News Abortion

North Dakota Set To Be First State to Pass Radical ‘Personhood’ Amendment

Teddy Wilson

Anti-choice ballot initiatives in Colorado and Tennessee have gained national headlines, but a ballot initiative in North Dakota that would have significant consequences for women’s reproductive rights has gotten far less attention.

Read more of our articles on North Dakota Measure 1 here.

Anti-choice ballot initiatives in Colorado and Tennessee have gained national headlines, but a ballot initiative in North Dakota that would have significant consequences for women’s reproductive rights has gotten far less attention.

Measure 1, if approved by voters, would amend the state constitution to read that the “inalienable right to life of every human being at any stage of development must be recognized and protected.” North Dakota would join Missouri as the only states with constitutions that define life as beginning at conception—North Dakota would be the first to do so through a constitutional amendment approved by the voters.

Measure 1, known as the “Life Begins at Conception” Amendment, would give constitutional rights to fertilized eggs, embryos, and fetuses, and would ban abortion, birth control pills, intrauterine devices (IUDs), and emergency contraception.

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It could also eliminate certain medical procedures such as cancer treatments and in vitro fertilization. Women who miscarry may be subject to police investigations to determine if their actions were the cause.

The latest polling shows that 49.9 percent of those surveyed would vote to approve the ballot measure. The poll was conducted by the University of North Dakota (UND) College of Business and Public Administration, and surveyed 505 likely voters in the state. The pool has a margin of error of plus or minus 5 percent.

Robert Wood, a professor of political science at UND who helped conduct the poll, told the Forum News Service that for the measure to be defeated, all of the 17 percent of undecided voters would have to break against the measure. “By and large, there are not that many undecideds on this particular measure,” he said.

Similar so-called personhood amendments have been on the ballot three times in other states: voters rejected the amendments in Mississippi in 2011 and in Colorado in 2008 and 2010.

Recent polling shows that this year’s Colorado personhood ballot initiative shows that the measure isn’t likely to pass, with only 37 percent of survey respondents in support of the amendment.

The ballot measure is a legislatively referred constitutional amendment, which means that state lawmakers voted to place the amendment on the ballot. The state legislature passed SCR 4009 in March 2013. It was passed narrowly in the senate by a 26-21 vote, and then overwhelmingly in the house by a 57-35 vote.

Proponents of the measure made no secret of its true intent. “This amendment is intended to present a direct challenge to Roe v. Wade,” state Sen. Margaret Sitte (R-Bismarck) said during the senate floor debate.

Abortion is already highly regulated in the state, and access is extremely limited. Fargo’s Red River Women’s Clinic is the only clinic that provides abortion care in the state, and it subject to significant regulation.

The state legislature passed multiple laws restricting abortion access during the 2013 legislative session. State lawmakers passed SB 2368, the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act, and HB 1456, the Human Heartbeat Protection Act; both have been blocked by the courts and are being litigated.

Supporters of the measure have raised more than $577,000 in campaign contributions, including $186,000 in contributions from the North Dakota Catholic Conference. Opponents have raised more than $815,000 in campaign contributions, the vast majority coming from the Planned Parenthood Action Fund in North Dakota, South Dakota and Minnesota.

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

Study: United States a ‘Stark Outlier’ in Countries With Legal Abortion, Thanks to Hyde Amendment

Nicole Knight Shine

The study's lead author said the United States' public-funding restriction makes it a "stark outlier among countries where abortion is legal—especially among high-income nations."

The vast majority of countries pay for abortion care, making the United States a global outlier and putting it on par with the former Soviet republic of Kyrgyzstan and a handful of Balkan States, a new study in the journal Contraception finds.

A team of researchers conducted two rounds of surveys between 2011 and 2014 in 80 countries where abortion care is legal. They found that 59 countries, or 74 percent of those surveyed, either fully or partially cover terminations using public funding. The United States was one of only ten countries that limits federal funding for abortion care to exceptional cases, such as rape, incest, or life endangerment.

Among the 40 “high-income” countries included in the survey, 31 provided full or partial funding for abortion care—something the United States does not do.

Dr. Daniel Grossman, lead author and director of Advancing New Standards in Reproductive Health (ANSIRH) at the University of California (UC) San Francisco, said in a statement announcing the findings that this country’s public-funding restriction makes it a “stark outlier among countries where abortion is legal—especially among high-income nations.”

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The researchers call on policymakers to make affordable health care a priority.

The federal Hyde Amendment (first passed in 1976 and reauthorized every year thereafter) bans the use of federal dollars for abortion care, except for cases of rape, incest, or life endangerment. Seventeen states, as the researchers note, bridge this gap by spending state money on terminations for low-income residents. Of the 14.1 million women enrolled in Medicaid, fewer than half, or 6.7 million, live in states that cover abortion services with state funds.

This funding gap delays abortion care for some people with limited means, who need time to raise money for the procedure, researchers note.

As Jamila Taylor and Yamani Hernandez wrote last year for Rewire, “We have heard first-person accounts of low-income women selling their belongings, going hungry for weeks as they save up their grocery money, or risking eviction by using their rent money to pay for an abortion, because of the Hyde Amendment.”

Public insurance coverage of abortion remains controversial in the United States despite “evidence that cost may create a barrier to access,” the authors observe.

“Women in the US, including those with low incomes, should have access to the highest quality of care, including the full range of reproductive health services,” Grossman said in the statement. “This research indicates there is a global consensus that abortion care should be covered like other health care.”

Earlier research indicated that U.S. women attempting to self-induce abortion cited high cost as a reason.

The team of ANSIRH researchers and Ibis Reproductive Health uncovered a bit of good news, finding that some countries are loosening abortion laws and paying for the procedures.

“Uruguay, as well as Mexico City,” as co-author Kate Grindlay from Ibis Reproductive Health noted in a press release, “legalized abortion in the first trimester in the past decade, and in both cases the service is available free of charge in public hospitals or covered by national insurance.”