The XX Factor

Florida, Montana Voting on Abortion Rights Today

While only two states have abortion initiatives on the ballot, abortion remains an election issue for many voters across the country.

Photo by Bill Pugliano/Getty Images.

With the escalation of attacks on abortion rights and contraception access that Republicans have been waging in the past two years, it would seem logical that this election would have a slew of ballot initiatives aimed at reproductive rights. But after various attempts to get voters to restrict abortion—see: personhood—this cycle, anti-choice activists are pursuing different strategic avenues: repealing Obamacare, pushing legislation through state houses, supporting Romney’s election bid, trying to defund Planned Parenthood on a state-by-state basis, and fighting the contraception mandate. As a result, only two states have ballot initiatives regarding abortion rights today: Montana and Florida.

Montana: LR 120

This is a straightforward parental notification bill requiring teenage girls seeking abortion to notify a parent. As usual with parental notification laws, the rationalizations are paper thin. The bill states “immature minors often lack the ability to make fully informed choices that take into account both immediate and long-range consequences” and “the capacity to become pregnant and the capacity for mature judgment concerning the wisdom of an abortion are not necessarily related.” But obviously, teenagers who are supposedly too immature to handle a one-day outpatient medical procedure on their own are fully and completely capable of handling the intense care and feeding needs of infants.

The bill also has some words on coercion: “A parent, a guardian, or any other person may not coerce a minor to have an abortion.” Of course, the point of writing such a law is to give parents the right to coerce their daughters into having babies, suggesting that perhaps the concern for teenagers’ bodily autonomy is a bit insincere. Currently, 37 states have parental notification laws.

Florida: Amendment 6

The main thing this bill would do if passed into law would be to ban insurance coverage of abortion in state health benefit plans. It would also eliminate state constitutional protections that give women a right to privacy. Even though this ballot initiative has almost no chance of passing (it requires 60 percent of the vote) it has been widely assumed that it would at least get a majority of the vote in Florida. In general, voters tend to be supportive of the legal right to abortion but easy to sway with arguments that restrict funding for it. But recent polling shows that 44 percent of voters support it, 40 percent oppose it, and 15 percent are undecided. Considering that this law would strip many state employees of benefits they already have, there’s a good chance that the undecideds might balk at the last minute and vote against it. If so, Amendment 6—or, rather, the failure of Amendment 6—might actually bode well for the pro-choice side when it comes to future battles over whether abortion should be unfairly discriminated against when it comes to health care coverage.