Voters to weigh pro-life protections

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WASHINGTON (BP) -- Voters in Alabama and West Virginia will be looking ahead to a day when states may again regulate abortion as they go to the polls Tuesday (Nov. 6).

Amendments on ballots in both states would revise the Alabama and West Virginia constitutions to make clear those documents do not provide a right to abortion or require its public funding. A third state, Oregon, will vote on a proposal to ban state funding of abortion except when "medically necessary" or mandated by federal law.

On an election day when control of the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives will be determined, the abortion-related measures are among 155 initiatives to be voted on in 37 states. Among those are proposals on recreational and medicinal marijuana, as well as the display of the 10 Commandments on public property.

If successful, the pro-life initiatives in Alabama and West Virginia would position those states for a future in which the U.S. Supreme Court will have overturned its 1973 Roe v. Wade opinion. That ruling struck down all state abortion restrictions and had the effect of legalizing the procedure nationwide at all stages of pregnancy. Reversing Roe would result in abortion policy being returned to the states.

Pro-life advocates pointed to the importance of the measures.

"A world in which unborn children are allowed to be snuffed out in the womb should be an unthinkable one," said Russell Moore, president of the Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission (ERLC). "Not only that, but government is responsible for honoring conscience freedom, not burdening it.

"I hope that voters in all three states cast ballots that protect life and promote human flourishing, not exploit women and families," Moore told Baptist Press in written comments. 

Catherine Glenn Foster, president of Americans United for Life, said the initiatives "express the wave of opposition by a majority of Americans to abortion on demand and taxpayer funding for the destruction of human life."

Following reports of Planned Parenthood's alleged misuse of government funds, "it simply makes sense for taxpayers to put the brakes on this gravy train and insist that public healthcare dollars be spent where they're needed most -- for preventive, whole-woman care that isn't available at 'reproductive health clinics,'" she said in a written statement.

Planned Parenthood, the country's largest abortion provider, received more than $540 million in government grants and reimbursements, according to its latest annual financial report. And the organization has been plagued by a variety of scandals in recent decades.

Initiatives such as those in Alabama and West Virginia are part of efforts at the federal and state level -- as well as through the work of pregnancy resource centers -- in hopefully "humanizing unborn babies to the point where abortion becomes something that's unthinkable," said Travis Wussow, the ERLC's vice president for public policy, in a recent podcast by the entity's Washington office staff. "And once that becomes true in a broader sense, I think that a federal ban on abortion at the constitutional level is something that's possible."

Passage of Alabama's Amendment 2 "sends a signal nationwide that Alabama is a pro-life state," said Joe Godfrey, executive director of Alabama Citizens Action Program, an auxiliary of the Alabama Baptist State Board of Missions.

"But the long-term significance of the vote is if Roe v. Wade should ever be overturned, then it gives an incentive to the legislature to pass pro-life laws that will restrict or even stop abortions from being performed in the state," Godfrey told BP in a phone interview. "If the amendment does not pass and Roe v. Wade is overturned ..., then the Alabama legislature will be less likely to vote for pro-life bills, because they'll say, 'Well, the people of Alabama apparently don't want pro-life legislation. They voted down this amendment.'"

Godfrey is hopeful about the amendment's chances of adoption, even though its opponents have overwhelmingly outspent supporters. The committee supporting the proposal has raised about $8,000, while committees in opposition have received nearly $1.5 million, Ballotpedia reported Monday (Nov. 5).

"I think Alabama in the past has shown that it is very pro-life, and so I really believe there is a strong possibility it will pass," Godfrey said.

Backers of Oregon Measure 106 -- which has exceptions for cases of rape, incest or ectopic pregnancy -- also have faced a huge fund-raising deficit. Committees supporting the proposal have raised slightly more than $407,000, and committees opposing it have raised nearly $9.9 million, according to Ballotpedia Nov. 5.

West Virginians for Life had raised nearly $9,300 for Amendment 1, but no opposition committees had been identified, Ballotpedia reported Nov. 5.

Other proposals on state ballots include, according to Ballotpedia:

-- Legalization of recreational marijuana in Michigan and North Dakota;

-- Approval of medicinal marijuana in Missouri, where there are three different proposals, and Utah.

-- Authorization of the display of the 10 Commandments on public property, including public schools, in Alabama.

-- Nondiscrimination protection for gender identity in Massachusetts.

-- Expansion of gambling in Arkansas and Idaho.

-- Prohibition of wagering on live dog races in Florida.

-- Limitation on the annual rate of payday loans at 36 percent in Colorado.

-- Restoration of voting rights to former felons in Florida.

-- Repeal of a 138-year-old law in Louisiana that permits non-unanimous jury verdicts in felony trials.

Ballotpedia is a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization that describes itself as the "digital encyclopedia of American politics and election." A staff of more than 50 researchers and writers produces its content.

Tom Strode is Washington bureau chief for Baptist Press, the Southern Baptist Convention's news service. BP reports on missions, ministry and witness advanced through the Cooperative Program and on news related to Southern Baptists' concerns nationally and globally.
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