Social issues on state ballots

In addition to gay marriage other social issues were on state ballots, issues like issues such as abortion, euthanasia, gay adoption, and embryonic stem-cell research.


Voters in Colorado and South Dakota rejected ballot measures Tuesday that could have led to sweeping bans of abortion, and Washington became only the second state — after Oregon — to offer terminally ill people the option of physician-assisted suicide.

For the abortion rights movement, it was a day of relief and celebration.

A first-of-its-kind measure in Colorado, which was defeated soundly, would have defined life as beginning at conception. Its opponents said the proposal could lead to the outlawing of some types of birth control as well as abortion.

The South Dakota measure would have banned abortions except in cases of rape, incest and serious health threat to the mother. A tougher version, without the rape and incest exceptions, lost in 2006. Anti-abortion activists thought the modifications would win approval, but the margin of defeat was similar, about 55 percent to 45 percent of the vote.

“The lesson here is that Americans, in states across the country, clearly support women’s ability to access abortion care without government interference,” said Vicki Saporta, president of the National Abortion Federation.

In Washington, voters gave solid approval to an initiative modeled after Oregon’s “Death with Dignity” law, which allows a terminally ill person to be prescribed lethal medication they can administer to themselves. Since Oregon’s law took effect in 1997, more than 340 people — mostly ailing with cancer — have used it to end their lives.

Elsewhere, the marijuana reform movement won two prized victories, with Massachusetts voters decriminalizing possession of small amounts of the drug and Michigan joining 12 other states in allowing use of pot for medical purposes.

Henceforth, people caught in Massachusetts with an ounce or less of pot will no longer face criminal penalties. Instead, they’ll forfeit the marijuana and pay a $100 civil fine.

The Michigan measure will allow severely ill patients to register with the state and legally buy, grow and use small amounts of marijuana to relieve pain, nausea, appetite loss and other symptoms.

Nebraska voters, meanwhile, approved a ban on race- and gender-based affirmative action, similar to measures previously approved in California, Michigan and Washington. Returns in Colorado on a similar measure were too close to call.

Ward Connerly, the California activist-businessman who has led the crusade against affirmative action, said Obama’s victory proved his point. “We have overcome the scourge of race,” Connerly said.

TIME also has a roundup on voting outcomes on social issues:

A majority of voters in Arkansas — more than 57% — favored a measure that will prohibit unmarried, cohabiting couples from adopting children or serving as foster parents. The ballot initiative was introduced by the conservative Family Council in an effort to slow the “gay agenda,” but detractors, including the Arkansas Families First coalition, say that the decision will serve mainly to further limit the number of homes available to foster children.

After several months of impassioned debate, Michigan voters will likely pass a proposal to amend the state’s constitution and enable scientific researchers to use left-over embryos from fertility treatments for stem-cell research. Under current state law it is illegal to donate embryos for scientific research. The measure, which is winning 52% to 48% with nearly all precincts reporting, was championed by the bipartisan group Cure Michigan, which argued that the embryos would likely be discarded anyway and had the potential to yield life-saving treatments and cures. Opponents, including Right to Life of Michigan, objected to the destruction of embryos and argued that the provision would limit the legislature’s oversight of stem-cell research.

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