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Decisive Victories for Reproductive Freedom

Louise Melling,
Deputy Legal Director and Director of Ruth Bader Ginsburg Center for Liberty,
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November 5, 2008

What an incredible night. Voters in South Dakota, Colorado, and California stopped three ballot measures that would have seriously threatened the ability of women and families to make private health care decisions. While these initiatives were fought vote-by-vote in each state, they were battles that were won for all of us.

The victories were decisive: in South Dakota, the split was 55 to 45 percent against a ban on nearly all abortions, and in Colorado, 73 to 27 percent said no to an amendment that would have not only prohibited abortions but could have been used to block stem cell research and curtail access to in vitro fertilization and certain forms of contraception, among other reproductive health services.

The fight in California was more of a nail biter. For the third time, voters in California were asked to consider a measure that would have severely restricted teenagers' access to abortion care. In the end, 52 to 48 percent of voters understood that even if we would want our daughters to come to us if they were pregnant and decided to have an abortion, the most important thing is that they can get safe, quality medical care without delay.

These are a huge victories for all Americans, sending a strong message to our elected officials that our government should protect not interfere with personal decisions about our health and families. We may not all feel the same about abortion, but we can agree that these are private decisions. Everyone's life and circumstances are different; we must respect people's personal choices even if we wouldn't make the same decision.

Today the mandate is clear: we need to stop the political wrangling over abortion and start focusing on building a world where everyone has the resources and opportunity to decide what makes for a good life, and to live that life. When it comes to our reproductive health and lives this means everyone has access to a continuum of services — from honest sex education to affordable birth control to prenatal care to child care assistance to the option of abortion. It is now in our hands to ensure that the freedoms and opportunities enjoyed by some become a reality for all.

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