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Choosing choice

Referendums nationwide made it clear that Americans favor the status quo on abortion rights.

November 11, 2006

THE BALLOTS CAST across the nation spoke so unambiguously about abortion that even the most intransigent anti-abortionists should be able to construe the message: Voters do not want Big Brother opening the doors of private homes -- or the doctor's office -- and coercing people's most personal medical decisions.

Anti-abortionists have been craving a test case to put before the U.S. Supreme Court, in hopes of overturning Roe vs. Wade -- and thought they had it when the South Dakota Legislature passed a ban on abortion. Instead of challenging the law in court, though, pro-choice forces cleverly put the matter to a popular referendum. Even in that socially conservative, anti-abortion state, a decisive majority Tuesday preserved a woman's right to choose. To some extent, they were bothered by the ban's extraordinary lack of compassion, refusing to exempt even the victims of rape and incest. But a frequently voiced complaint about the ban was that government simply shouldn't interfere with private lives.

That's a closely held American value and one that Republicans should embrace again lest they want to see this midterm election be a harbinger of a long-range trend.

Both California and Oregon voted down attempts to require parental notification before a minor can obtain an abortion. In several other states, anti-abortion congressional candidates were defeated, and Kansas' Phill Kline, the state attorney general who notoriously overreached the powers of his office in his single-minded attack on family planning and abortion clinics, was turned out of office.

In California, Proposition 85 was the second attempt within a year to impose parental notification on girls, most of whom already talk to their parents before opting for an abortion. Both efforts failed at the polls.

Heedless of this abundantly clear message, anti-abortion forces are redoubling their efforts. Their latest idea: requiring pregnant women to view a 3-D ultrasound of their fetuses, thus forcing patients to undergo a certain medical procedure before seeking the treatment of their choice. For what other medical situation would this kind of government interference be tolerated?

The voters have spoken resoundingly on abortion and the right to privacy. Those who want to turn government into Big Brother need to heed the message and give it up.

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