One in three: Pro-life ballot measures lose, and win, and lose nationwide

Only one of the three pro-life ballot measures that were on state ballots nationwide last night passed.
Wed Nov 5, 2014 - 5:46 pm EST
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Spirit of America /

Two out of three ain't good. That's the lesson from last night's elections, as only one of the three pro-life ballot measures that were on state ballots nationwide last night passed.

Two so-called “personhood” measures failed in North Dakota and Colorado by identical margins, nearly two-to-one (36 percent in favor and 64 percent opposed in each case).

North Dakota Measure 1

North Dakota's Measure 1, which would have amended the state constitution to affirm that "the inalienable right to every human being at any stage of development must be recognized and protected,” represented the most radical reversal in pro-life fortunes of the midterm election cycle.

Polls had shown the measure poised to pass before the election. A poll conducted last month found that 50 percent of voters planned to support the measure, while only 33 percent opposed it and 17 percent were undecided. It also found that people aged 18-30 were the most likely to support it, with 62 percent of that demographic supporting the so-called personhood measure.

Another poll released on October 24, commissioned by the Say Anything Blog and Valley News Live, found 45 percent in favor of Measure 1 and 39 percent opposed with 19 percent unsure.

Ultimately, the undecideds and some of those who favored the amendment abandoned it, largely alienated by arguments made by North Dakotans Against Measure 1. The coalition argued the amendment would prevent certain forms of birth control, in vitro fertilization, and end-of-life decisions.

The group's largest contributor was Planned Parenthood, receiving tens of thousands of dollars from Planned Parenthood chapters in California, New England, Montana, Illinois, and Utah.

“The defeat of Measure 1 was an incredible team effort by North Dakotans across our state,” the group said after its victory. “The defeat of Measure 1 is a win for North Dakota families.”

While the group supporting the effort, ND Choose Life, said it was “very disappointed,” the tactics and tenor of the campaign gave its members hope. “The abortion industry was forced to completely distance themselves from their own agenda of abortion on demand, and run a totally dishonest campaign on non-issues such as end of life care and IVF procedures. By misleading North Dakotans about alleged impacts on these other issues, Planned Parenthood and their front group NDAM1 showed that their position on abortion expansion is not defensible.”

Colorado Amendment 67

Coloradans turned back Amendment 67, dubbed The Brady Amendment in honor of Brady Surovik, a child killed by a drunk driver just weeks before his birth. The driver was not charged with his death.

Amendment 67 would have stated that “the words 'person' and 'child' in the Colorado Criminal Code and the Colorado Wrongful Death Act must include unborn human beings.” It did not define when life begins nor affect the definition of person in other legislation. But the measure failed by a steep margin.

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"Voters in Colorado have, for the third time, seen through an attempt to advance an extreme measure that wouldn’t just ban abortion, but potentially throw women and their doctors behind bars for obtaining or providing many basic reproductive health care services including contraception and fertility treatments," Nancy Northup, president and CEO of the Center for Reproductive Rights, said in a statement.

Despite the failure, the measure garnered 650,000 votes, a record high for a personhood initiative.

Tennessee Amendment 1

Voters in Tennessee overcame a case of judicial activism 14 years after the fact by passing Amendment 1 by six percentage points, 53-47.

In 2000, the state Supreme Court struck down a series of popular pro-life regulations – including a 48-hour waiting period and a requirement that women prove they live in the state – in Planned Parenthood v. Sundquist, holding that the state constitution forbids such laws. As a result, the conservative state has the region's most liberal abortion regulations.

Amendment 1 states: “Nothing in this Constitution secures or protects a right to abortion or requires the funding of an abortion. The people retain the right through their elected state representatives and state senators to enact, amend, or repeal statutes regarding abortion, including, but not limited to, circumstances of pregnancy resulting from rape or incest or when necessary to save the life of the mother.”

In addition to the state's pro-life movement and Republican political leadership from Governor Bill Haslam to Senator Lamar Alexander (both of whom won re-election last night), the amendment attracted the strong support of the Duggar family and NASCAR legend Darrell Waltrip.

“Since the extremely liberal state Supreme Court ruled in 2000 that the state of Tennessee cannot put any regulations on abortion, Tennessee has become an abortion procedure destination,” Michelle Duggar said. Nearly a quarter of all abortions in Tennessee are performed on women from another state.

The amendment in itself does not restrict any abortion procedure or funding but clearly confers such authority on the state legislature, portending future battles to come.

Organizers with Yes on 1 thanked their supporters after their triumph.

“With God's help, we did it! Thank you pro-life Tennessee for standing tall in the face of enormous odds and challenge. History will be different because of your efforts and sacrifice.”

  colorado, judicial activism, north dakota, personhood, tennessee