Republican candidates weren't the only conservative casualties on Election Day; conservative ballot measures fell like timber, too:
- Arizona became the first state to say no to a gay marriage ban.
- For the second time in as many years, Californians nixed an initiative requiring parental notification for a minor to obtain an abortion.
- South Dakota voters soundly defeated a state law banning nearly all abortions.
In Missouri, a conservative defeat of a different sort materialized as voters narrowly passed a constitutional amendment that protects embryonic stem-cell research in the state. Opponents of Amendment 2 had argued that it authorizes human cloning, despite the measure's official summary claiming to ban the practice. American Center for Law and Justice attorney Walter Weber explained that the amendment's "definitions" section defined "cloning" as the implantation of a created embryo in a woman's uterus for the purpose of bringing about a live birth. "That's why it was called a 'clone and kill' measure. As long as the cloned embryo is killed, it's not 'cloning,' according to the definition," Weber said. "It's stunning dishonesty."
Biotech financiers underwrote the Amendment 2 campaign in hopes of spurring profits for the developing industry. Weber predicts similar support for future embryonic stem-cell measures in states where constitutions can be amended by referendum.
Returns on South Dakota's abortion ban provided more bad news for pro-life activists. Passed by a bipartisan coalition of legislators earlier this year, the law prohibited all abortions except those required to save the life of the mother. In addition to making the state safer for the unborn, lawmakers had hoped pro-abortion groups would challenge the ban in court, possibly leading to a Supreme Court review of Roe v. Wade and Doe v. Bolton. But abortion activists took a different tack and used a provision in South Dakota law to "refer" the law to voters for an up-or-down vote. The odds were in pro-abortion activists' favor: Historically voters in the state reject the majority of referred laws.
Polls going into Election Day showed the two sides in a dead heat, but the law failed 56-44, with exit polls showing that many "no" voters didn't like the ban's lack of exceptions for rape and incest. Even in defeat, voteyesforlife.com campaign director Leslee Unruh found reasons to be encouraged. "We did an amazing educational campaign across South Dakota to show that abortion hurts women," she said. "I'm proud of the women who volunteered; I'm proud of the post-abortive women who stood up and told their stories. We believe a lot of babies were saved in the process."
California's Proposition 85 was an attempt to save young women from the physical and emotional fallout of abortion. The measure failed 54-46, but campaign coordinator Albin Rhomberg vowed that its supporters will not give up the fight. He noted that elections can be "fluky" and often turn on issues unrelated to a particular measure, such as the general "no on everything" mood Golden State voters exhibited in November 2005 when another parental notice initiative, Prop 73, failed.
Meanwhile, polling revealed that 75 percent of Californians support the general concept of parental involvement in the abortion decisions of minor girls. "It would be foolish to give up," Rhomberg said, adding that Prop 85 supporters may return with a retooled ballot measure in 2008. "If you want to pursue these things, you have to be persistent."
Voters nationwide were persistent in affirming traditional marriage. Seven states-Colorado, Idaho, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Virginia, and Wisconsin-approved constitutional amendments defining marriage as the union of one man and one woman. But the Arizona anomaly gave gay activists new hope. The state became the first to reject a traditional marriage amendment among the 21 to consider such measures to date.
Despite that imbalance, homosexual activists hailed the emergence of a trend. Matt Foreman, executive director of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, noted that amendments that passed on Nov. 7 did so, on average, by narrower margins, a sign that "fear-mongering around same-sex marriage is fizzling out."