Culture war initiatives

CULTURE WAR INITIATIVES…. It’s tough to cover every key race, but I’d be remiss if I neglected to mention three statewide initiatives on culture-war issues, one of which was a painful disappointments.

First, voters in South Dakota considered a ballot initiative that would have forced women to carry pregnancies to term against their will at the risk of their physical and psychological health. Two years ago, a nearly identical measure failed. Yesterday, it failed again.

It was a revised version of a high-profile proposed abortion ban — even in cases of rape and incest — that South Dakota voters had rejected by a 10-point margin in 2006. Proponents hoped that they could secure passage this year by providing exceptions for rape and incest.

But opponents argued the exceptions were still too narrow — abortions were only permissible if the woman identified her assailant and proved paternity through DNA testing, or if a doctor found the mother faced possible organ failure if the pregnancy came to term.

“South Dakotans have affirmed by their votes tonight that no vague law can account for every individual circumstance. And that is precisely why women and families, not the government, should make these personal healthcare decisions,” said Sarah Stoesz, President and CEO of Planned Parenthood Minnesota, North Dakota, South Dakota.

Proponents vowed to try again to outlaw abortion in the 2010 election. “We’re coming back,” said Leslee Unruh, an anti-abortion activist and prime proponent of the ban.

Second, a draconian measure was on the ballot in Colorado, which was trounced despite far-right support.

The initiative would have defined a fertilized egg as a legal human being, which opponents and some proponents said could ban abortion and other activities such as in vitro fertilization and certain forms of birth control.

And third, the nation’s most high-profile initiative was Proposition 8 in California, a ban on gay marriage. Unfortunately, as of this afternoon, it appears to have passed. What about the 18,000 legally married couples who are suddenly caught in a legal limbo? No one knows.

Support for same-sex marriage has obviously grown in California, but just not quite enough. As Scott Lemieux concluded, “It’s enormously likely that Prop 8 is just temporarily delaying the inevitable — but that’s little consolation to the Californians who have once again been stripped of their fundamental rights.”