The primaries are over and the candidates confirmed—now it’s time to really focus on the issues! As we’ve mentioned before, there’s a great deal at stake in the 2014 midterm elections, not least around issues of reproductive justice and women’s health. More specifically, three states have ballot measures that severely limit access to abortion care. If you live or vote in Colorado, North Dakota, and Tennessee, listen up!
Amendment 1 in Tennessee would grant elected state officials the power to make decisions involving abortion laws without the involvement of their constituents. Amendment 1 would add a new section to Article 1 of Tennessee’s constitution, allowing state legislators to repeal any measure that protects abortion rights. For example, should Roe v. Wade be overturned, the Tennessee Supreme Court would lack the power to ensure that abortion remains legal in the state. At its most basic level, Amendment 1 allows elected officials to determine the reproductive choices of Tennessee women, denying women’s right to privacy. Women might also struggle to get exemptions, even in cases of rape, incest or risks to their own health. Ultimately, Amendment 1 could mean that Tennessee women will no longer have the right to choose abortion. Find out more at Vote No on 1 Tennessee.
If approved by voters, Amendment 67 would define pregnancies as “child” and “person” under the Colorado criminal code. As such, unlawful termination of pregnancy without the mother’s consent would be considered a homicide. Supporters of the amendment say that this bill protects expectant mothers who suffer miscarriages by accident or assault. While this bill may sound well-intentioned, it will effectively limit women’s right to choose, and could open a dangerous door to future restrictions on abortion and reproductive health decisions in Colorado. Connect with those fighting this amendment at Vote No 67.
North Dakota: “Life Begins at Conception” Amendment, Measure 1
As it stands, abortion services are already quite limited in North Dakota. Laws are currently in place that restrict insurance coverage for abortion, require parental consent for minors and subject women to mandatory wait periods and biased counseling. If approved by voters, Measure 1 would add a new section to the State’s Constitution, defining life as starting at conception. This measure would restrict fertility treatments, prohibit stem-cell research, ban various forms of birth control, and outlaw abortion even in cases of rape, incest or risk to the mother’s health. Not only does Measure 1 threaten a women’s right to control over her body and her life, it also directly threatens the well-being of pregnant women with health risks. Limiting women’s access to common forms of birth control would increase the already high rate of unintended pregnancies (in the United States currently at 49%) and negatively impact public health in both the state and the country. For more info visit The North Dakota Coalition for Privacy in Health Care.
On a brighter note, ballot initiatives in Oregon and Illinois have the potential to promote reproductive health!
Also known as the Equal Rights Amendment, this measure would amend the State Constitution to ensure that no state or political entity can infringe upon or deny a woman of her rights, privileges or immunity as a citizen because of her sex. This measure will also repeal current legislation that allows denial of these privileges so long as the denial is justified by a specific biological difference between men and women. With this measure on the ballot, Oregon’s voters have the opportunity to add Oregon to the list of 20 states that have made sure that women and men will be treated equally before the law, regardless of future legislators’ and justices’ personal opinions! To get involved in promoting this measure visit VoteERA.org.
Voters in Illinois will have the opportunity to vote on whether prescription birth control should be covered in health insurance plans that cover prescription drugs. This move is on the ballot as a non-binding advisory question and will not directly change any laws or amendments. However, this advisory question is still extremely important. Answering this question has the potential to send a strong statement to Illinois state officials regarding access to birth control as a basic health care right for women. To get involved visit the Illinois Votes for Birth Control Campaign.
Before heading to the polls this November, we encourage you to educate yourself on what’s at stake in your state. It’s up to you to ensure that no one loses their right to choose what is best for themselves, their bodies, and their future.