Ballot measure losses jolt the religious right
Anti-abortion, stem cell, same-sex issues all falter;
leaders left wondering
Updated: 1 hour, 59 minutes ago
From the country's heartland, voters sent messages
that altered America's culture wars and dismayed the
religious right - defending abortion rights in South
Dakota, endorsing stem cell research in Missouri, and,
in a national first, rejecting a same-sex marriage ban
Conservative leaders were jolted by the setbacks and
looked for an explanation Wednesday. Gay-rights and
abortion-rights activists celebrated.
The verdict on abortion rights was particularly clear.
Oregon and California voters defeated measures that
would have required parents to be notified before a
girl under 18 could get an abortion, and South
Dakotans - by a margin of 56 percent to 44 percent -
rejected a new state law that would have banned all
abortions except to save a pregnant woman's life.
"This was really a rebellion in the heart of
red-state, pro-life America - the heart of the
northern Bible Belt," said Sarah Stoesz, head of the
Planned Parenthood chapter that oversees South Dakota.
"It sends a very strong message to the rest of the
South Dakota legislators had passed the law in
expectation it would trigger a court challenge and
lead to a possible Supreme Court reversal of the 1973
Roe v. Wade decision legalizing abortion.
Abortion-rights leaders said Wednesday that such
strategies should be abandoned.
"Voters in every corner of the country made it clear
they are tired of divisive attacks on a woman's right
to choose," said Nancy Keenan, president of NARAL
Anti-abortion leaders said the GOP shared some of the
blame for the defeat. The Rev. Thomas J. Euteneuer,
president of Human Life International, said President
Bush and other top Republicans failed to campaign
strongly for the South Dakota abortion ban and against
the Missouri stem cell measure.
'Family values' issues lose steam
"While South Dakotans fought valiantly to defend their
babies, we once again witnessed an almost total lack
of support from the national leadership," Euteneuer
The anti-abortion group Operation Rescue said the
election results meant any legislation from Congress
restricting abortion would be "virtually impossible"
for the next two years.
"America has voted and the bloody results have placed
the most vulnerable among us, the pre-born, in the
crosshairs for continued extermination," said
Operation Rescue President Troy Newman.
Janice Shaw Crouse, a conservative analyst with
Concerned Women for America, suggested that
Republicans - some of them entangled in corruption and
sex scandals - had lost some of the selling power of
the "family values" themes they had pushed in recent
"Families had such high hopes when conservatives were
in power; they ended up discouraged, disappointed and
disillusioned," she said.
Stem-cell efforts stymied
In Missouri, anti-abortion groups, evangelical
Christian clergy and the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of
St. Louis campaigned hard against the stem cell
measure, contending it would condone life-destroying
Debbie Forck, a Catholic from Jefferson City, Mo., was
among those giving the measure a narrow victory.
"I've had several family members that have had
debilitating illnesses," said Forck, 50. "It goes
against my church, but to eliminate pain in my life, I
thought it was worth it."
Liberal groups did have some setbacks. Michigan voters
approved a ban on some types of affirmative action
programs, Colorado and Arizona passed measures
targeting illegal immigrants, and seven states
approved gay-marriage bans, joining 20 that had done
so in previous elections.
However, gay-rights supporters took heart at the
relatively close results in some of the seven states,
notably in South Dakota, where the ban received only
52 percent of the vote.
In Arizona, the defeat of the ban stemmed in part from
its scope. It not only would have reinforced an
existing state law against same-sex marriage, but also
would have barred any government entities from
recognizing civil unions or domestic partnerships in
providing benefits to employees.
"We knew all along that once voters were informed
about the true impact. ... they would oppose this
hurtful initiative," said Steve May of Arizona
Together, which opposed the measure. Gay-rights
leaders said the election results would likely shelve
any serious push for a federal ban-gay-marriage
amendment. They also were pleased by the defeats of
several Republicans whom they considered archenemies -
notably Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum and Indiana
Rep. John Hostettler.
"It's the end of an era for divisive, gay-bashing
politics - at least in the minds of the American
people," said Joe Solmonese, president of the Human
Similarly, abortion-rights groups welcomed the defeat
of Kansas Attorney General Phill Kline, a Republican
who had touted his efforts to seize women's medical
records from abortion clinics.
"It is time to end the abortion wars," said Frances
Kissling, president of Catholics for a Free Choice.
One election subplot was a campaign led by New York
City real estate investor Howard Rich to promote
ballot measures in numerous states seeking to rein in
state and local government.
Of nine Rich-supported measures, only one succeeded -
a property-rights measure in Arizona that would
require state and local authorities to compensate
property owners if land-use regulations lower the
value of their property. Similar measures lost in
California, Idaho and Washington, while Oregon and
Colorado rejected term-limit bills, and Maine,
Nebraska and Oregon rejected proposals to cap state spending.