regulation as one of the least important issues facing the state. Further complicating the pro-life movement in Mississippi is the fact that the small number of conservatives who think it’s important can’t agree on the level of regulation.
That is why the initiative failed and why it is likely to fail again. Because there is no room for compromise among the separate factions of pro-lifers. If they can’t agree then how in hell do they expect to clearly communicate the message to the general public?
Then there are the political ramifications.
For those of us conservatives who would like to see the window of opportunity now afforded by Republican control of state government used to it’s full potential, a new Personhood Initiative is an unnecessary distraction. This is a battle that will bring opposition resources (read liberal friendly resources) to our state to do battle when we least need it, during an election.
Despite the calls for unity the Republican party is in trouble. The Mississippi GOP is hurting for money and is having turnover problems with staff. The resources and manpower aren’t available to have this kind of fight.
If Republican leaders are paying attention then they realize there is a split developing and it will only be widened should Personhood make it back to the ballot. All of this will be happening in either 2014–when Congressional races and a Senate race is going on–or in 2015 when the Governor’s mansion, many statewide offices and many legislative offices are again up for grabs. The abortion issue would be a distraction in both races, but could be a candidate killer in the 2015 cycle.
If candidates are forced to prove their pro-life bonafides on the campaign trail through support of Personhood then our entire conservative movement in Mississippi will suffer the repercussions. Because, like it or not, conservatives are tied to the Republican brand.
Personhood is a problem with younger generations that will cost us.
Demographic data from the last Presidential Election show that Republicans lost the 18-29 year olds by a margin of 24 points. The 18-29 year old group had the highest turnout ever for that age group in a national election at 49%. If you look at Mississippi’s numbers in terms of voting 18-29 years olds you’ll find they vote higher than the national average. Mississippi voters 30 years and older vote less than the national average.
Mississippi 18-29 year olds make up almost a third of of the total population at close to 550,000. In terms of racial makeup the numbers of non-whites in this category track about 5 to 7% greater than the state average, meaning Republicans could be at the tipping point in this demographic category in less than 10 years and maybe as little as 5 if they don’t do something to begin communicating conservatism effectively.
I’ve spoken with many college age conservatives over the course of the past two years, and Personhood is a non-starter for almost all of them. In the general view of most, abortion is a personal medical decision where the government should not roam. In other words, they take the often stated rarely implemented “getting big government out of our lives” position seriously.
It is my belief that Personhood Mississippi will find more difficulty this time around gaining the number of signatures necessary. People are still a little punch drunk from the last fight. Personhood certainly won’t get my signature. Demonize me and judge me if you like. But, I believe Personhood Mississippi showed they’re lack of political effectiveness during the last debate.
As a conservative, I believe we should be focused on getting things done for future generations that need good policy decisions to help them get jobs that will allow them to provide for their families. If we do that then abortion on demand becomes less of an issue through attrition. As to the other issues regarding abortion, I believe medical privacy puts that squarely on the shoulders and conscience of the individual and their doctor.
I am pro-life. But this is not a battle that Republicans, nor Conservatives, nor pro-lifers will likely win. And, even if Personhood passes it could cost us the war. That is a chance I am unwilling to take.
About Keith: Keith Plunkett has worked on communications issues with a range of public officials from aldermen to Congressmen, and a variety of businesses, governmental agencies and non-profits. He serves or has served as a board member of several non-profit, civic and political organizations. Contact him by going to HorizonMediaMarketing.com or follow him on Twitter @Keithplunkett