An abortion ban was rejected in South Dakota and an effort to grant legal status to fertilized eggs lost in Colorado. In California, a measure to require parental consent to teens who seek abortions was also defeated.

Gloria Feldt

(WOMENSENEWS)–Voters in South Dakota, Colorado and California turned back efforts to curtail reproductive rights by rejecting anti-choice ballot initiatives.

Colorado Amendment 48 and South Dakota Measure 11 represented direct challenges to Roe v. Wade, the 1973 Supreme Court decision that guaranteed abortion rights and took precedence over state laws that imposed restrictions.

Colorado’s Amendment 48 granted a fertilized egg the same legal and constitutional rights as an adult, and would have outlawed any kind of abortion without exceptions. Opponents also warned of its far-reaching implications that jeopardized most forms of birth control, stem cell research and in vitro fertilization procedures.

With 58 percent of the precincts reporting, the Denver Post projected that Amendment 48 failed 73 percent to 26 percent.

"I am not surprised, but very happy," said Celine Mizrahi, legislative counsel for the U.S. program of the New York-based Center for Reproductive Rights. Amendment 48 was the highlight of a national strategy by anti-choice activists to injure access to abortion, she said. "It is the first time in history a state went so far."

Over 80 state and national organizations joined to defeat the Amendment 48, including the Colorado Bar Association which objected to its potential impact to thousands of laws in the state. Democratic Gov. Bill Ritter also opposed the measure, despite his opposition to abortion rights.

South Dakota Measure 11 Fails

South Dakota Measure 11 was a reworked proposal to ban all abortions in the state that was handily rejected by voters in 2006. This year’s version for the ballot added in exceptions for rape and incest and to protect the health of the pregnant woman.

With more than 80 percent of the precincts reporting, Measure 11 failed 55 percent to 45 percent, according to the Rapid City Journal.

The results were not a surprise but were nevertheless met with relief from advocates worried "because the language of Measure 11 included the very exceptions that were the arguments to oppose the same measure by pro-choice advocates two years ago," said Gloria Feldt, an author, activist and the former director of the Planned Parenthood Federation of America in New York. "Those results are very positive."

Proponents developed the measure as a vehicle for a broad challenge to Roe v. Wade, the Supreme Court decision legalizing abortion. If either measure had passed, the inevitable legal challenges would by necessity end up before the Supreme Court, whose members are now thought to be open to dramatically limiting access to abortion.

South Dakota physicians are already required to tell patients that abortion increases "suicide ideation."

Voters sent a clear message, according to Mizrahi and Feldt. "American voters want less government intrusion and more personal choice," said Feldt.

They want "politics to stop interfering in patient-doctor relationships and family moral decision-making," said Mizrahi.

California Voters Reject Prop 4

California Proposition 4 would have required doctors to notify the parents before providing an abortion to a female teen and wait 48 hours between the time of notification and the procedure.

Voters rejected similar initiatives in 2004 and 2006. This year the measure was reworked to include the possibility for doctors to notify another family member if the teen could not inform a parent because of abuse.

But voters apparently did not find the changes palatable enough to pass it. The measure was poised to fail, with 48 percent of precincts reporting and voters rejecting it 52 percent to 48 percent, according to Los Angeles Times projections.

Proposition 4 worried pro-choice advocates the most. "It was a squeaker down to the wire," said Feldt.

Neighboring Arizona and Nevada have already enacted parental-notification laws.

"We had the wind beneath our wings," Feldt said. "There was a clear increase in turnout of young women and African American women because of Barack Obama, and African American women are the most reliable pro-choice voters."

Same-Sex Marriage Rights at Stake

Proposition 8 sought to overturn California’s 2008 Supreme Court decision to legalize same-sex marriage and change the state’s constitution, redefining marriage as exclusively between a man and a woman.

At deadline, the race was still too close to call. With 28 percent of precincts reporting, the measure was ahead with 52 percent of voters choosing to ban same-sex marriages and 48 percent opposed, according to the Los Angeles Times.

Massachusetts and Connecticut are currently the only other states that allow same-sex marriages.

The California measure has attracted contributions totaling more than $60 million, according to the Associated Press, making it one of the most expensive races in the nation.

Arizona and Florida also had measures to ban same-sex marriages. With 92 percent of the precincts reporting, Arizona Proposition 202 failed with 59 percent to 41 percent, according to CNN. And with 97 percent of the precincts reporting, Florida Amendment 2 failed with 52 percent to 49 percent, according to the Florida Times Union.

Voters in Colorado and Nebraska also voted on measures to prohibited discrimination in public employment, public education and public contracting. With 57 percent of the precincts reporting, Colorado Amendment 56 narrowly failed, according to the Denver Post. Nebraska initiative 424 passed with 57 percent to 43 percent, according to CNN projections.

In San Francisco, voters rejected Proposition K, a city ballot question to decriminalize prostitution. Advocates said the measure could free up $11 million the police spend each year arresting prostitutes.

Iulia Anghelescu is a WeNews correspondent.

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