Pro-lifers are certainly disappointed in the outcome of Tuesday’s presidential election. However, ballot measure dealing with sanctity-of-life issues fared well on election day. First Montana voters approved LR 120 by an nearly a 2 to 1 margin. LR 120 would require parental notification for a physician to perform an abortion on a minor 16 or younger. Past efforts to enact parental involvement laws in Montana have been stymied by the courts. However, hopefully this referendum will survive the inevitable court challenges.
In Massachusetts, Question 2 which would legalize physician assisted suicide was trailing 51 to 49 with 93 percent of the votes counted. Physician assisted suicide was approved by voters in Oregon, but has thankfully spread to few other states since then. It was approved by Washington state voters in 2008 Also the Montana supreme court effectively decriminalized physician assisted suicide in 2009 However, efforts to enact physician-assisted suicide at the ballot box failed in Michigan in 1998 and in Maine in 2000 Massachusetts pro-lifers received some help from some unexpected sources. The Boston Globe editorialized against Question 2 as did Ted Kennedy’s widow. The fact that an ideologically diverse coalition came together in Massachusetts should give pro-lifers hope.
The one bit of bad news for pro-lifers was the fact that Amendment 6 in Florida was defeated by a 55-45 margin. Amendment 6 would have prohibited the use of public funds for either abortions or health care coverage that would include abortions. This measure would have been a nice firewall preventing taxpayer subsidies of insurance plans available through Obamacare that included abortion. However, since Florida currently does not fund medically necessary abortions under Medicaid, this ballot proposal was probably the least important of the three.
The victories in Massachuetts and Montana are more important than many might realize. Historically, many pro-life leaders have disliked direct democracy. They felt that they were unable to raise the necessary resources to run effective statewide campaigns. Indeed, in the late 1990s efforts to ban partial-birth abortion in Colorado, Maine, and Washington were all unsuccessful. Past efforts to use the initiative to enact a parental involvement law in California also did not meet with success. The fact that pro-life ballot measures are enjoying more success in recent years is evidence of the gains the pro-life position has made in the court of public opinion.
Michael New is an assistant professor at The University of Michigan – Dearborn and an adjunct scholar at the Charlotte Lozier Institute. Follow him on Twitter @Michael_J_New