With all the hubbub over the marriage initiatives, one of the major issues that has been overlooked in this election is reproductive choice. South Dakota put an abortion ban on the ballot for a second time. Californians were considering a parental notification law for minors. And a proposed Colorado law would have defined a fertilized egg as a human being. Thankfully, all of these referendums failed.
The proposed South Dakota law would have banned all forms of abortion, allowing it only in cases of rape and incest, or in cases where the life of the mother was at risk. The law would have held doctors criminally responsible if they provided abortion services. The bill failed by a 55% vote.
The results aren't totally counted in California yet, but as of midnight, Proposition 4, which would have imposed a waiting period and required minors to provide proof that they had notified their parents before obtaining an abortion, looked like it would fail. This is the third time that voters in California have rejected this measure.
The most absurd measure was Colorado's proposed constitutional amendment that would have granted full legal rights to a fertilized egg. It failed. But if it had passed, this would have surely outlawed abortions and several types of birth control.
I have found that it's often very difficult to get the gay community to discuss reproductive choice, let alone advocate for it. I say "gay community" intentionally here, because lesbians and bisexual women have always been actively involved in the fight for reproductive choice. And I don't want to leave the T members out of this discussion. Ya'll have a different, but very connected, fight to control your bodies that is a big part of the the reproductive health movement. Gay man, on the other hand, naively assume that because they can't get anyone knocked up, abortion and birth control isn't there issue. But they're wrong.
There is no Constitutionally guaranteed right to privacy. The Supreme Court argued in Griswold v. Connecticut that the right to privacy is inherent in the penumbra of rights guaranteed by the Constitution. Griswold, of course, involved a married couple's right to receive contraceptives from their doctor because their right to privacy could not be curtailed. Griswold set the stage for Roe v. Wade, but it was also debated in Bowers v. Hardwick, the 1986 decision that upheld a Georgia sodomy law. Bowers was overturned in 2003 by Lawrence v. Texas, with the issue of privacy at the center of the controversy. Consequently, the issue of gay rights and reproductive choice has been inextricably linked by the Supreme Court.
Can you imagine the precedent that Colorado's proposed amendment would have had? By declaring a fertilized egg a human being with full legal rights, the rights of the woman carrying the egg are all but negated. That in itself should be enough to cause an uproar. But think of how this applies to the LGBT community. Many same-sex couples are opting for artificial insemination and surrogacy over old school adoption. If the Colorado amendment had passed, couples utilizing in vetro technology could theoretically be charged with murder for terminating any fertilized eggs that were not carried to term.
California's Prop 4 would have had a terrible impact on anyone doing youth outreach. Under the current law, anyone over the age of 12 can consent to be tested for HIV or other STD's and receive treatment services without parental notification. It's not a stretch to believe that a 48 hour waiting period and proof of parental consent would be extended to cover all reproductive health issues. For a teenager living in an abusive family environment, parental notification poses a very clear risk. So rather than risk telling their parents, many teens would forgo testing or treatment for HIV and other STD's. I think we can all do the math on this one.
The good news is that these three laws didn't pass. The bad news is that these were narrow victories. I am hopeful that the climate for reproductive choice is going to improve under President Obama. I'm not gullible enough to believe that his victory last night will wave a magic wand over the country and fix all of the problems that have been exacerbated in the last 8 years. (The right wing has been gunning for Roe since Reagan's administration, but they got a big boost from Bush.) But I am hopeful.