Ballot Initiatives Represent Multi-Pronged Attack on Choice

Kay Steiger

Voters in Colorado, South Dakota and California will have the opportunity to restrict or protect women's reproductive rights this November. What effect would each of these initiatives have, and who's behind them?

This fall, ballot initiatives
in three states–California, South Dakota, and Colorado–attack women’s reproductive health
in different ways. California’s anti-choice groups have put forth
what has become a traditional anti-choice attack: a parental notification
measure that is designed to chip away at access to abortion. South
Dakota is again attempting an outright abortion ban, a measure that is designed
to challenge Roe v. Wade in the Supreme Court. Colorado citizens will vote on a new, extreme measure that would define a person’s life as beginning
at fertilization, outlawing not just abortions but also emergency contraception
and birth control.

"This really shows just how
divided the anti-choice movement really is," said John Kraus, communications
director for the Ballot Initiatives Strategy Center, a progressive non-profit
that aggregates information on ballot initiatives nationally. In each
state, the anti-choice movement is taking a different strategy to attack
women’s reproductive rights. It seems that the anti-choice movement,
rather than applying a unified national strategy, is catapulting a myriad
of anti-choice initiatives and seeing what sticks.


The proposed California ballot initiative (PDF), which the pro-life groups call "Sarah’s Law," is a combination of a 48-hour waiting period
and parental notification measure. To circumvent parental notification
in the case of abuse, the young woman must file a report of abuse against
legal parents or guardians and the doctor still has to notify "an
adult family member."

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This isn’t the first time
California has voted on a parental notification measure. Similar measures
were defeated in 2005 and 2006. A recent Field Poll found that public opinion is in favor of
the parental notification measure by 48-39 percent. But this poll is early in the election season. In 2006, polling indicated the
measure might pass until a poll released the day before Election Day
indicated public opinion opposed the measure. Ultimately, the initiative
was defeated by 8.5 percentage points.

The chief funder behind the California initiative is
Jim Holman, editor and publisher of weekly newspaper San Diego Reader
and the California Catholic Daily. He additionally backed the
previous California parental notification measures.

Recently Planned Parenthood
and its affiliates have put forth a lawsuit that contests the story of "Sarah," who has
been confirmed to be Jammie Garcia Yanez-Villegas, a 15-year-old that died
in Texas in 1994. The lawsuit argues that the proposed parental notification
initiative would have done little to prevent the teenager’s death
because at the time she was living with her fiancée and became part
of a common law marriage under Texas law. But earlier this month, a judge ruled that the story
can remain part of the voter guide literature.

South Dakota

The South Dakota initiative (PDF) is an adaptation of the abortion
ban that was passed by the South Dakota legislature and repealed by ballot initiative in 2006. This time, the ban has been put on the
ballot and includes an exception for the life of the mother as well
as an exception for rape and incest. But Healthy Families, a coalition
that is fighting the abortion ban this fall, notes that the "exceptions"
outlined in the measure don’t necessarily provide the protections
that the anti-choice groups claim.

A woman must be willing to
undergo a "biological sampling" or other DNA testing by law enforcement
to earn the exception for rape or incest. Already, few rape survivors are willing or able to press charges, so undergoing medical
testing to prove that she has been raped or has been the victim of incest
creates a serious infringement on the woman’s right to an abortion.

Perhaps the most interesting
part of the abortion ban is that funding behind it is unclear. The initiative
in 2006 received an anonymous $750,000 donation. The
money was funneled through a corporation called Promising Future, Inc.,
and state Rep. Roger Hunt, who introduced the ban in the legislature,
said he was the sole member of the corporation’s board of directors.
The corporation was formed less than two months before the ballot initiative
was voted on and Hunt refused to disclose the number of donors or how
many are from within the state.

It’s unclear where the funding
for the abortion ban is coming from, but national anti-choice groups
like Focus on the Family and national anti-choice leader Jerry Falwell,
Jr., have endorsed the ban.


Even schools within for the anti-choice movement consider Colorado’s proposed amendment extreme — Colorado Right to Life
has been disenfranchised from the National Right to Life, and Focus
on the Family has also chosen not to endorse the Colorado initiative. The ballot measure, if passed, would outlaw abortion care for a woman whose life may
be threatened by instances of miscarriage. For example, sometimes a
fertilized egg lodges in a woman’s fallopian tube and the expanding
cells cause the tube to rupture. Unless the doctor is allowed to remove
the cells, the woman may die.

The mastermind behind this
initiative seems to be James Patrick Johnston, an osteopathic doctor
from Ohio. A recent Colorado Independent article linked Johnston to militant anti-abortion
group Army of God, which has endorsed a number of attacks on abortion

Colorado’s initiative would
represent an attack on a woman’s reproductive autonomy in ways that
can’t yet be predicted. Some legal experts speculate that women could be charged with murder
for miscarrying in an instance when she didn’t even know she was pregnant.
It not only threatens a woman’s right to an abortion, but it threatens
a number of widely accepted provisions for women’s health such as
birth control and medical aid during a miscarriage.

Altogether, the three bans represent a multi-pronged attack on choice appearing on the ballot this November. While
in 2006 all eyes were on South Dakota, this fall reproductive rights activists have three states to watch.

News Economic Justice

Colorado Voters Could Get a Chance to Boost the State’s Minimum Wage

Jason Salzman

A campaign fact sheet cited an April survey showing that 59 percent of the 2,400 U.S. small businesses polled favor raising the minimum wage, and that about 40 percent of those polled already pay entry-level employees "far above" the required minimum wage in their location.

Colorado’s minimum wage would increase from $8.31 to $12 by 2020 if Colorado voters approve a ballot initiative that could be headed to the November ballot.

Patty Kupfer, campaign manager for Colorado Families for a Fair Wage told reporters Monday that Colorado Families for a Fair Wage, a coalition of groups, submitted more than 200,000 signatures to the Colorado secretary of state, more than double the number required to make the ballot.

Hundreds of volunteers and dozens of organizations collected signatures, Kupfer said.

“Raising the minimum wage is fair and it’s smart,” Kupfer said. “It’s fair because people working full time should earn enough to support their families. It’s smart because when working people have more money in their pockets, they spend it here in Colorado, boosting our economy and helping our community thrive.”

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Speaking at the news conference staged in front of stacked boxes of petitions, Marrisa Guerrero, identified as a certified nursing assistant, said she works seven days a week and still relies on subsidized housing.

“Making $300 a week is not enough to pay rent and buy groceries for a family like mine,” said Guerrero, adding that she’d “really like” to see an increase in the minimum immediately, but “2020 would work wonders.”

After 2020, the state’s minimum wage would be adjusted annually for cost-of-living increases under the initiative.

Tyler Sandberg, a spokesperson for Keep Colorado Working, an organization opposing the initiative, appeared at the news conference and told reporters that he was “especially” worried about the initiative’s impact on small businesses.

“The big corporations, the wealthy areas of Denver and Boulder, might be able to afford [it], but small businesses, rural and poor communities, cannot afford this,” Sandberg told reporters. “So you are going to put people out of work with this. You’re going to harm the same people you’re trying to help.”

“It’s one size that doesn’t fit all. It’s the same for a small business as it is for Pepsi Cola,” said Sandberg, whose organization includes the Colorado Restaurant Association, the Colorado Association of Commerce and Industry, and the National Association of Independent Business.

Asked by Rewire to respond to Sandberg’s argument against a higher wage, Kupfer said, “Research shows small businesses support increasing the minimum wage. The truth is, when workers make more, that means more customers in local Colorado businesses. Both in rural and urban parts of the state, when working people do well, our communities thrive.”

A campaign fact sheet cited an April survey showing that 59 percent of the 2,400 U.S. small businesses polled favor raising the minimum wage, and that about 40 percent of those polled already pay entry-level employees “far above” the required minimum wage in their location.

“In my company, we have customer service representatives being paid $15 per hour,” Yoav Lurie, founder of Simple Energy, told reporters at the news conference. “While others might choose to pay customer service reps minimum wage, we have found that higher pay leads to improved performance and better retention and better customer satisfaction.”

Workers who rely on tips would see their minimum hourly wage increase by about 70 percent, from $5.29 to $8.98, while other workers would get a 44 percent increase by 2020. The initiative states that “no more than $3.02 in tip income may be used to offset the minimum wage of employees who regularly receive tips.”

Colorado passed a constitutional amendment in 2006 that bumped the minimum wage to $6.85. It’s been raised according to inflation since then.  The federal minimum wage is $7.25 and has not been increased since 2009.

Colorado’s Republican legislators killed legislation this year to allow cities to raise the minimum wage.

News Abortion

Blackburn Punts on Next Steps in Anti-Choice Congressional Investigation

Christine Grimaldi

Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R-TN) deflected questions about targeting later abortion care in her interview with Rewire.

What are the next steps for the U.S. House of Representatives investigation into a market of aborted “baby body parts” that according to all other accounts—three other congressional committees, 13 states, and a Texas grand jury—doesn’t exist?

Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R-TN), the chair of the so-called Select Investigative Panel on Infant Lives, said she had not decided on the topic of the next hearing, nor whether to subpoena the leader of the anti-choice front group fueling the investigation.

“We’ll have something that we’ll look at in September, but no decisions [yet],” Blackburn said in a July 14 interview with Rewire.

Blackburn’s remarks followed a press conference coinciding with the one-year anniversary of the first Center for Medical Progress (CMP) videos that still serve as the basis for the $1.2 million investigation.

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“We’re continuing to pursue [options], we have a tremendous amount of information that has come through to us through whistleblowers and individuals, so we’ll continue to work,” she said.

Congress adjourned for a seven-week recess the day after Blackburn presented House Majority Whip Steve Scalise (R-LA) with the panel’s interim update, which repeats many of the same widely discredited allegations from CMP and other anti-choice groups cited in the document.

The panel will release a final report by the end of the year. That’s the only definitive next step in an investigation that started with allegedly falsified evidence of fetal tissue trafficking and pivoted in recent months to later abortion care, including subpoenaing a prominent provider and calling for a state-level criminal investigation of a university and abortion clinic supposedly in collusion.

Blackburn would not commit to subpoenaing David Daleiden, the CMP leader under felony indictment in Texas and the subject of lawsuits in California. Republicans’ interim update called Daleiden an “investigative journalist,” even though more than two dozen of the nation’s preeminent journalists and journalism scholars recently filed an amicus brief explaining why that isn’t so in the federal court case between CMP and the National Abortion Federation.

“I think it’s inappropriate to predetermine any decisions,” Blackburn said about the possibility of a Daleiden appearance before the panel. “We’re an investigative panel. We’re going go where the facts take us.”

The interim update indicates that the investigation will continue to focus on later abortion care. Blackburn, however, deflected questions about targeting later abortion care in her interview with Rewire.

Blackburn seemingly walked back the pledge she made at a faith-based conference last month to pursue contempt of Congress charges for “middle men” and their suppliers—“big abortion”—who she alleged have not cooperated with her subpoenas. Blackburn’s panel spokesperson previously told Rewire that the panel required the names of those involved in fetal tissue transactions and research in order to understand how things work.

Democrats have repeatedly objected to the subpoenas, escalating their concerns after Blackburn initially failed to redact researchers’ names and contact information in her call for a federal abortion inquiry.

“We’re going to pursue getting the truth and delivering a report that is factual, that is truthful, and can be utilized by the authorizing committees,” Blackburn said in response to a question about the contempt charges at the press conference.

Blackburn and her fellow Republicans had no such reservations about going after Democrats on the panel.  They accused Democrats of furnishing subpoena recipients with a memo to subvert requests for information. The final pages of the interim update includes a chart alleging the extent to which various organizations, hospitals, procurement companies, abortion providers, and others have or have not complied with the subpoenas.

Emails obtained by Rewire show a Democratic staffer refuting such accusations last month. Democrats produced their own status update for members, not a memo advising noncompliance for subpoena recipients, the staffer said in a June email to a Republican counterpart on the panel.