A pro-life amendment sailed to victory in Tennessee on Tuesday, but two other pro-life measures were soundly defeated by voters in North Dakota and Colorado.
The defeats showed the difficulties of trying to pass laws declaring that human beings have rights from conception to death.
However, pro-life and traditional values leaders took note that almost all the new Republicans elected Tuesday are strongly pro-life — which bodes well for their top short-term goal of passing a federal law outlawing most abortions after five months’ gestation.
“The bottom has fallen out of the abortion-centered ‘war on women’ strategy,” Marjorie Dannenfelser, president of the Susan B. Anthony List and Women Speak Out PAC, told a press conference Wednesday with other conservative leaders. “In January, this will be the most pro-life Congress since Roe v. Wade,” added Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council.
Abortion was on the ballot in Tennessee, and despite a huge financial disadvantage, supporters were able to produce a 53 percent-to-47 percent victory for Amendment 1, which overturns a state Supreme Court ruling that abortion is a fundamental right.
“We are grateful to God and to the good people of Tennessee for this victory,” said Brian Harris, president of Tennessee Right to Life and a coordinator with Yes on 1.
Although opponents spent $4 million to supporters’ $1.5 million, a long-standing education campaign on the issue helped voters make up their minds, said Mr. Harris. “The people of Tennessee saw through the falsehoods and made their voices heard,” he said.
The Tennessee amendment is intended to advise the Tennessee Supreme Court that there is “nothing” in the state constitution that “secures or protects a right to abortion” or “requires the funding of an abortion.”
It further says that “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.”
State lawmakers have felt constrained in writing abortion bills since a 2000 Tennessee Supreme Court ruling in Planned Parenthood v. Sundquist found a fundamental right to abortion in the state constitution. Pro-life groups say Tennessee has since become a destination for abortions for women who live in neighboring states that have stricter abortion laws.
Pro-choice advocates lamented the loss in Tennessee but took comfort in the decisive, 64 percent-to-36 percent defeats suffered by both Measure 1 in North Dakota and Amendment 67 in Colorado.
“North Dakotans saw through right-wing extremists’ attempts to insert a highly controversial measure into the state’s constitution that would have robbed North Dakota women of their inalienable rights to their own body and their own lives,” said Ilyse Hogue, president of NARAL Pro-Choice, one of the groups that fought Measure 1.
It “could have affected women’s access to many health care services, including birth control and in vitro fertilization,” Ms. Hogue said.
ND Choose Life, which supported Measure 1, said they were “very disappointed” in the vote, but took heart that pro-choice groups were “forced” to stop defending abortion, and instead fought the bill with arguments about end-of-life care and in vitro fertilization.
“We are in a much better position to craft new language for a future constitutional amendment that puts to rest all of the side issues relied upon by our opponents,” ND Choose Life said.
Meanwhile, in Colorado, voters stopped an amendment that would have declared that unborn children were persons in wrongful death cases.
“Colorado voters have a longstanding, mainstream belief in supporting abortion rights and reproductive health care, and we saw that belief in action with the defeat of Amendment 67,” said Karen Middleton, executive director of NARAL Pro-Choice Colorado.
Supporters had cast Amendment 67 as a “voice for Brady,” referring to an 8-month-old unborn boy who was killed in a car accident by a drunk driver. The driver could not be charged with Brady’s death because the unborn child was not considered a legal person.
However, Colorado voters — who have already rejected two “personhood” measures in recent years — didn’t see it that way.
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