Election Results: Big Wins For Women, For Choice

Jeanine Plant
November 9, 2006

It appears some pro-choice activists may have already moved on from Tuesday's wins. Today's news focuses on the Supreme Court arguments on the Partial Birth Abortion Ban Act heard yesterday, November 8th. In today's New York Times, there is a picture of demonstrators rallied outside the Supreme Court, holding up signs that say, "Women Must Have the Right to Choose," and "Defeat All Attempts to Outlaw Abortion."

But for all of their efforts to help defeat South Dakota's abortion ban, and the parental notification measures affecting pregnant teens in both California and Oregon, these activists deserve a breather. Their voices must be so hoarse from their collective ranting heard throughout the country on November 7th.

Groups like Feminist Campus, the National Organization for Women, the Planned Parenthood Federation and Naral Pro-Choice America canvassed tirelessly around the country for the past few months, and it really paid off: they defeated anti-abortion ballot measures by wide margins.

South Dakota's abortion ban, Referred Law 6, was a direct challenge to the 1973 Supreme Court decision legalizing abortion, Roe v. Wade, and it was defeated by an 11 percent margin: 56 percent of voters opposed the measure. The ban, initiated by the state legislature in February, outlawed all abortions except in cases where a pregnancy endangered a mother's life.

Feminists everywhere were relieved by its defeat. "This is an important victory for the women of South Dakota," said Sarah Stoesz, president and CEO of Planned Parenthood Minnesota, North Dakota, and South Dakota. Some were triumphant even. Salon.com's "Broadsheet," their feminist blog, titled their entry on the ban: "Booyah, South Dakota!" While others were so happy and proud, they couldn't adequately express their enthusiasm in words. Jessica Valenti, of Feministing.com, posted a Youtube.com video of Nickelodeon's Spongebob Squarepants' kitschy "Sweet Victory Song."

But some feminists remain vigilant. Amanda Marcotte of Pandagon.net, said: "Turns out that many voters don't like the idea of teenage girls getting beaten, rape victims forced to bear their rapists' babies and women losing their health or even lives due to pregnancies that could have been terminated. Phew. Problem of course is that the wingnuts are only winged and are regrouping as we speak. The South Dakota ban isn't evidence that people won't be open to passing a less restrictive ban that they can convince themselves will only hurt other people, the nefarious "sluts" that are always someone else. (Until it's you.)"

Marcotte cited a Chicago Tribune story, "S. Dakota repeals tough abortion ban," which quoted Leslee Unruh, the campaign manager of VoteYesForLife.com, an anti-abortion group that opposed the ban. Unruh, somewhat bolstered by the 45 percent who voted in favor of the ban, said: "We started something here in South Dakota."

California's parental notification ballot initiative, Proposition 85, was also defeated, and by a wider margin than it's previous incarnation: 2005's Proposition 73. This year 54 percent of Californians voted against it versus last year's 52.6 percent. As for Oregon, 55 percent voted against Measure 43. Both propositions would have required young women seeking abortions to wait 48 hours while their parents were given written notice about the intended procedure.

But news of these coups pale somewhat in the face of the overwhelming response to South Dakota, and news that Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) is the new Speaker of the House, the highest office ever held by a woman in the United States. Not only that, according to the Associated Press via Broadsheet, Pelosi will lead a House filled with more women than ever before.

Add to that the news that, according to Naral, voters elected three new pro-choice senators - Sherrod Brown of Ohio, Claire McCaskill of Missouri, and Jon Tester of Montana - and gained 20 pro-choice members of the house.

Feminists rejoiced at the gubernatorial wins. Echidne, of Echidne of the Snakes blog, was gushing and put up three pictures of fireworks on her site.

But some are still holding their breath. The controversial abortion ban hangs in the balance, while pro-choice America is scrutinizing Justice Anthony Kennedy's every move. His questioning at yesterday's proceedings suggested he hadn't made up his mind yet.

But according to a Women's eNews article, both pro-choice and anti-abortion activists are confident with the outcome. Cecile Richards, president of Planned Parenthood Federation, said, "We think it went incredibly well." While Jill Stanek, an Illinois nurse who supports the ban, said, "The numbers would indicate that it should come out at least 5-4" in favor of the ban."

We'll have to wait and see.

Jeanine Plant is a frequent contributor to WireTap. She lives in Brooklyn, New York.