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Voters in Three States To Weigh Abortion Restrictions in November

Voters in Three States To Weigh Abortion Restrictions in November

September 18, 2014 — Voters in Colorado, North Dakota and Tennessee this November will consider whether to approve or reject initiatives that could restrict abortion rights in their respective states, Mother Jones reports (Eichelberger, Mother Jones, 9/17).

Colorado

Voters in Colorado will consider a constitutional "personhood" amendment (Amendment 67) that would change the state's constitution to protect "pregnant women and unborn children by defining 'person' and 'child' in the Colorado criminal code and the Colorado wrongful death act to include unborn human beings."

Colorado voters have rejected personhood amendments twice before (Women's Health Policy Report, 7/24). This year, supporters of the amendment are framing it as a way to prosecute people who harm a fetus during a crime, rather than as an antiabortion-rights initiative, according to Mother Jones. For example, Personhood USA spokesperson Jennifer Mason said the amendment would "correc[t] the loophole in Colorado law and ensur[e] that those criminals can be charged with killing a child in many different scenarios."

However, opponents of the amendment -- including the American Civil Liberties Union of Colorado, the Colorado Bar Association and NARAL Pro-Choice America -- say it would grant constitutional rights beginning at fertilization and could be used to criminally charge women seeking abortions and abortion providers. In addition, opponents say that the amendment could restrict access to some contraceptives in the state.

North Dakota

Similarly, voters in North Dakota will consider a personhood amendment (SCR 4009) that would change the state's constitution to protect "the inalienable right to life of every human being at any stage of development."

Supporters say the measure would protect existing state laws governing abortion from legal challenges. In addition, state Sen. Margaret Sitte (R) also said it would "present a direct challenge to Roe v. Wade."

However, opponents of the measure say it would effectively ban all abortion services in the state, criminalize miscarriages and prohibit the use of certain contraceptives. According to the North Dakota Coalition for Privacy in Healthcare, the amendment could force "[v]ictims of rape and incest ... to carry a pregnancy that resulted from sexual violence" and prohibit "[w]omen whose health is at risk ... from terminating their pregnancies" (Mother Jones, 9/17).

Tennessee

Meanwhile, Tennessee residents in November will vote on a ballot initiative (Amendment 1) that would amend the state constitution to include the statement, "Nothing in this Constitution secures or protects a right to abortion or requires the funding of an abortion" (Women's Health Policy Report, 9/16).

According to Mother Jones, opponents of the measure are concerned that its passage would clear the way for Tennessee lawmakers to pass antiabortion-rights legislation that courts have previously blocked in the state, as well as abortion clinic restrictions similar to those enacted in Alabama, Louisiana and Virginia (Mother Jones, 9/17).