Kathryn Lopez

The morning after this month's relatively quiet (for most of us) Election Day, story after story arrived celebrating a pro-life defeat.

"Mississippi Wins for Women!" The Daily Beast exclaimed. "Birth Control Remains Legal: Mississippi Voters Reject Draconian 'Personhood' Initiative," the National Organization for Women declared. "Our victory in Mississippi has already sent a strong message to extremists who will stop at nothing to outlaw abortion," the American Civil Liberties Union explained.

Mississippi's personhood amendment, seeking to amend the state constitution's legal definition of a "person" to "include every human being from the moment of fertilization," lost at the ballot box. It's the most peculiar of pro-choice celebrations, though, when you consider that pro-life voters played an integral role in its defeat.

It was, in fact, a defeat welcomed by many reliable pro-life activists around the country, concerned, among other things, that it would invite a Supreme Court double-down on Roe v. Wade almost 40 years after the landmark decision that created a right to privacy and codified a cultural revolution.

The personhood campaign is no unanimous pro-life strategy. But the framing of it as such by its opponents certainly was.

On one side, as Leonard J. Nelson III, a law professor and author of "Diagnosis Critical: The Urgent Threats Confronting Catholic Health Care," explains, "It was promoted by Southern Baptists in Mississippi and other evangelicals. But the Catholic bishop in Jackson refused to back it," as did a host of other religious leaders. "It was an oversimplified and sweeping approach to an issue that is more complicated than that for even many pro-life voters."

In other words, it's much more complex than the black-and-white portrayal of "pro-choice wins and pro-life loses!" In fact, it wouldn't be strange to call the initiative's defeat a pro-life victory. But even that wouldn't do full justice to the issue. Our political culture is such that deep discussions don't always happen, and sometimes aren't even welcome. If we did dig a bit deeper into the mysteries of human life, we might realize that we have a lot of middle ground to work on, to save lives and improve lives, to give hope and aid to those who need it.


Kathryn Lopez

Kathryn Jean Lopez, editor of National Review Online, writes a weekly column of conservative political and social commentary for Newspaper Enterprise Association.