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No victories on pro-life initiatives

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (BP)–Voters in five states cast their ballots Tuesday on measures dealing with life issues, but pro-lifers came up short in all five cases.

California and South Dakota voted down ballot initiatives concerning abortion while Colorado defeated a constitutional amendment granting legal protections to “any human being from the moment of conception.”

Michigan voters approved a constitutional amendment allowing embryonic stem cell research. In Washington state, voters passed an assisted suicide initiative permitting doctors to prescribe lethal doses of medication for terminally ill patients.

South Dakota’s Measure 11 would have criminalized abortion unless done in cases of rape or incest or to save the life the mother. It also contained a health exception as long as it pertained to a “substantial and irreversible” physical impairment to a major organ. Early Wednesday the measure was trailing 55-45 with 736 of 799 precincts reporting. The defeat marks the second election in a row where South Dakota voters rejected an abortion ban. A 2006 ban did not include rape, incest or health exceptions.

Leslee Unruh, campaign manager for VoteYesForLife.com, the main organization backing Measure 11, told Baptist Press that a major cause of the defeat was division in the pro-life camp.

Some pro-lifers argued that timing of Measure 11 was not right as an attempt to overturn Roe v. Wade because there aren’t enough justices on the Supreme Court opposing Roe.

“What happened in South Dakota last night really gave a huge clarion call to the pro-life community that before we are going to do anything to save unborn children, we first have to get our own act together,” she said.

The defeat, however, will not discourage South Dakota pro-lifers from taking action again in the future, Unruh said.

“We fought a really good fight and we’re not going to stop,” she said. “I’m not going to stop.”

California Proposition 4 would have required doctors to notify parents or family members before performing abortions on unwed minors. Wednesday morning the proposition was trailing 52-48 with nearly 96 percent of precincts reporting.

The defeat marks the third time Californians have voted down parental notification proposals.

A spokesman for the Yes on 4 campaign told BP the defeat was due largely to Planned Parenthood spending millions of dollars in advertising to protect its ability to perform secret abortions. He said Planned Parenthood outspent proponents of the measure by a 5-to-1 margin. Secret abortions allow older men to prey on young girls without parents or authorities knowing, the spokesman said.

“It would pass very easily except for one thing. There is an organization in the state which profits from protecting sexual predators of girls by making available secret abortions to cover up their crimes,” Albin Rhomberg said of Planned Parenthood.

Opponents argued that mandating parental notification could endanger teens living in abusive homes. Supporters countered by saying the proposal contained a section allowing such a girl to notify a family member, or a judge, instead.

Rhomberg also said a lack of attention and funds from pro-family organizations contributed to the defeat.

Proposition 8, California’s constitutional amendment to ban “gay marriage,” “seized almost all of the attention and resources and funds for the pro-life/pro-family side,” he said.

Advocates of a parental notification law are optimistic about the future, Rhomberg said, because polls show that 70 percent of Californians favor parental notification.

“We’re, of course, disappointed,” he said. “But we know that this campaign has done a great deal of good because it’s exposed to the public this really terrible situation…. The public has to be first alerted and aware of that this is going on. Then they can vote appropriately.”

In Michigan, 52 percent of voters supported Proposal 2 with 87 percent of precincts reporting. The constitutional amendment will overturn current state law that prohibits embryonic stem cell research.

Opponents, who have coalesced under an organization called Michigan Citizens Against Unrestricted Science and Experimentation (MICAUSE), argued that the amendment would result in unrestricted, unregulated science in the state. The argument was a unique turn in the stem cell debate, which often focuses on whether embryonic stem cells or adult stem cells are more promising.

Last year voters in New Jersey defeated a constitutional amendment that would have funded embryonic stem cell research. Michigan pro-lifers had hoped to achieve similar success.

“We’re obviously going to wait for the final results, but the trends don’t look good,” Dave Doyle, a MICAUSE spokesman, told the Detroit Free Press.

Colorado voters defeated Amendment 48 — known as the Personhood Amendment — by a 3-to-1 margin. Supporters said the amendment would have made Colorado the first state to guarantee life, liberty and due process of law to pre-born children.

“Just getting our message out there was important,” Kristi Burton, a leading proponent of the amendment told the Denver Post. “We’re going to push forward with personhood. There are other states that want to try this. We’re going to keep going.”

A new pro-life organization, Personhood USA, plans to assist local pro-life groups in various states to place personhood amendments on their state ballots.

Washington’s Initiative 1000 passed behind the strength of supporters raising $4.9 million compared with the $1.6 million raised by opponents.

Like Oregon’s assisted-suicide law, Initiative 1000 will allow doctors to prescribe but not administer lethal doses of medication.

Abortion rights organizations supported Initiative 1000. Planned Parenthood of Washington and NARAL Pro-Choice Washington endorsed the initiative in a joint e-mail, LifeNews.com reported Oct. 20. The National Organization for Women, also supportive of abortion rights, endorsed the proposal as well.

Eileen Geller, campaign coordinator for the Coalition Against Assisted Suicide, told the Seattle Times, “Clearly we know it’s a bad law. We spoke out against I-1000 because we think it’s dangerous. It puts low-income and vulnerable people at risk.”
David Roach is a freelance writer who lives in Louisville, Ky.