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Parental notification abortion vote seen as positive sign in Colorado

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (BP)–Attempts to outlaw partial-birth abortion in two western states were turned back by voters Nov. 3. But Christian groups are hailing the passage of a Colorado initiative requiring parental notification before a girl under 18 can have an abortion.
“This is nothing to sneeze at,” said Carrie Gordon, bioethics analyst for Focus on the Family, based in Colorado Springs. “Colorado was one of the first states to legalize abortion before Roe v. Wade. To ratify parental notification is a significant win and it should stand up in court.”
Mary Spaulding Balch, director of the department of state legislation for Right to Life’s Washington, D.C., office, also hailed the law’s passage.
That coupled with the close loss for the partial-birth ban demonstrate that the organization’s message is penetrating the public’s consciousness, Balch said.
“Washington and Colorado haven’t been good states for us,” she said. “We haven’t had a good chance at passing legislation there.”
Balch said adopting parental notification indicates Americans are not as radical on abortion as the pro-choice camp tries to argue.
Generally, she said, the public doesn’t believe in unfettered access to abortion. Polls consistently show support of at least 75 percent for parental consent and “informed choice” laws that require disclosure about the procedure, she added.
The Colorado Pro-Life Alliance raised $355,000 to support both measures, slightly more than the opposition. Gary Rogers, spokesman for the group, told the Denver Post they were excited about Amendment 12’s passage.
“A majority of Coloradans desire common-sense limitations on abortion,” he said.
However, Fofi Mendez, a spokeswoman for Protect Families/ Protect Choice, told the Post they would continue to fight the measure.
“We’re very disappointed and we’re very concerned the proponents ran an extremely deceptive campaign on Amendment 12,” she said.
The partial-birth abortion ban lost 52-48 percent, with 633,943 voting against, 595,447 for, with nearly all precincts counted. The parental notification measure won by 55-45 percent, with 698,395 for, 571,961 against.
It was a different story in Washington, where Initiative 694 went down to a resounding defeat. The Seattle Times reported the referendum trailing by a 57-43 percent gap, as of 11 a.m. Eastern time Nov. 4. Votes against the proposal totaled nearly 777,000, while the “yes” side had gathered just 595,000.
Larry Stickney, campaign manager for the Committee to Stop Infanticide, said the measure was swamped by intense media opposition and a Democratic takeover of the statehouse and state senate.
In addition, “No 694” raised nearly $1 million — including a $400,000 donation from Planned Parenthood — compared to just $180,000 for proponents, Stickney said.
“Maybe we’re entering a new day in Washington,” he said. “Maybe people are buying everything the media tells them. This is a crushing defeat.”
The largest newspaper in the state, the Times, spoke out strongly against the measure, both editorially and in various columns. Only one daily paper spoke in favor of the referendum.
Stickney said the ad hoc organization that organized the petition drive to put I 694 on the ballot was largely composed of Christians and Catholics.
Numerous Southern Baptist churches were included in the effort, he said. The group formed around the leadership of Heritage Baptist Church, an independent congregation in Monroe, Wash.
Committee members will be meeting Nov. 6 to discuss their next step. The campaign manager hopes it will remain alive.
“Medical marijuana failed two years ago and it came back and won Tuesday night,” he said. “So you can come back and win on these issues.”
Despite the two failures to ban the partial-birth procedure, Right to Life’s Balch said other state legislatures will continue trying to pass such laws.
North Carolina lawmakers are still in session and will consider it, according to the legislative director.
In addition, she said California, New York, North Dakota, New Mexico and Wyoming are expected to attempt to pass it during 1999.
While 25 states have passed these bans, court tests have scuttled enforcement in 20, she said.
“From our perspective, it’s surprising that they haven’t challenged the five that are in effect,” she said. “When we passed parental notification, it was challenged immediately. It was the same with a woman’s right to know.”
Christian ethics professor Ben Mitchell said the defeat of partial-birth abortion bans shows that partisan politics and rhetoric influence the public more than the issue’s merits.
However, the adoption of parental notification in Colorado is an illustration that right to life issues must be pursued vigorously in every state, Mitchell said.
“Vigilance is the message of this election,” said the assistant professor at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Ky., and consultant to the Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission. “We need to continue contending for life.
“It’s not going to be over soon. We’ve had three or four decades of idolatry of self and it’s taking awhile to bring down the icons,” Mitchell said.

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  • Ken Walker