Election Day, 2008: What It Means for Your Health

By Christine |

With less than one week to go until Election Day, we’re taking a look at some of the women’s health issues at stake. Want to add more? Leave links to blog entries or other resources in the comments.

One other note — I can’t believe some folks aren’t voting. If you know anyone who plans on sitting this one out, please urge them to consider the importance of their vote on local and state issues, in addition to what’s obviously a national turning point for women’s reproductive rights and access to health care.

Still wondering about the differences between the health care reform proposals of senators John McCain and Barack Obama? You might want to review this non-partisan report, “Health Care Reform and the 2008 Election – A Guide for Women.”

Through the stories of seven “fictional women,” each with a different set of health problems and insurance coverage, readers can understand what each candidates’ health reform plan means to them. The report was published by the Connors Center for Women’s Health and Gender Biology at Brigham and Women’s Hospital.

And don’t forget Kaiser Family Foundation’s excellent Health08.org, which includes in-depth comparisons of the candidates’ health care plans and positions on issues.

Turning to ballot propositions, USC’s Initiative and Referendum Institute (IRI) offers a good overview (PDF) of the 153 ballot propositions before voters in 36 states, including headline issues of same-sex marriage and abortion (also the subject of discussion on Monday’s “Talk of the Nation”).

Measures to ban gay marriage are on the ballot in California, Arizona and Florida, with most eyes on California, which the IRI refers to as a “critical firewall in the battle over gay marriage.” This document (PDF) analyzes the likelihood of passage in each of the three states, and it features a list of all same-sex marriage propositions. Did you know that 29 of 30 measures banning same-sex marriage — some proposed by initiative, others by state legislatures — have passed?

BallotPedia.org is another comprehensive site. It’s easy to search and it does a nice job of listing initiatives by category, including abortion, marriage and health care. These pages include not only this year’s ballot items, but also initiatives coming up next year — and even those that failed to get on the ballot. Very cool.

Here’s a look at some of the discussions on three specific ballot items:

1. Colorado Amendment 48 Definition of Person: This amendment seeks to define “person” and grant constitutional rights from the “moment of fertilization.” It’s also been tied to “Horton Hears a Who” (”a person’s a person, no matter how small”) — much to the consternation of thinking Dr. Seuss fans everywhere.

Protect Families, Protect Choices has a good fact sheet about the far-reaching consequences of this amendment, including:

  • Emergency contraception for rape and incest victims would be banned. By giving legal rights to fertilized eggs, this amendment could ban birth control options like the Pill and IUD’s. (These kinds of birth control can prevent a fertilized egg from implanting in the uterus.)
  • Establishing rights from the moment of fertilization would ban some stem cell research being used to find cures for chronic disease and disabilities. In vitro fertilization could be banned since fertilized eggs used in these processes would have full legal rights.
  • A woman with cancer could be denied access to life saving medical treatment because it could endanger a fertilized egg.

Former U.S. Rep. Patricia Schroeder recently wrote: “Years ago, when I was asked how I could be both a mother and a Congresswoman, I replied, ‘I have a brain and a uterus and I use both.’ On November 4, I urge Coloradans to use their brains and protect women’s uteruses. Vote no on Amendment 48.”

2. South Dakota Abortion Ban Initiative: Following South Dakota’s failed attempt in 2006 to ban abortion, this kindler, gentler initiative “now makes convoluted exceptions for rape, incest and, when there is a full moon and Mount Rushmore spouts Strawberry Quik, the health or life of the woman.” It’s being pushed by anti-choice activist Leslee Unruh, who has trouble following the facts of life (including her own).

South Dakota Campaign for Healthy Families has an incredible amount of useful information, including statements in opposition to the initiative submitted by the South Dakota State Medical Association and the South Dakota section of the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists.

Plus: Katha Pollitt this week spotlights Women Run! South Dakota, the umbrella organization for progressive pro-choice Native American women running for the state legislature.

3. California Proposition 4 (”Sarah’s Law)”: In an editorial, the L.A. Times came down against this parental notification proposal, noting:

The initiative purports to protect California girls from dangers associated with abortions by requiring that their parents be notified. But Proposition 4 attempts to solve something that isn’t much of a problem. There’s no evidence that California’s teenage girls are harmed by abortions with any frequency, whether or not their parents have been notified. [...]

In fact, under the guise of protecting underage girls, this proposal really is just the latest attempt to impose any obstacle in the exercise of reproductive freedom. This represents the third try in recent years to pass such a measure. California should reject it again.

The editorial goes on to note, in no uncertain terms, the ridiculousness of the measures included to protect girls in abusive situations:

Proposition 4’s writers say they crafted a measure that would permit girls in potentially abusive situations to get an abortion without their parents being notified. To do so, they would need to tell another adult relative. But a girl can use this option only if she makes a written accusation alleging that her parents are repeat child abusers, with the complaint to be turned over to authorities. Spoiler language like this makes it hard to believe that Proposition 4 is chiefly about girls’ safety.

Read more editorials against Proposition 4. Planned Parenthood has posted a number of videos about how the proposition would endanger teens, including the one below, “Jane’s Journey,” which shows the complexity of the judicial maze that teens would be forced to navigate if they can’t talk to their parents.

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