Pro-life gains and losses
Ballot measures in Colorado and Louisiana show the challenges and opportunities for pro-lifers—including pro-life Democrats
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Voters in Colorado and Louisiana weighed in on two pro-life ballot initiatives with mixed results on Tuesday. In Colorado, a measure that would have protected unborn children after 22 weeks of gestation failed, earning only 41 percent of votes. But in Louisiana, 62 percent of voters approved an amendment that clarifies abortion is not a right under the state constitution.
Pro-lifers say the results should further motivate pro-life Democrats, who strongly supported both measures. In Louisiana, the Love Life initiative won a greater share of voters than did Donald Trump, who earned 58 percent of the state’s popular vote.
“It shows that there were Democrats who weren’t willing to vote for President Trump who then came and voted for the Love Life Amendment,” said Louisiana Right to Life executive director Benjamin Clapper.
According to a 2020 Gallup poll, 24 percent of Democrats identify themselves as pro-life. That’s about 20 million Democratic voters who oppose abortion. These voters show their influence in bipartisan efforts such as the Louisiana initiative, an amendment authored by state Sen. Katrina Jackson (D-Monroe).
The support of pro-life Democrats couldn’t secure a similar victory for Colorado’s measure. But Democrats for Life executive director Kristen Day chalks up the failure in Colorado to misinformation from pro-abortion groups. “We were just outspent and out-manipulated by the abortion lobby,” she said.
While groups supporting the Colorado initiative had about $537,000 to work with, the opposition raised almost $7 million from organizations like Planned Parenthood. These groups spread misleading information saying the measure made no exceptions for victims of rape or incest, even though the law would have allowed for abortions in any case up to 22 weeks.
“There’s no reason why it shouldn’t have passed … if you look at the issue as is without the manipulation from the abortion side,” said Day. In October, she described the measure as being “mainstream” and in line with Democratic values. A 2019 poll conducted by YouGov and Americans United for Life found that 68 percent of Americans who describe themselves as “pro-choice” oppose abortion in the third trimester, which begins at 28 weeks. According to Gallup data, only 18 percent of Democrats believe late-term abortions should be legal.
Louisiana’s ballot initiative had obvious advantages over Colorado’s: Before appearing on the ballot, the Love Life Amendment had to go through the legislative process. Jackson first filed the amendment in March 2019. That gave pro-life politicians and lobbyists time to campaign for the initiative and educate voters on the issue. Meanwhile, the language for the Colorado initiative wasn’t approved until September 2019. Colorado also is home to a strong pro-abortion movement. Louisiana’s largely pro-life leanings meant politicians and lobbyists there had an easier job.
Still, Clapper noted, “Even though our state is pro-life, we knew that if we didn’t put on a strong campaign, it could be a toss-up.”
Day described the abortion lobby as “a corporation that wants to keep abortion legal so that they can keep making money.” She noted that pro-life organizations don’t make money from women keeping their babies, but instead offer support and supplies: “We, in fact, spend money if we’re successful and a woman chooses life.”
Despite their financial disadvantage, pro-lifers have every reason to continue pushing against abortion, Day said: “We have to fight just as hard as the abortion lobby because we’re fighting for what’s right.”
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