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Dear Antis: Voters Say No to Your Abortion Bans

by Cindy Cooper


The count is four to zero. Four times voters have been asked to consider anti-abortion ballot measures that would ban abortion in their states, and four out of four times the anti-abortion measures lost.

The most recent anti-abortion ballot measure to go down in flames was a "personhood" amendment in Colorado in November 2010. It lost by a vote of 70.5 percent opposed to the abortion ban, and only 29.5 percent who voted for it. But, as in the past, anti-abortion advocates prefer to ignore these facts.

This same measure was defeated as resoundingly in Colorado in 2008. That was the same year that the generally conservative voters in South Dakota went into their booths and rejected a state ban on abortion for the second time.

The message is clear: voters do not want abortion to be illegal.

It used to be three strikes and you're out.

Anti-abortion advocates are unable to admit -- or even acknowledge -- the stark defeats at the ballot box. They continue to mouth a worn-out line -- if only they were given a chance to vote, people would reject abortion at the ballot box. This is based on their belief that, somehow, the Supreme Court usurped their right to control women when it tossed out laws that made abortion a crime in Roe v. Wade in 1973.

This "if only" is exactly the line that conservative anti-abortion columnist Ross Douthat trotted out in the New York Times blog on November 24, 2010. He describes his hypothetical "deal" to solve the abortion debate: "Americans would merely get the opportunity to vote (his emphasis) on whether to restrict abortion before the third trimester. Ending Roe v. Wade, and returning abortion law to the sphere of democratic politics would be worth almost any concession or compromise on other issues," said Douthat.

Inside his sound tunnel, Douthat clearly thinks abortion would be rejected at the ballot box, but he is just as clearly not reading the news. Voters in two western, conservative to moderate states have had the only votes on abortion bans since 1973, and they said no thanks. In essence, they endorsed Roe v. Wade. This, despite highly financed, nationally supported anti-abortion campaigns, intended to set up a challenge to Roe in the courts.

This year, the Colorado "personhood" measure would have banned abortion in the first, second and third trimesters as Douthat wants. It was described on the ballot as: An amendment to the Colorado Constitution applying the term 'person' as used in those provisions of the Colorado Constitution relating to inalienable rights, equality of justice and due process of law, to every human being from the beginning of the biological development of that human being. In other words, it's the same old "right-to-life" amendment with a new name and marketing campaign.

The measure did not win in any county in the state that includes Colorado Springs, the home of the massive ultra-conservative Focus on the Family, which has an annual budget of over $100 million. In some counties, less than 15.4 percent of the people could bring themselves to vote for the idea of giving fertilized eggs constitutional rights, spurring The Colorado Independent to point out that nearly as many voted for a space alien commission.

The campaign for the Colorado personhood measure also lost in the 2008 election by an even bigger margin 73 percent to 27 percent. This year, without front woman Kristi Burton (now Kristi Burton Brown) from the 2008 campaign, the male campaign heads were reduced to using a cardboard cut-out of a woman in their offices to represent the female side of Personhood USA.

And this time, the personhood group abandoned its deceptive name from 2008 Coloradans for Equal Rights quite possibly because it was uncomfortably similar to a gay and lesbian advocacy group, Equal Rights Colorado. That still didn't stop "personhood" campaigner Gualberto Garcia Jones from usurping women's history in a TV debate. "My inspiration for this is women's suffrage, interestingly enough -- how it got the right to vote for women at a state-by-state level before the passage of the 19th Amendment," he said.

Of course, Personhood USA does have something of a different mission from the suffragists: "The Primary Mission of Personhood USA is to serve Jesus by being an Advocate for those who can not speak for themselves, the pre-born child."

Without regard to the punishing defeat at the polls and the costs to taxpayers, "personhood" will be on the Mississippi ballot in 2011, and Personhood USA is making plans for Colorado in 2012. And Kristi Burton Brown, still a fan and supporter, has a new blog called Lost Generation -- but apparently the irony is lost.

December 6, 2010

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Cindy Cooper is an independent journalist in New York City.

Also see Feminism Is As Feminism Does by Merle Hoffman in this edition of On The Issues Magazine.

Also see 'Abortion' as Right's Multipurpose Scare Word by Amanda Marcotte in this edition of On The Issues Magazine.


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