By Casey Romanoff Coffin, Legislative Assistant, Department of State Legislation
Editor’s note. This appeared Monday in the September issue of National Right to Life News, the “pro-life newspaper of record. Please share the entire 40-page edition with your family and friends.
Since the 2022 Dobbs decision, abortion advocates have been successful in using state ballot initiatives to force their abortion-on-demand agenda on millions of unwilling citizens. These initiatives are either introduced by a state legislature or initiated by advocacy groups or members of the public. Defeating these initiatives has been a tough battle for the pro-life movement since we are always outspent and always face a hostile media. We need to focus on the wording of these extreme measures and their effect: abortion with no limits during all nine months of pregnancy.
In 2022, abortion-related initiatives were on the ballot in California, Kansas, Kentucky, Michigan, Montana, and Vermont. The Kansas and Kentucky initiatives would have added abortion-neutral language to their respective state constitutions by affirming that there is no expressed “right” to abortion, or the funding thereof; they did not pass. By contrast, pro-abortion initiatives in California, Michigan and Vermont did pass and enshrined abortion-on-demand into the states’ constitutions. These abortion initiatives threaten the enforcement of existing pro-life laws as well as prevent elected representatives from enacting future common sense protections for the unborn and her mother.
Pro-lifers must be vigilant in confronting and defeating pending pro-abortion ballot initiatives by exposing how extreme they are. This November in Ohio, the pro-abortion “Right to Reproductive Freedom with Protections for Health and Safety” initiative says, “in no case may such an abortion be prohibited if in the professional judgment of the pregnant patient’s treating physician it is necessary to protect the pregnant patient’s life or health.”
A “health” exception paints broad strokes to include physical, mental, familial, emotional reasons – anything the abortionist deems as sufficient to justify ending an unborn child’s life. This language illustrates that these initiatives are written with intentionally vague language so that abortion advocates can “protect” an unfettered right to terminate unborn life.
In November 2024, Maryland residents will vote on the pro-abortion “Right to Reproductive Freedom Amendment.” Passed by the state legislature, it is another good example of pro-abortion advocates using intentionally vague language.
It allows a “fundamental right to reproductive freedom, including but not limited to the ability to make and effectuate decisions to prevent, continue, or end one’s own pregnancy.” Like Ohio’s initiative, it would invalidate state protections for unborn children and prevent future life-saving initiatives.
Pro-abortion initiatives could possibly appear on ballots in 2024 and beyond, including Arizona, Arkansas, Florida, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, New York, and South Dakota.
So, what do we do when facing adversaries with a lot of money and an advocacy media who repeats their every word verbatim?
One thing we do is what we’ve done for over 50 years: we never give up; we never get discouraged or back away from any challenge. We continue to educate, whether it be legislators in state capitals, or fellow citizens at the state fair. We present unassailable facts when we educate, like scientific advances that continue to reinforce the truth about the development of an unborn child.
We educate about the importance of informed consent laws, which allow a woman to see her unborn child on an ultrasound before she has an abortion. We educate about waiting periods that allow a mother to contemplate life-saving options for her child. We educate about the importance of abortion alternative programs like pregnancy resource centers, which offer real help to moms and families.
The decline of annual abortion numbers is a result of protective laws like these that provide legal protection for unborn children and offer help and hope to their mothers. We must remember, we are the voice for the voiceless.
In the case of pro-abortion ballot initiatives, it is crucial to educate voters about how far-reaching they are, and their implications, especially regarding “health” exceptions, which allow for elective abortion for any reason. We must educate about how the initiatives will prevent legislators from enacting future pro-life protections like parental notification laws. We must tell people that life-affirming laws already on the books would likely be nullified.
Pro-abortion advocates are using these ballot initiatives simply to circumvent the will of the people; they hide their real objective – unlimited abortion– in vague language that can be expansively interpreted by pro-abortion judges under the guise of a ballot initiative. This is their strategy.
“The truth is incontrovertible; malice may attack it, ignorance may deride it, but in the end, there it is,” said Winston Churchill. The truth is: an unborn child is a person who needs our protection.