The Corner

Life on the Ballot

In addition to the presidential election tomorrow, there are three state-level ballot propositions that should be of interest to pro-life voters. First, in Montana, voters will have the opportunity to support Legislative Referendum 120, which would require parental notice before an abortion can be performed on a minor under the age of 16. Parental involvement laws are among the most popular types of pro-life legislation, and are in effect in approximately 39 states.

Montana is the only “red” state which does not have some sort of parental involvement law in effect. Unfortunately, past efforts to enact such a law have not met with success. Montana first enacted a parental involvement law in 1974 that was briefly enforced, but was struck down by the state judiciary after a series of legal challenges. In 2011. Governor Schweitzer vetoed a parental-notice bill purportedly on state-constitutional law grounds. On Tuesday, Montana voters will have a unique opportunity to support Legislative Referendum 120 and both protect minor girls and their unborn children.

Second, voters in Florida will have a chance to support Amendment 6, which would prohibit the use of public funds for either abortions or health care coverage that would include abortions. As such, under Obamacare, the state would not subsidize insurance plans that would cover abortion. Amendment 6 would also prohibit interpretation of “privacy rights” in the state constitution from creating a broader right to an abortion. In 1989 the Florida Supreme Court struck down a parental-consent bill because it violated minor’s privacy rights that were contained in the state constitution. Even though Florida has a parental-notice law in effect, supporters of Amendment 6 argue it could allow for a parental-consent legislation to be enacted in Florida in the future.

Finally, voters in Massaschuetts will have the opportunity to vote on Question 2, which would legalize physician-assisted suicide in the Bay State. Physician-assisted suicide was first approved by Oregon voters in 1994, but has spread to only Washington and Montana since that time My Lozier Institute colleague Jacqueline Harvey has drafted a fine paper detailing the numerous problems with physician-assisted suicide in Oregon including denial of palliative-care coverage, adverse impact on the disabled, and mistaken diagnoses. A diverse coalition of pro-life activists and advocates for the disabled have been aggressively campaigning against Question 2, and polls indicate that support for the measure is decreasing. Even the Boston Globe editorialized against Question 2 last week. 

Pro-lifers have enjoyed some real success in recent years using ballot propositions to advance pro-life policy objectives. Since 1998, ballot propositions for parental-involvement laws have been successful in Colorado, Florida, and Alaska. Similarly, efforts to ban public funding of abortions were successful in Colorado in 1984 and Arkansas in 1988. Also, ballot propositions to legalize physician-assisted suicide failed in Michigan in 1998 and in Maine in 2000. Victories in Montana, Florida, and Massachusetts would show good evidence of continued pro-life progress at the state level.

Michael J. New is a visiting assistant professor of social research and political science at the Catholic University of America and an associate scholar at the Charlotte Lozier Institute in Washington, D.C.

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