State-Level Abortion Bans Head for 2008 Ballots

Activists are likely to place a far-reaching abortion ban on the Missouri ballot this year, one pegged to the emerging anti-abortion strategy of claiming to be protecting women. The Baltimore Sun reports:

If passed, it would stand as possibly the most restrictive abortion law in the country, requiring abortion providers to investigate each patient’s background and lifestyle in order to certify that the woman was not coerced into the procedure.

Under the initiative, doctors would not be allowed to perform a nonemergency abortion unless they believed “the imminent death or serious risk of substantial and irreversible impairment of a major bodily function of the pregnant woman” would occur.

Critics say the proposal would expose doctors to lawsuits from women who later regretted their decisions to terminate pregnancies. …

Anti-abortion groups say the proposal would make Missouri a model for the country.

Missouri Gov. Matt Blunt laid groundwork last fall by forming a “task force” on “the impact of abortion on women,” a group composed of anti-abortion activists, and a major backer of the initiative is the Illinois-based Elliot Institute, whose founder was described as the “Moses” of the movement to define anti-choice as a defense of women’s interests, whether the women know it or not.

This tactic found validation in last year’s Supreme Court decision upholding the “Partial Birth Abortion Ban”—the court’s majority opinion seemed to echo the paternalist view, a point certainly not missed by any activists attempting to pass a far-reaching abortion ban.

But an initiative likely to reach the Colorado ballot takes a different approach: giving fertilized eggs equal protection and full rights under law. Playing the ingénue, the 20-year-old law student spearheading the amendment “insists her only aim is to define when human life begins, and any discussion about abortion is up to lawmakers.” Of course the “Human Life Amendment,” as it has been known since before she was born, was designed specifically to overturn Roe v. Wade and ban abortion completely.

The hard-line approach of Colorado’s amendment—and a similar initiative being considered for the ballot in Georgia—goes to the heart of a rift between absolutists and incrementalists in the anti-abortion movement. From the Washington Times:

“National Right to Life thinks this will do more harm than good,” [Brian Rooney of the Thomas More Law Center, which backs the amendments] said. “They argue that the makeup of the court isn’t right for a decision. We argue that this is the best opportunity we’re likely to have in the next decade. If we don’t confront Roe now, the way the politics of the presidential election are going, we could be waiting for years.”

Indeed, National Right to Life ended up divorcing its Colorado affiliate last year after a spat over incrementalism. (The head of Colorado Right to Life accused NRLC of selling out to the Republican Party.)