In Many States, Voters Reject Anti-Choice Ballot Initiatives

Emily Douglas

In Colorado, South Dakota, Washington, California and Michigan voters refused to put the government between Americans and their private life decisions.

In state after state today, voters rejected the opportunity to put the government squarely between individual Americans and their own private life decisions on issues at the beginning and end of life.  In South Dakota and California voters affirmed the rights of women and teens to make their own health care decisions. In Colorado voters rejected the notion that fertilized eggs should have individual human rights.  In Washington state, voters extended the right to make end-of-life decisions to those struggling with terminal illnesses.  In Michigan, a ballot measure to permit funding for embryonic stem cell research was approved by voters.

South Dakota’s ban would have outright banned abortion with nominal exceptions for rape, incest, and women’s health, the second time South Dakotans have voted on a sweeping abortion ban.  Again, the state voted it down, this time 55 to 45 percent. Coloradans overwhelmingly rejected, 74 to 26 percent, perhaps the most radical of the initiatives, one which would have extended rights of legal personhood to fertilized eggs, paving the way for a total ban on abortion, in-vitro fertilization, hormonal birth control, and having far-reaching and, by many accounts poorly-considered, medical and legal implications. "This rejection by voters of Amendment 48 sends a clear message: personal, private health care decisions should be made by women, their doctors, and their families, not by politicians," said PPFA President Cecile Richards in a statement. "We need government policies that improve access to health care, not take it away."

In Washington, voters overwhelmingly passed a Death with Dignity initiative to permit
those struggling with terminal illnesses to make their own end-of-life
decisions – with 54 percent of precinct reporting, the measure was
favored 59 to 41 percent. Washington’s law is based on Oregon’s
successful Death with Dignity law, one that has been in effect for more
than a decade and was upheld by the US Supreme Court in 2006. 

The California initiative, defeated for the third time, would have required teens to inform their parents before having
an abortion, unless the teen was willing to accuse her parents of abuse. Voters rejected that notion  53 to 47 percent, with 91 percent of precincts reporting.  In Michigan, expanded possibilities for medical research on
embryonic stem cells, giving hope to those suffering from chronic
illness and injuries; passing the measure 52 to 48 percent. 

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When the electorate rejects threats to women’s health, why do anti-choice groups keep coming back for more? Polls taken after an absolute ban on abortion lost decisively in the state in 2006 suggested South Dakotans might be more amenable to less sweeping abortion ban. So anti-choicers added so-called exceptions for rape, incest, and women’s health – but voters didn’t fall for it this time around, either. Meanwhile, two wealthy Californians have been behind all three parental notification initiatives.  "Apparently, [San Diego publisher James Holman and Sonoma winemaker Don Sebastiani] will continue pouring money into anti-abortion initiatives despite repeated messages from Californians that we wish to protect our privacy and our teenagers’ health," writes Maya Manian, reporting that by June 30 they had put up $2 million of the $2.3 million spent in support of Proposition 4.

Ballot measures sink millions into electoral battles when that money is desperately needed for prevention education, family planning or health care – issues we can all agree on. Yes for Life in South Dakota was attempting to ban abortion in a state that where abortion access is limited to one physician who flies in each week to provide abortion care.  We now have a pro-choice, pro-prevention, pro-education President who wants to work with those who oppose abortion rights to reduce the rate of unintended pregnancies and ensure reproductive justice and the right to parent with dignity for all women. Will anti-choice groups join us in the common ground?

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