As the results rolled in from across the country, it became quickly apparent that Planned Parenthood was the biggest loser in the 2014 midterm elections. Despite spending a reported $15-20 million to defeat personhood and pro-personhood candidates, the personhood movement made significant gains with Colorado’s Amendment 67 and in tight battleground Senate races.
Let’s take a look at the highlights of the evening…
Colorado’s Amendment 67
In Colorado, more voters than ever before voted to defend innocent human life. By recognizing that unborn children in Colorado are people and should be considered victims of crime, 36% of voters acknowledged that Colorado's current laws do not sufficiently protect unborn children or pregnant women.
That represents an electoral gain of 10% since 2008, when the first personhood amendment was proposed in the state of Colorado. In 2010, the personhood amendment reached 30% support, which was about a 3% gain over the level of support from 2008. This year, Amendment 67 doubled that percentage increase with a 6% electoral gain over 2010.
Personhood USA and A Voice for Brady were outspent by about 1300 to 1, yet more than 650,000 voters affirmed personhood for the unborn—a record number for any total abortion ban ever. Planned Parenthood promised to spend at least $3.8 million to defeat Amendment 67 in Colorado, yet they lost ground at the polls to a “YES on 67” campaign that—according to the Colorado Secretary of State—only spent a reported $29,000.
Compare the support for shoe-string Amendment 67 campaign with another issue on the Colorado ballot this year: Amendment 68, which would have expanded gambling in the state by turning an old racetrack into a mega-casino. The pro-gambling campaign spent over $17 million, yet won only 29% of the vote. The success of Amendment 67 reaching 36% of the vote demonstrates the intensity of personhood’s grassroots support, despite fighting a David versus Goliath funding battle.
The obscene amount of money Planned Parenthood spent to defeat Amendment 67 will have crippling effects on their abortion business in the state. “We had to make the incredibly important investment to defeat them,” Cathy Alderman, vice president of public affairs for Planned Parenthood of the Rocky Mountains, told RH Reality Check.
After fighting personhood in 2010, Planned Parenthood was forced to shut down two chemical-abortion clinics in Colorado for budgetary reasons. They blamed Personhood for draining their resources by continually bringing the issue to a vote.
The raw increase in votes for personhood in Colorado indicates that Planned Parenthood’s lies are losing their effect. Voters are beginning to see through their scare tactics about “criminalizing miscarriage” and “banning contraception.” The bottom line is that people’s minds have been changed on the issue of abortion because of Amendment 67.
Tennessee’s Amendment 1
In Tennessee, pro-life activists succeeded in passing Amendment 1, which states that:
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.
The amendment appropriately recognizes that the Tennessee state constitution does not contain a fundamental right to abortion, for indeed, we know that no state possesses the authority to legalize the killing of unborn children. By passing Amendment 1, Tennessee voters stood up against judicial tyranny which sought to impose abortion on the pro-life state and entrench unrestricted abortion in their state constitution. More importantly, Amendment 1 recognizes that Tennessee retains the authority to recognize the personhoood of the preborn.
This will be a step toward protecting the personhood of all unborn children, regardless of the circumstances of their conception. Judges in the state of Tennessee should use this opportunity to affirm Tennessee’s right to recognize personhood. It’s time for Tennessee to stand up against federal judicial tyranny imposing abortion on their state as well.
North Dakota’s Measure 1
Despite being vastly outspent by the abortion lobby, grassroots North Dakotans still managed to win 36% of the vote for Measure 1, a human life amendment. Early polling looked very strong for Measure 1, showing up to 50% support in some surveys. In the last days before the election, however, many undecided voters swung against the amendment, thanks to radical out-of-state abortion groups, which spent at least $2 million to drown out the voices of pro-life North Dakotans and confuse the issue.
Nevertheless, this is a benchmark for North Dakota to build upon in future elections.
Personhood vs. “War On Women” Rhetoric
Planned Parenthood was a clear loser in races that fixated on phony “war on women” rhetoric. Sandra Fluke’s flop in California was only the beginning: nearly all the U.S. Senate candidates who were viciously targeted for their support for personhood (whether real or perceived) won at the ballot box.
In Texas, Greg Abbott—who opposes abortion in all cases, including rape and incest—trounced rabid abortion-supporter Wendy Davis by a vote of 59.3% to 38.9%. In North Carolina, personhood proponent Thom Tillis edged out Kay Hagan. But perhaps most significant is the tale of two Senate candidates: Iowa’s Joni Ernst and Colorado’s Cory Gardner.
Despite building his political career on the backs of personhood activists, Cory Gardner repudiated the Colorado personhood amendment early on in his Senate campaign. The liberal media and pro-life critics alike blasted Gardner’s flip-flop on the issue as a disingenuous election-year stunt and a transparent attempt to win the moderate vote.
Joni Ernst, however, refused to back down from her support for personhood. She stood by the Iowa personhood amendment, telling media that “It’s not a mistake, it’s stating that I do believe in life. I will never say that’s a mistake because, again, I am someone who is always going to promote life.”
“Joni Ernst didn’t just say she was pro-life, she actually had the courage to act pro-life,” said Keith Mason, President of Personhood USA. “After all, supporting personhood rights for the unborn is what it means to be pro-life. By doubling down on her support for personhood and energizing her pro-life base, she was able to win her race by a wide margin.”
Last night, Joni Ernst soundly defeated her pro-abortion opponent Bruce Braley by 52.2% to 43.7%—nearly a 10% spread. Cory Gardner also won his election, but by a much narrower margin: Gardner beat incumbent Mark Udall by only 5%.
Perhaps one reason behind Gardner’s narrow success is that many voters were still confused about whether he supported personhood or not. Senator Udall and the media focused on Gardner’s continued sponsorship of the federal “Life At Conception Act,” insisting that he still supported personhood and repeating the tired-out lie that Gardner wanted to ban birth control. NARAL even ran an outlandish radio ad predicting condom shortages if Gardner was elected.
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The ultimate takeaway of the Colorado Senate race was that Gardner’s past support and perceived current support for personhood did not hurt him in the election, though his back-tracking on issue may have.
“The margin by which Gardner defeated Udall was similar to the margin by which personhood increased its support this year with Amendment 67,” Keith Mason told LifeSiteNews. “Without that pro-life surge, it’s unclear whether Gardner would’ve survived his race with Udall. Even though he backstabbed personhood, the byproduct of personhood’s presence on the ballot increased the pro-life vote that ultimately secured his victory.”
While Gardner eked by after turning his back on Colorado’s pro-life constituency, Ernst’s unapologetic strategy reaped major dividends. Her victory sends a clear message to GOP Presidential hopefuls looking to Iowa for 2016. The grassroots base in Iowa are solidly behind a candidate who stands with personhood. The situation in the key primary state of South Carolina is similar: in June, a personhood resolution on the South Carolina GOP ballot won by a landslide with 79% support from voters.
Outlook For The Future
The 2014 election proves that the personhood strategy has transformed the conversation about abortion in America. A pre-election MSNBC spotlight noted that, “In only six years, the Personhood movement has utterly changed the contours of the debate over reproductive rights. In a way, even as they lose again and again, they’ve already won.”
Although personhood referendums have thus far fallen short of passing, pro-personhood candidates are making strides across the nation, even in purple, battleground states.
Personhood supporters can take inspiration from the women’s suffrage movement, which toiled for equal civil rights more than one century ago. In 1867, the nation’s first women’s suffrage referendum, held in Utah, lost by a large margin. A similar referendum was voted down in Kansas. In 1876, a petition to Colorado’s Constitutional Convention for equal suffrage was rejected and a popular referendum also went down to defeat the following year. It would be easy to get discouraged after facing so many lopsided defeats, right?
South Dakota is the perfect case-study for repeatedly introducing referenda to initiate social change. Suffragettes attempted to enfranchise women in 1890, 1894, and 1898. Each time, the referendums were shot down; yet each time, the suffragettes increased their percentage of the vote. After the 1898 election, the suffragettes allowed discouragement to deter them from their immediate goal of women’s suffrage.
The suffragettes attempted other incremental steps until 1910 when the movement again attempted a popular referendum. It failed again and received fewer votes than in 1898. Undeterred, they tried again in 1914, 1916, and 1918. But by that time the social movement had built up to a watershed moment. Women’s suffrage finally came to South Dakota by a vote of 63%.
The personhood movement cannot be deterred by losses. They are part of the natural progression of a successful social movement for human rights. The key is to remember that victories are measured over decades, not single election cycles.
Suffragette Carrie Chapman Catt observed that the effort to pass the 19th Amendment required “fifty-two years of pauseless campaign. … During that time they were forced to conduct 56 campaigns of referenda to male voters; 480 campaigns to get Legislatures to submit suffrage amendments to voters; 47 campaigns to get State constitutional conventions to write woman suffrage into state constitutions; 277 campaigns to get State party conventions to include woman suffrage planks in party platforms, and 19 campaigns with 19 successive Congresses.”
Our radical abortion opponents see the parallels: “The Personhood USA folks know that 12 losses will be erased by a single win,” NARAL President Ilyse Hogue told the Denver Post. “Everybody forgets about the losses. That’s why they keep coming back, and why they keep coming back in a state like Colorado. … [Amendment 67 backers] also are doubling down on resources, and they learn from each battle.”
Today is a day for personhood supporters to celebrate. Tomorrow, we begin anew.