Anti-Choice Legislators Have Gone Too Far

Human Rights
Editor's Note: On March 6, 2006, South Dakota Governor Mike Rounds enacted a statewide abortion ban scheduled to take effect on July 1. In response, Planned Parenthood formed a powerful campaign, Stand Up South Dakota, to collect enough signatures to stop the ban's enforcement by adding it the state ballot in November. They succeeded in temporarily preventing the ban, but still need help to avert it from being passed in the fall.

If the recent June 6 primary is viewed as an early preview of this year's midterm elections, pro-choice Americans have much to celebrate. Not only was choice a positive issue in many of the races, but candidates throughout the country used their pro-choice values of freedom and privacy to cultivate a winning message.

Let's be honest. Anti-choice legislators have gone too far. South Dakota's governor signed a law criminalizing abortion. Louisiana's governor just signed a new ban on abortion. Ohio's legislature held a hearing to debate an abortion ban. And another 11 states have considered or are considering bills that would outlaw abortion in all or most circumstances. But we saw on June 6 that Americans are tired of these divisive attacks on a woman's right to choose.

Take Iowa for example. In Iowa's 1st Congressional District, NARAL Pro-Choice America-endorsed candidate Bruce Braley won a hotly contested primary by using his strong pro-choice message to put his anti-choice opponents on the defensive. In the weeks leading up to the primary, Braley even released a television ad quoting his opponent Rick Dickinson saying "he would do all he could to rescind Roe v. Wade and 'end abortion in this country as we know it.'"

 In Iowa's Democratic primary for governor, Secretary of State Chet Culver's strong stance on choice exposed his opponent Mike Blouin's attempts to dodge the issue.

 According to The New York Times, Chet Culver "made his support for abortion rights a central issue of the campaign, raising doubts about Mr. Blouin's stance."

"A woman's right to choose is under assault, and people in this state are absolutely worried," Culver said. "This has become a very important issue in this state and in the state races around the country."

Blouin--who had co-sponsored a constitutional amendment banning abortion as a member of Congress--tried to defuse his anti-choice record, but he failed to persuade either side.

"Now you have a pro-life pro-choicer," said  David Yepsen, the political columnist for The Des Moines Register. "I don't think either side is happy with him."

In Montana the pro-choice president of the state senate, Jon Tester, won a decisive victory in his party's primary to face embattled incumbent anti-choice Sen. Conrad Burns. In New Jersey, Sen. Robert Menendez's strong record in support of women's freedom and privacy will further strengthen his support from voters in the Garden State.

Why are pro-choice candidates winning? Because they are not only using these egregious bans on abortion to put their opponents on the defense, they are also introducing voters to their commonsense message of increasing access to birth control, including the "morning-after" pill, providing honest, age-appropriate sex education and better family-planning services for those without health insurance.

Meanwhile, anti-choice politicians in Congress and state legislatures are providing voters with multiple reasons to vote for an alternative this November.

Last month, anti-choice House leaders wouldn't even allow a vote on a common-ground amendment to ensure the "morning-after" pill is made available to military women overseas. Reps. Mike Michaud, D-Maine, and Tim Ryan, D-Ohio, both of whom oppose legal abortion, cosponsored the proposal.

And Senate anti-choice leaders are trying to pass legislation that would, among other things, nullify state laws that ensure insurance plans cover birth control in the same way they cover other prescription medication like Viagra. If Congress and the president enact this law, 25 states' laws that protect women's access to birth control could be overridden. Further, legislators in 18 states--Alabama, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Oklahoma, Rhode Island, South Dakota, Tennessee, Vermont, Washington, West Virginia, and Wisconsin--are considering or have considered measures that would allow pharmacies or pharmacists to refuse to fill women's prescriptions for birth control.

Worse yet, in the states with recently passed abortion bans, Louisiana and South Dakota, the same politicians who want to outlaw abortion have repeatedly voted against measures to expand access to emergency contraception.

Here's the dilemma for anti-choice politicians. Not only are they pushing extreme and divisive bans to criminalize abortion, but they're blocking commonsense measures that would prevent unintended pregnancies and reduce the need for abortion. Their actions have exposed their hypocrisy and hostility toward the fundamental values of freedom and privacy. In select races on June 6, voters answered them by electing strong pro-choice candidates.

We will continue to mobilize our network of nearly one million pro-choice activists in all 50 states to work toward similar results in races for Congress and the state legislatures this November.

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