Voters around the country yesterday demonstrated their aversion to extreme abortion positions. In South Dakota, they resoundly rejected the most radical abortion ban proposed in the states since the landmark Roe v. Wade decision in 1973. Introduced as a direct challenge to Roe, the law would have banned abortion in all circumstances unless it was necessary to prevent the death of the pregnant woman. South Dakotans voted against the ban by a margin of 56 to 44 percent.
Voters also rejected harmful parental notification laws in California and Oregon. They recognized that the laws regulating minors’ access to abortion would interfere with teens receiving timely medical care and put the most vulnerable youth in harm’s way. The law proposed in California was virtually identical to one that voters rejected last year as well.
Kansans elected a new Attorney General, Paul Morrison, and sent the incumbent Phill Kline packing. Kline routinely abused the authority of his office to pursue a personal, extreme anti-abortion agenda, including a long-fought battle to obtain the private medical records of abortion patients. Once those records were in his possession, sensitive information from them was leaked to Fox News’s Bill O’Reilly.
Voters have sent a clear message that enough is enough. Although many Americans have mixed feelings about abortion, they understand that criminalizing it, making it more difficult or riskier to obtain, and subjecting doctors and patients to witch hunts, are not effective solutions. What is needed is better access to contraception, comprehensive and medically accurate sexuality education, a reduction in sexual violence, and practical supports for women who want to continue unintended pregnancies but lack the resources to do so.
We also must begin to view abortion in context and address people’s other reproductive and sexual health needs. Instead of continuing a divisive and entrenched debate over abortion, we should seek ways to help people become parents when they are ready to do so, have healthy pregnancies and relationships, and build loving and secure families of all kinds.
For a comprehensive view of reproductive rights, see the Center’s report:
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Director, Women's Health & Rights Program