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Power to the people

"Power to the people" Continued...

Issue: "Can't run or hide," Oct. 14, 2006

"Is there money to be made here? Absolutely," said David Stevens, M.D., chief executive officer of the Christian Medical Society. Similar patents have been the subject of lawsuits because they "are actually stymieing embryonic stem-cell research since they require researchers to pay [patent holders] money to develop stem-cell lines."

Meanwhile, in California, home to the ultra-liberal 9th Circuit Court and a legislature that leans so far left that it may soon fall off the coast, direct democracy may be pro-lifers' only hope for protecting parents' rights with respect to abortion. Pro-life activists for the second year in a row are taking the question of parental notification directly to voters.

Proposition 85, the Parents Right to Know initiative, is patterned closely after Prop 73, a 2005 initiative that fell to defeat in the special election Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger called last November. The new measure would require doctors to notify a parent 48 hours before performing an abortion on a minor. It is up by 6 percentage points, according to a Sept. 18 Datamar poll.

"We are so much better organized" than in 2005, said San Diego Reader editor Jim Holman, Prop 85's major financial backer. "Many [voters] seem to have been woken up by the Prop 73 defeat."

But electoral abortion activism this year cuts both ways. In South Dakota, pro-abortion groups are attempting to invalidate a law passed in March by a bipartisan-but-conservative contingent of the state's legislature. The law bans all abortions except those required to save the life of the mother. A coalition of national and out-of-state groups, including Planned Parenthood, the National Abortion Rights Action League, and Wisconsin-based Women's Medical Fund, banded together to put the law before the people for a vote.

"Planned Parenthood for the first time is more afraid of the courts than they are of the people," said Leslee Unruh, campaign coordinator for VoteYesForLife.com, a group that supports the state's ban. A recent Zogby poll shows the measure's passage too close to call. A majority "no" vote will overturn the ban; a "yes" vote will preserve it.

In South Dakota, pro-abortion activists are better funded than pro-lifers. That's also the case in Virginia, where conservatives are trying to pass a constitutional amendment to preserve traditional marriage. "We have a formidable opponent and expect to be outspent by as much as 10-to-1 by Election Day," said Nick Timpe, state director for Students-4-Marriage, an affiliate of VA4Marriage, the amendment's main sponsor. But Timpe, 20, a junior at Patrick Henry College, said the success of similar initiatives across the country seems to be creating in Virginia a measure of apathy born of overconfidence.

Forty-five states have either a law or a state constitutional amendment restricting marriage to one man and one woman. In June, 80 percent of Alabama voters passed an amendment prohibiting same-sex marriage. Though Virginia's Question 1 is now leading, traditional marriage supporters remain concerned. "With other states passing traditional marriage laws by large margins, a lot of conservatives here aren't getting as involved as we had hoped," Timpe said. "I don't think they realize how energetic the opposition is."

-with reporting by Kristin Chapman

Direct democracy scorecard

Immigration

Arizona's Proposition 103 would amend the state constitution and make English the official language.

Arizona's Proposition 300, Public Program Eligibility, would extend 2004's Proposition 200 ban on welfare services for illegal immigrants. Subsidized child care, adult education programs, and in-state college tuition would also become off-limits for illegal immigrants.

Eminent Domain

Ballot measures in 12 states-from California to Georgia-will determine whether to limit the local government's ability to seize private property for private redevelopment, in the wake of the Supreme Court's 2005 Kelo decision, which arguably broadened the definition of "public use" in government land grabs. Several of the state measures, including Washington's Initiative 933, also require just compensation if private property value is diminished as a result of government regulations.

Abortion

California's Proposition 85 and Oregon's Measure 43 would require that a parent or legal guardian be notified 48 hours before a minor can get an abortion. Exceptions include a court order, and in California, a medical emergency or parental waiver.

South Dakota's Referred Law 6 will decide the future of the landmark HB 1215, which would institute a state-wide ban on abortion except to save the life of the mother. Rape victims, however, would be allowed to take the morning-after pill.

Marriage

Ballot measures in eight states will ask voters whether to amend their constitutions to define marriage as between a man and a woman, thereby banning same-sex marriages.

The Colorado Domestic Partnership Benefits and Responsibilities Act, Referendum I, would give same-sex domestic partnerships the benefits, protections, and responsibilities that are granted to heterosexual couples.

Voting

Arizona's Proposition 200, the AZ Voter Reward Act, would try to encourage voter turnout by establishing a lottery that would reward one voter every two years with $1 million.

Gambling

Arkansas' Amendment 1 would allow nonprofit organizations to offer bingo games or raffles as long as the organization has been in existence for five years and the proceeds are used for charitable, religious, or philanthropic purposes.

Ohio's Issue 3 would allow slot machines at seven horse racetracks and two casinos. Dubbed Learn and Earn, it would use 30 percent of the money raised to create college scholarships.

South Dakota's Measure 7 would eliminate state-operated video lottery, which generated more than $100 million last year for the state's general fund and has existed in South Dakota for 17 years. The past three times the issue was on the ballot, voters opted to keep video lottery.

Civil Rights

Michigan's Proposal B, the Civil Rights Initiative, would amend the constitution to ban affirmative-action programs that give preferential treatment based on race or gender for public employment, education, or contracting purposes.

Stem-cell Research

Missouri's Amendment 2 would guarantee that any federally allowed stem-cell research-including on human embryos-can occur in Missouri.

Churches

Virginia's Question 2 would amend the constitution to delete a provision prohibiting the incorporation of churches. The provision was earlier found to be unconstitutional.

Death Penalty

Wisconsin's Question 2 will ask voters whether they want the death penalty reinstated for first-degree intentional homicide cases with supporting DNA evidence. The death penalty was abolished in the state more than 150 years ago.

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