TIME abortion

Ohio ‘Heartbeat’ Abortion Bill Gets Panel’s OK

The divisive measure had languished without a hearing since it was introduced more than a year ago

(COLUMBUS, Ohio) — A bill that would impose some of the nation’s most stringent abortion restrictions cleared an Ohio House committee Thursday after suddenly re-surfacing in the lame duck session.

The GOP-led House Health Committee passed the so-called heartbeat bill 11-6 after several emotional hours of testimony. The divisive measure had languished without a hearing since it was introduced more than a year ago. A nearly identical bill cleared the House in 2011 but was stopped in the state Senate.

The legislation would restrict most abortions at the first detectable fetal heartbeat, which can be as early as six weeks into pregnancy.

Before the vote, abortion rights advocates attacked the measure as unnecessary, dangerous and misogynist, and the American Civil Liberties Union warned it would draw an immediate, costly legal challenge if passed.

Meanwhile, passionate proponents called abortion murder and defended their right as public servants to protect human life.

Chairman Lynn Wachtmann, a Republican from Napoleon, allowed questioning to stray into witnesses’ beliefs on when life begins and whether one witness had children of his own. He then repeatedly gaveled discussion out of order.

At one point, Rep. Nickie Antonio, a Lakewood Democrat, led a collective deep breath in the packed room charged with emotion.

Women delivered heart-wrenching testimony on both sides of the debate.

One woman brought gifts for committee members from her young daughter, Isabella, conceived when the mother was raped as a 17-year-old high school student.

Another recounted roadblocks she faced in ending a pregnancy after the fetus was determined to be unviable and she’d decided on an abortion in consultation with her doctors, family and rabbi.

The heartbeat bill has fiercely divided Ohio’s anti-abortion community, with some fearing a court challenge could undo other abortion restrictions already in place. It is not supported by Ohio Right to Life, the state’s largest and oldest anti-abortion group.

Supporters hope the bill would provoke a legal challenge with the potential to overturn the U.S. Supreme Court’s 1973 Roe v. Wade ruling, which legalized abortion up until viability, usually at 22 to 24 weeks.

Similar measures have been challenged in other states.

Ohio supporters of the bill say different federal court judges have different opinions, as has been the case with gay-marriage bans.

TIME reproductive rights

6 Myths About Abortion

Katha Pollitt is the author of the recently published Pro: Reclaiming Abortion Rights.

The anti-abortion side of the debate has created fiction from fact

1. The Bible forbids abortion.

It shouldn’t matter what the Bible says about abortion. The United States is not a theocracy. Still, given the certitude of abortion opponents that abortion violates God’s Word, it might come as a surprise that neither the Old Testament nor the New mentions abortion—not one word.

It’s not that the Old Testament is reticent about women’s bodies, either. Menstruation gets a lot of attention. So do child- birth, infertility, sexual desire, prostitution (death penalty), infidelity (more death penalty), and rape (if the woman is within earshot of others and doesn’t cry out . . . death penalty). How can it be that the authors (or Author) set down what should happen to a woman who seeks to help her husband in a fight by grabbing the other man’s testicles (her hand should be cut off) but did not feel abortion deserved so much as a word? Given the penalties for nonmarital sex and being a rape victim, it’s hard to believe that women never needed desperately to end a pregnancy, and that there was no folk knowledge of how to do so, as there was in other ancient cultures. Midwives would have known how to induce a miscarriage.

A passage often cited by abortion opponents is Exodus 21:22–23:

If people are fighting and hit a pregnant woman and she gives birth prematurely but there is no serious injury, the offender must be fined whatever the woman’s husband demands and the court allows. But if there is serious injury, you are to take life for life . . .

Contemporary abortion opponents interpret this passage as distinguishing between causing a premature birth (fine) versus causing a miscarriage (death penalty), which is indeed what most modern translations suggest. Unfortunately for abortion opponents, at least one thousand years of rabbinical scholarship say the fine is for causing a miscarriage and the death penalty is for causing the death of the pregnant woman. If anti-abortion exegetes are only now finding in this rather obscure passage evidence for an absolute biblical ban on abortion, you have to wonder why no one read it that way before. The Talmud permits abortion under certain circumstances, in fact requires it if the woman’s life is at stake.

The New Testament was a second chance for God to make himself clear about abortion. Jesus had some strong views of marriage and sex—he considered the Jewish divorce laws too lenient, disapproved of stoning adulteresses, and did not shrink from healing a woman who had “an issue” (vaginal bleeding of some sort) that had lasted twelve years and would have made her an outcast among Jews. But he said nothing about abortion. Neither did Saint Paul, or the other New Testament authors, or any of the later authors whose words were interpolated into the original texts.

2. Women are coerced into having abortions.

Abortion opponents claim girls and women are frequently forced or bullied into terminating wanted pregnancies. That 64% of women “feel pressured to abort” is a claim that shows up over and over. As the journalist Robin Marty was the first to report, the 64% statistic comes from a 2004 article in Medical Science Monitor, “Induced Abortion and Traumatic Stress: A Preliminary Comparison of American and Russian Women” by Vincent M. Rue, Priscilla K. Coleman, James J. Rue, and David C. Reardon. But David Reardon is a major anti-abortion activist, tireless promoter of “post-abortion syndrome,” a condition rejected by the American Psychological Association, and director of the anti-abortion Elliot Institute. (According to its Web site, the name was “picked from a baby names book” because it sounds both friendly and academic.) His PhD in biomedical ethics comes from Pacific Western University, an unaccredited correspondence school. Medical Science Monitor, an online journal, has published other spurious research, for example, papers defending the discredited vaccine-autism connection. In 2012 it was exposed as one of a circle of journals that agreed to inflate their citation rankings by citing one another.

There are a number of problems with the paper in question, which was actually not about coercion but a comparison of post-abortion trauma in American and Russian women. Its sample was tiny (217 Americans), self-selected, far more white and middle-class than the general population of women who’ve had abortions, plus the women were reporting on abortions a decade earlier. Half thought abortion was wrong; only 40 per- cent thought women should have a right to it. Thirty percent said they had “health complications” after the abortion, which could mean anything. (According to the Guttmacher Institute, only .05 percent of first trimester abortions have complications “that might require hospital care.”) Interestingly, the American women, though not the Russian women, reported staggering amounts of violence and trauma in their lives before the abortion.

How common is it for a woman to be pushed into an abortion she doesn’t want? In a 2005 Guttmacher Institute survey, 1,209 women were asked their reasons for choosing abortion. Fourteen percent cited “husband or partner wants me to have an abortion” and 6 percent cited “parents want me to have an abortion.” (Interestingly, both these answers were down from a similar survey in 1987, when 24 percent of women mentioned the wishes of husbands/partners and 8 percent mentioned those of parents.) But when asked to name the single most important reason, less than 0.5 percent each cited the wishes of husband/partner or parents.

3. Abortion is dangerous.

Anti-abortion literature is full of stories about women gravely injured or even killed in clinics. Such places exist: A woman died in Kermit Gosnell’s Philadelphia clinic, some were injured, and all received inferior care. Steven Brigham has been in legal trouble in several states. Such doctors stay in business because they are cheap, they are in the neighborhood, they perform abortions later than the law allows, and they zero in on low-income patients who, sadly, are used to being treated badly by people in authority. No doubt there are other inferior clinics out there. But only in abortion care do the few bad providers taint all the others—and taint them so much that opponents can pass laws that would virtually shut down the entire field in the name of patient safety.

And yet, abortion is remarkably safe. The CDC reports that from 2003 to 2009, the most recent period for which it has figures, the national mortality rate was .67 deaths per 100,000 abortions. In 2009, a total of eight women died due to abortion. Tragic as that is, compare it with fatal reactions to penicillin, which occur in 1 case per 50–100,000 courses. And what about Viagra? According to the Association of Reproductive Health Professionals, it has a death rate of 5 per 100,000 prescriptions. But you don’t find legislators calling for a ban on Viagra.

Really, though, there is only one directly relevant comparison of risk with respect to abortion, and that is pregnancy and childbirth. The death rate for that is 8.8 women per 100,000. Continuing a pregnancy is 12 to 14 times as potentially fatal as ending it. (And maternal mortality rate is rising in the US even as it is falling around the world.) Curiously, no one suggests that obstetricians be compelled to read pregnant women scripts about the dangers that lie ahead before sending them home for 24 hours to think about whether they wish to proceed.

4. There are too many abortions.

Sometimes what people mean when they say there are too many abortions is that we need to help girls and women take charge of their sexuality and have more options in life. According to the Guttmacher Institute, in 2011 abortion declined by 13 percent from 2008, mostly because of better access to birth control and to longer-acting birth control methods like the IUD. That is very good news.

But often what people mean is that women are too casual about sex and contraception. When Naomi Wolf writes about her friends’ it-was-such- good-Chardonnay abortions, she is saying women get pregnant by accident because they are hedonistic and shallow. It is difficult to come down hard on abortion as immoral, to insist that the ideal number of abortions is zero, as Will Saletan maintains, without blaming the individual woman who got herself into a fix and now wants to do a bad thing to get out of it.

5. Abortion is racist.

In February 2011, a three-story-high billboard popped up in New York City. Featuring an adorable little black girl in a sweet pink dress, it pro- claimed, “The Most Dangerous Place for an African American Is in the Womb.” The previous year, billboards in Atlanta showed a little black boy with the slogan “Black Children Are an Endangered Species.” The brainchild of Life Always, a Texas anti-abortion group, these signs, and similar ones around the country comparing abortion to slavery, aroused so much indignation from black women that they were quickly taken down. But the charge that abortion is racist is commonplace in the pro-life movement.

If the womb is the most dangerous place for an African American, that makes black women, the victims of racism, the real racists. Put like that it doesn’t make much sense. The metaphor ignores the subjectivity of black women; once again, a woman is a vessel, a place—in this case a hostile place. Imagery of abortion as slavery or genocide allows abortion opponents to posture as anti-racists without having to learn anything about the lives of black women or lift a finger to rectify the enormous and ongoing legacy of slavery and segregation. Just shame black women into giving birth to more children than they feel they can safely bear or care for, and all will be well.

6. Abortion opponents would never punish women.

That’s what they always say: Women are abortion’s “other victim.” Only the providers should be charged with a crime. That view would come as news to the many countries where women are in prison for ending their pregnancies.

Right now, putting women on trial for abortion sounds far- fetched, I admit. There’s little heart for it in the ranks of the pro-life movement. But the groundwork is being laid. Women have been arrested for self-abortion in several states, although few have been convicted. Many have been arrested and some imprisoned for drug use or other behavior during pregnancy, even when no bad outcome occurred, and even when the law was clearly designed for some other purpose (to protect living children from meth labs, for example). For decades the anti-abortion movement has striven to enshrine in law the view that the embryo and fetus are persons. They won passage of the federal Unborn Victims of Violence Act, which made causing the death of embryos and fetuses a separate crime from the harm caused to the pregnant woman, and versions of that law in many states. In the spring of 2014, despite strenuous objections from women’s groups and medical organizations, the Tennessee state legislature passed with bipartisan support, and the moderate Republican governor signed, a bill that would subject to criminal penalties of up to fifteen years in prison drug- using women who had a poor pregnancy outcome.

As abortion becomes restricted, and the embryo and fetus are regarded as legal persons in more and more areas of the law, it becomes increasingly difficult to say why a pregnant woman’s conduct during pregnancy should not be subject to legal scrutiny.

 

Katha Pollitt, the author of Virginity or Death! and Learning to Drive, is a poet, essayist, and columnist for The Nation. She has won the National Book Critics Award for her first collection of poems, Antarctic Traveler, and two National Magazine Awards—for Essays and Criticism, and Columns and Commentary. She lives in New York City.

Excerpted from Pro: Reclaiming Abortion Rights by Katha Pollitt, published by Picador. Copyright © 2014 by Katha Pollitt. All rights reserved.

Read next: Dear Fellow Conservatives: Want Fewer Abortions? Tolerate Birth Control

TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

TIME 2014 Election

Ballot Measure Backers Spend Big, Win Big

Supporters celebrate the passage of Measure 91, legalizing marijuana in Oregon on Nov. 4, 2014 in Portland, Oregon.
Supporters celebrate the passage of Measure 91, legalizing marijuana in Oregon on Nov. 4, 2014 in Portland, Oregon. Michael Lloyd—The Oregonian/Landov

Issues ranging from abortion to gambling to medical marijuana go before voters

Big money was a boon to groups fighting for and against ballot measures across the states on Election Day.

In 21 of the top 25 most expensive state ballot measure races in terms of television ad spending, groups that won the war on the airwaves also won at the ballot box, according to a Center for Public Integrity analysis of unofficial election results and preliminary data from media tracking service Kantar Media/CMAG.

But surprising upsets also showed that in the wild world of direct democracy, money isn’t everything.

“The relationship is more complicated than just ‘spending more [means] having greater success.’ There are a lot of other factors in terms of the electoral environment,” said Daniel Smith, a University of Florida professor and expert on such initiatives. “Ballot measures generally are easier to defeat than to pass.”

More than $196 million was spent in 2014 on TV ads touting and trashing this year’s crop of 158 statewide ballot measures; another $19.7 million was spent on local measures. TV ads are well known as an effective way to get a message to voters, and this year, many corporations and national advocacy groups lined up to have their say on the airwaves about the initiatives.

Groups backed by doctors and health insurers spent nearly $60 million to air TV ads to oppose Propositions 45 and 46 in California, putting them at the top of the TV spending pile. They got their way, as voters rejected the two measures, which would have required drug testing for doctors and special approval for insurers to raise rates.

The health care industry outspent Consumer Watchdog, an advocacy group, and trial lawyers, who backed the measures, by 7-1 on the airwaves.

Examples where big ad spending paid off for groups working to pass or block initiatives at the polls were plentiful. Some of the winning groups appeared not to face any opposition on the airwaves at all: Of the 21 groups that won both ad and ballot wars, 13 faced no ads aired on the other side of the issue.

In Massachusetts, voters chose not to ban gambling after a casino-backed group ran about $5.7 million worth of ads claiming gaming was good for the economy. No ads ran in support of the ban.

And in Democratic California, Gov. Jerry Brown led a group of supporters who together put nearly $21 million worth of ads on TV to support Propositions 1 and 2, which encompass a series of provisions to shore up California’s water supply and create a state rainy day fund. The measures faced no opposition on the airwaves, and passed handily.

Ballot measures can have broad, bipartisan support to begin with, especially if a legislature puts them on the ballot, said Smith.

Supporters of legalized marijuana won in Oregon and Alaska. Groups spent $2 million supporting the Oregon measure on the airwaves, and just $60,000 in Alaska. Voters also approved a measure legalizing the possession of the drug in the District of Columbia, despite no pro-pot ad spending.

But in Florida, a measure to allow medical marijuana failed, barely. It needed 60 percent approval to pass and only got 58 percent. The Drug Free Florida Committee, armed with millions from Republican mega-donor Sheldon Adelson, spent $5 million on TV ads against the measure, compared with just $1.9 million spent on the airwaves by supporters.

The “No on 2” campaign was more sharply focused in its attacks on the medical marijuana measure, raising a host of claims that raised doubt in Floridians’ minds,” Smith said.

Among some other high-profile ballot battles:

  • Planned Parenthood-backed organizations won on abortion-related issues in North Dakota and Colorado and lost in Tennessee, which passed a measure that declares that the Tennessee Constitution does not guarantee a right to abortion, reversing an earlier court ruling.
  • Measures that would have required labeling of genetically modified foods failed in Colorado and Oregon in the face of opposition from groups backed by big food companies such as Pepsi and Monsanto.
  • In Maui County, Hawaii, a ban on the growth of genetically modified plants passed, despite a Monsanto-backed group buying TV ads worth about $2.7 million — or about $30.42 per registered voter — to oppose it.
  • Coloradans voted against an expansion in gambling despite $7.8 million in ads arguing that it would put millions into the state’s schools. The ads were backed by an out-of-state casino company, Twin River Casino. A Colorado casino group spent about $6.7 million on TV airtime opposing it.
  • Washington voters approved a measure to require background checks for all gun purchases, a measure backed by Microsoft elites and Michael Bloomberg’s “Everytown for Gun Safety Fund.”
  • A San Francisco initiative to tax sugary drinks became the most expensive local measure in the nation in terms of TV ads when a soda-industry-backed group spent $3 million on ads. The soda lovers claimed victory, as the measure fell short of the two-thirds majority needed to pass.

 

TIME 2014 Election

Abortion Rights Are on the Ballot in Three States

Voters in Colorado, North Dakota and Tennessee could help reshape the legal landscape

Abortion rights are on the ballot in three states on Nov. 4 as voters in Tennessee, Colorado and North Dakota weigh state constitutional amendments. Here’s what you need to know about the three ballot measures that could have national implications:

TENNESSEE

Volunteer State voters will be asked to decide whether the state constitution should be amended to explicitly note that it does require funding for nor protect the right to abortion. The new clause being proposed says:

“Nothing in this Constitution secures or protects a right to abortion or requires the funding of an abortion. The people retain the right through their elected state representatives and state senators to enact, amend, or repeal statutes regarding abortion, including, but not limited to, circumstances of pregnancy resulting from rape or incest or when necessary to save the life of the mother.”

The proposal, known as Amendment 1, has its roots in a 2000 Tennessee State Supreme Court decision that struck down several state laws restricting abortion on the grounds that they violated the state constitution. The new amendment would make it easier to enact new measures tightening access to abortion.

The Odds

Toss-up. Opponents of Amendment 1 spent more than $3 million in October, compared to about $1 million by supporters, but the latest surveys show a close vote. According to a poll by Middle Tennessee State University released Oct. 29, 39% of registered voters said they supported Amendment 1, while 32% said they opposed it and 15% were undecided.

COLORADO

The latest effort to extend the rights of fetuses under so-called personhood laws, Amendment 67 would amend Colorado’s constitution so that “unborn human beings” are included as “people” in the state criminal code and wrongful death act. Colorado voters rejected similar proposals in 2008 and 2012.

Amendment 67 is also referred to as the “Brady Amendment,” named after an 8-month-old unborn child who was killed in a 2012 car accident caused by a drunk driver. Opponents of the measure say it could criminalize miscarriages, some forms of contraception and in-vitro fertilization, while making abortion illegal in Colorado. Under federal law, abortion is a protected right, so passage of the measure could lead to legal challenges. Some supporters of the measure say Amendment 67 is not intended to affect abortion rights or birth control, but would simply allow homicide charges to be brought against anyone who kills an unborn fetus. Yet, one group backing the measure, Colorado Right to Life, states on its website that Amendment 67 “makes abortion a criminal offense.”

The Odds

Unlikely to pass. In a poll conducted Nov. 1 and 2, Public Policy Polling found that 56 percent of likely voters opposed Amendment 67, while 38 percent supported it. In an earlier poll from Suffolk University/USA Today, 45% of respondents opposed the measure, while 35% supported it and 17.4% were undecided.

NORTH DAKOTA

Voters in North Dakota will decide on proposal similar to the one in Colorado. Measure 1 would amend the state constitution to say the life of a human being begins at conception by adding the following text:

“The inalienable right to life of every human being at any stage of development must be recognized and protected.”

Opponents say the measure would outlaw abortion in North Dakota and lead to legal challenges on the basis that abortion is a federally protected right under Roe v. Wade. Supporters say it will protect existing restrictions and regulations governing abortion in the state. Either way, should the measure pass, the final effects are unlikely to be known until the issue is litigated in the courts.

The Odds

Toss-up. In a poll conducted for two local news outlets released Oct. 21, 45% of likely voters said they opposed the measure, 39% percent said they supported it and 16% said they were undecided. An earlier poll released by the University of North Dakota put the odds of passage higher, with 50% of voters in favor, 33% opposed and 17% undecided.

Read next: Election Day Google Doodle Tells You Where You Can Vote

TIME reproductive rights

Dear Fellow Conservatives: Want Fewer Abortions? Tolerate Birth Control

Right for a Reason
Right for a Reason

Amy Jo Clark and Miriam Weaver are the authors of Right for a Reason: Life Liberty and a Crapload of Common Sense.

We are pro-life, but we know that science, the law and reason mean we need to support contraception

Remember back in the Clinton years when the goal was to make abortions “safe, legal, and rare”? Over time, pro-choice progressives have shifted the messaging to make abortions as easy, accessible, and convenient as possible. As pro-life conservatives, we want to see as few abortions as possible. We understand and even accept that it’s legal for women to have abortions, but conservatives are right to insist that women be fully educated on what the procedure actually is before they have it. It’s right to believe that legislation requiring a woman to have an ultrasound before aborting her baby is appropriate. It’s right to require women to go through at least minimal counseling about alternatives to abortion before they go through with it. Abortions shouldn’t be easy and convenient. But if our ultimate goal is to drastically reduce the number of abortions that occur every single year, we must exercise some flexibility in our tolerance of contraception (and even emergency contraception). That’s why we support the use of birth control pills and even Plan B.

If you’re a conservative and you’re about to call us RINOs and just dismiss us because we’re not pro-life enough now, just hear us out…. Contraception has become a tricky topic for pro-life folks. Birth control pills, which have been widely used by thousands of women in the United States for decades, are now the subject of hot debate in many religious circles. And when emergency contraception like Plan B is thrown into the conversation, the debate gets even hotter.

Our research into contraception taught us three critical pieces of information: First, only about forty percent of fertilized eggs ever implant into the uterus naturally. Second, in the medical and legal communities, a pregnancy does not begin until a fertilized egg implants into the uterus. Finally, birth control pills (and Plan B) have the primary function of stopping an egg from being released by the ovaries and a secondary function of preventing fertilization of a released egg. The most recent research and studies indicate that neither birth control pills nor Plan B prevent the implantation of a fertilized egg into the uterine wall. And even if they did, they would not be considered abortifacients, because abortifacients, by definition, terminate pregnancies (which, again, do not begin until a fertilized egg implants). Contraception prevents pregnancies. This distinction is important.

The immediate reaction to this by the staunchest of pro-lifers is typically, “But life begins at conception!” We don’t disagree. But in order for that life to develop, a pregnancy must occur as defined above. If you are opposed to all forms of synthetic hormone contraception or IUDs because of the very unlikely possibility that those forms of birth control might prevent a fertilized egg from implanting into the uterus, we congratulate you on your purism, but would also ask you how exactly that purism helps the cause to reduce the number of abortions? If you’re expecting that every American woman is going to limit her contraception method to either condoms or the practice of “natural family planning,” and you also expect that this thinking is somehow going to result in a decrease in abortion, then with all due respect, you are high.

Since pregnancy doesn’t actually begin until a fertilized egg implants into the womb (which, again, happens less than 50 percent of the time naturally), mourning the loss of thousands of unimplanted fertilized eggs seems completely counterproductive considering that thousands of fully formed fetuses with beating hearts are killed via abortion every single day. If your definition of abortion includes every instance of a fertilized egg failing to implant in the uterus, then you’re essentially suggesting that millions of women are murderers without even realizing it. You’re suggesting that birth control pills and IUDs are every bit as immoral as the act we normally think of when we mention the word “abortion.” We think that’s pretty unreasonable.

Women should be responsible enough that if they intend to have sex, and do not want to become pregnant, they should make sure that they are protected. But as realists, we understand that people don’t always make good decisions. Since we don’t live in an ideal world, shouldn’t we exercise some tolerance about contraceptive solutions in order to ensure women don’t get abortions well into their established pregnancies? When faced with the choice of seeing a woman getting Plan B the morning after she has unprotected sex or seeing her abort a baby later in gestation, wouldn’t we all prefer the former? Wouldn’t every pro-life person prefer that?

We must recognize and accept that abortion is legal. There is no indication that this is going to change. Put simply, outrage about abortions won’t stop abortions. And neither will opposition to forms of contraception that, in all likelihood, prevent a huge number of abortions. We believe conservatives should focus on areas where we can make some actual headway on this issue. While we love the idea of simply teaching our kids abstinence and promoting sex within the confines of a committed marriage, that’s not necessarily realistic. We believe that what can realistically help abortions become more rare (which is what all of us want) is balanced encouragement of birth control options and a broader tolerance of emergency contraception, particularly if it will prevent later-term abortions.

Conservatives are right to value and protect life, but we’re also right to avoid damaging our own causes with impossibly unrealistic goals. And we’re right to make strides in this movement in the best, most realistic ways that we possibly can.

 

Amy Jo Clark and Miriam Weaver are the authors of Right for a Reason: Life Liberty and a Crapload of Common Sense. They write the popular Chicks on the Right blog as well as a regular column in The Indianapolis Star, and host a daily drive-time radio show on WIBC in Indianapolis. Clark was previously a medical writer and communications consultant; Weaver previously worked in human resources. They live outside Indianapolis with their husbands and children.

TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

TIME 2014 Election

The Surprising Struggles of Mark Udall to Win Colorado Women

U.S. Sen. Mark Udall (D-CO) speaks to supporters as he kicks off his 'Mark Your Ballot' bus tour on Oct. 15, 2014 in Denver.
U.S. Sen. Mark Udall (D-CO) speaks to supporters as he kicks off his 'Mark Your Ballot' bus tour on Oct. 15, 2014 in Denver. Doug Pensinger—Getty Images

He is not the only Democrat in trouble with the one demographic Democrats bet would save them the midterms

If you live in Colorado, you might be forgiven for thinking the 2014 midterm elections are about one thing: abortion. The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee on Monday released a new television ad hitting GOP Rep. Cory Gardner, who is challenging Sen. Mark Udall for his Colorado seat, for not “being honest with women.”

“Cory Gardner is trying to hide that he is sponsoring a new law to make all abortions illegal, even for victims of rape or incest,” says the DSCC release. The ad features OB-GYN Dr. Eliza Buyers, who slams Gardner: “Cory Gardner is wrong to make abortion illegal and just as wrong not to tell the truth about it.”

Udall himself has two other ads up targeting female voters. In one, another Colorado OB-GYN talks about Gardner’s “long record of fighting to roll back women’s access to health care.” And a second ad calls out Gardner “for personhood lies.” About half the ads he has run again Gardner have highlighted what Democrats call Gardner’s extreme stances on women’s reproductive rights.

The problem is Gardner refuses to play along. In March, he retracted his support for a measure on so-called personhood, or the belief that life begins at the moment of conception, and has since backed making contraception—though not all forms of it—available over the counter.

Now, with a week to go before the election, Udall is down 2.8 percentage points in polls, according to an average of Colorado polls by Real Clear Politics. More troublingly he’s down amongst female voters in at least two polls. If Udall loses women, he’s lost his seat.

Udall’s narrow focus helped cost him the support of the Denver Post, the state’s largest paper. “Rather than run on his record, Udall’s campaign has devoted a shocking amount of energy and money trying to convince voters that Gardner seeks to outlaw birth control despite the congressman’s call for over-the-counter sales of contraceptives,” the Post said in its endorsement of Gardner. “Udall is trying to frighten voters rather than inspire them with a hopeful vision. His obnoxious one-issue campaign is an insult to those he seeks to convince.”

And Udall isn’t the only Democrat struggling to turn the focus on women into a winning strategy. In Kentucky, Democratic challenger Alison Lundergan Grimes is even with Senate minority leader Mitch McConnell with women, as is Sen. Mark Pryor, a Democrat fending off a strong GOP challenge from Rep. Tom Cotton in Arkansas. Like Udall, both Grimes and Pryor have invested heavily in turning out the women’s vote.

The “War on Women” is a playbook Democrats ran successfully in 2012, with significant assists from GOP senatorial candidates Todd Akin and Richard Mourdock whose inopportune remarks on women and rape helped paint the party as out-of-touch on female issues. Unfortunately for Democrats, there have been no Akin and Murdoch repeats and candidates like Gardner have been much savvier in their messaging on women’s issues.

“A myopic focus on reproductive freedom and the ‘War on the Women’ does not seem to be an effective way to mobilize and motivate women in a year when the economy and jobs are at the forefront of voters’ minds, and GOP candidates have not made the same kinds of mistakes that Todd Akin and Richard Mourdock did in 2012,” says Jennifer Lawless, director of American University’s Women & Politics Institute. “In other words, courting the women’s vote is a smart move; the way several Democrats have gone about doing it has been not so smart.”

To be fair, the strategy is clearly working in other states like North Carolina, Georgia and New Hampshire where Democrats hold double-digit leads with women. And Colorado is notoriously difficult to poll. A Democratic poll released Monday showed Udall up by 9 points amongst female voters. Matt Canter, a spokesman for the DSCC, says that Colorado’s move to an all-mail voting system this cycle favors Democrats. Canter also noted that in the early voting returns thus far many female voters who did not vote in 2010 but did in 2012 are already turning out for Udall. “Public polls in Colorado were wrong in 2012 on Mitt Romney and they were wrong in 2010 on failed GOP Senate contender] Ken Buck,” says Canter. “We believe we maintain a strong advantage with women and that advantage is important for all these races.”

Certainly, Democrat Michael Bennet’s race against Buck is the template for Udall’s tough reelection. “In 2010 Michael Bennet was able to survive a midterm election in which Democrats lost their House majority in what Obama called a shellacking losing a record 63 seats and they barely hung onto Senate control because of his strength with women voters,” says Michele Swers, an associate professor at Georgetown University who specializes in women in U.S. politics. “Udall is trying to replicate that.”

The problem is, unless Udall’s polls are to be believed, “the gender gap in this race isn’t as great as it has been in past Senate races, notably 2008 and 2010,” says Jennifer Duffy, who follows Senate races for the non-partisan Cook Political Report.

Arguably, the focus on turning out the women’s vote has kept 2014 from being a wave year: the only seats in play are in purple or red states, not blue ones. Progressive Sen. Al Franken, for example, is sailing through to reelection in Minnesota.

But unmarried women, the demographic Udall is targeting, are notoriously bad drop off voters in non-presidential years and clearly they seem to be motivated in some states more so than others. Udall has bet his race on turning them out. If they fail to materialize, Democrats will have to ask themselves: Was winning women the right strategy for all of their races? And when does it work and when doesn’t it and why?

 

TIME Sex/Relationships

Teenage Girls Given Choice of Free Contraceptives Get Far Fewer Abortions

IUDs
Illustration by Miles Donovan for TIME

Girls allowed to choose between free contraceptive methods had 76% fewer abortions than their peers in the general population — and most chose IUDs

Three in 10 teenage girls in the U.S become pregnant each year—a rate far higher than in other industrialized countries. But when girls are counseled about the most effective contraceptives and given their pick of birth control at no cost, their rates of pregnancy drop by 78% and they get 76% fewer abortions than the general population of sexually active teens.

That’s what a new study published in the New England Journal of Medicine suggests, in which researchers at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis attempted to see what would happen when they tore down the three main barriers to teenage birth control—ignorance of options, limited access and prohibitive cost.

They studied a group of 1,404 teenage girls enrolled in the Contraceptive CHOICE project, a study of adolescents and women at high risk for unintended pregnancy. 62% of the girls were black and 99% were sexually active. Black teens have even higher rates of pregnancy than the rest of the population: 4 in 10 become pregnant, compared with 2 in 10 white teens.

In the study, peer educators, volunteers, medical students and others interested in health education counseled the girls on the available methods, presenting them in order of effectiveness—IUDs and implants, followed by Depo-Provera injection, pills, patch and ring, and condoms. They stuck to a script that encouraged the girls to choose for themselves, emphasizing that they can always change their method later. The contraceptives were in the room for the girls to see and touch. The clinic had flexible scheduling so that even if a teen was late to her appointment, she was guaranteed to be seen, and every girl received her birth control right after the counseling session.

That’s a world away from the experience of girls in the outside world, who are often asked by providers to come back several times before they start a method, given false information about IUD risks, and eventually mass-prescribed pills, says project director Gina Secura. “It’s often a one-sentence conversation: what do you want, and here’s a prescription,” she says.

MORE: How Having an (Insurance-Covered) IUD Is Saving My Life

Focusing the conversation purely on effectiveness was, well, extremely effective. “When we first started the project, we had hoped to double the national rate [of IUD or implant use]—about 5%,” says Secura. Instead of the hoped-for 10%, a whopping 72% of teems chose IUDs or implants. “We were shocked,” she says. And they stuck with them. Two-thirds of the girls were still on long-acting reversible contraception (LARC, which includes implants and IUDs) after 2 years, compared to one third of girls on short-acting methods like the pill.

IUDs are a solid choice according to the American Academy of Pediatrics, who just endorsed IUDs as the best method of birth control for teenage girls. And the evidence bears it out. The researchers tracked the girls for 2-3 years and followed up every few months by phone. They found that 3.4% of CHOICE teens got pregnant, compared to 15.85% of sexually experienced teens in the general population. Fewer than 1% of CHOICE teens got abortions (0.97%, to be exact), while 4.15% of the other population did.

That means that girls in the program were 78% less likely to get pregnant and had 76% fewer abortions than their peers in the general population. Of course, it’s not quite fair to compare these two groups, since the girls in the research project were given free access and would have been more encouraged to stick to their methods with follow-ups, but the implications are incredibly important for clinics and counselors.

Most notable of all, the low pregnancy rates between white and black teenagers in the project were almost identical. “If we really want to tackle this health disparity, that shows we can actually do it,” Secura says.

These rates far outpace even the CDC’s 2015 goal for teenage births; they’re aiming for 30.3 teenage births per 1,000 teens. The CHOICE rate was 36% lower than that, at 19.4 teenage births.

Secura attributes these dramatic drops largely to the high uptake of long-term contraceptive methods, options that are cost-prohibitive to many low-income teens and free clinics. “It can be difficult to justify spending the same amount of money on 10 devices, where they could buy five times as many packs of pills,” Secura says.

The researchers put their CHOICE methods on a site called LARC FIRST designed to guide clinics, and since data from the study began coming out over the past two years, Secura says they’ve gotten about 300 requests from clinics asking for help in implementing their best practices—including training people who aren’t time-pressed providers and nurse practitioners to deliver effectiveness counseling. Having a kind of AmeriCorps for contraceptive effectiveness counselors, Secura says, would be a dream.

Though the study is over, several clinics are trying to adapt some of CHOICE’s methods to their real world practices and evaluate them scientifically. “I’m hoping we build the demand in terms of teens wanting these,” Secura says.

TIME has called IUDs the best form of birth control that no one is using—but when teens are informed and cost barriers disappear, this study shows that teenage girls are clearly hungry for better birth control.

TIME Campaign Finance

Ginsburg Says Citizens United Was Supreme Court’s Worst Ruling

"I think the notion that we have all the democracy that money can buy strays so far from what our democracy is supposed to be"

Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg says in a new interview that the Citizens United ruling paving the way for more unfettered campaign spending by corporations was the current court’s worst decision ever.

Ginsburg told The New Republic that she would overturn the 2010 ruling if she could.

I think the notion that we have all the democracy that money can buy strays so far from what our democracy is supposed to be,” she said. “I think members of the legislature, people who have to run for office, know the connection between money and influence on what laws get passed.”

She also expressed concern that modern feminists take their rights for granted.

“The women of my generation and my daughter’s generation, they were very active in moving along the social change that would result in equal citizenship stature for men and women,” Ginsburg said. “One thing that concerns me is that today’s young women don’t seem to care that we have a fundamental instrument of government that makes no express statement about the equal citizenship stature of men and women. They know there are no closed doors anymore, and they may take for granted the rights that they have.

Read the full interview at The New Republic

TIME 2014 midterm elections

Drugs, Minimum Wage and Gambling: Inside 2014’s $1 Billion-Plus Ballot Initiatives

Demand for marijuana edibles is pushing several Colorado manufacturers to expand their facilities or move to larger quarters.
Steve Herin, Master Grower at Incredibles, works on repotting marijuana plants in the grow facility on Wednesday, August 13, 2014 in Denver, Colorado. Kent Nishimura—Denver Post via Getty Images

Bored with the midterms? There’s a lot of (expensive) drama on the ballot that doesn’t involve candidates

The 2014 elections are shaping up to be the most expensive in history, not for electoral campaigns, but for ballot initiatives. More than $1 billion has already been spent on them, according to the National Institute of Money in State Politics. And all that money could swing some key races.

Studies have shown controversial ballot initiatives can boost turnout as much as 8% in midterm elections, which typically see lower turnout than polling during presidential elections. Since Oregon first kicked off ballot initiatives in the early 1900’s, the practice has grown steadily — that is, until this year. Despite the increase in spending, 2014 actually has the least number of total initiatives — only 155 in 41 states, down from 188 in 2012—since 1988, reflecting state efforts to limit legislating by ballot.

Some of the millions already spent were intended to keep certain measures off the ballot. In Alaska, for example, oil and gas companies spent $170 per voter to block a bid to raise oil and gas taxes. In Colorado, energy companies also spent millions to keep fracking initiatives off the ticket. Also not making the cut this year: gay marriage and a push to break California into six states that, while strange, gained a lot of attention early on.

Perhaps the main issue on ballots nationwide this cycle is marijuana. Two states — Oregon and Alaska — plus the District of Columbia have initiatives to follow Colorado and Washington in legalizing recreational marijuana. But it’s a push to make Florida the 24th state to legalize medical marijuana that could impact an electoral race. Former Democratic Florida Gov. Charlie Crist’s bid to get his old gubernatorial seat back could see a boost from the measure, as left-leaning voters tend to support marijuana reform. Crist allies have already spent $4 million on the initiative with opponents, including incumbent Florida Gov. Republican Rick Scott and Sheldon Adelson, spending $2.5 million to defeat it thus far.

Another big issue is minimum wage, with four red states—Arkansas, Alaska, Nebraska and South Dakota—considering raising the minimum wage. Since 2002, all 10 ballot initiatives to raise state minimum wages have passed, and polling shows these initiatives look like they have good shots at approval as well. The pushes could help embattled Democratic incumbent Senators Mark Pryor in Arkansas and Mark Begich in Alaska.

Colorado Sen. Mark Udall, another Democratic incumbent fighting to keep his seat, is hoping that a personhood amendment —which defines life as beginning from the moment of conception — will help him stick around. His opponent, Rep. Cory Gardner, also opposes the amendment, but has voiced support for personhood initiatives in the past, creating an opening Udall has been exploiting. North Dakota has a similar initiative on the ballot, and Tennessee has a measure that would allow the state legislature to amend the state constitution to strip out abortion rights.

However, some of the most expensive ballot issues are not national ones. In California, two initiatives — one to increase the limit of non-economic malpractice damages from $250,000 to $1.1 million and another requiring state approval of changes in insurance rates — could see as much as $100 million in combined spending to sway voters. And Oregon and Colorado have controversial initiatives mandating the labeling of certain foods that contain genetically modified organisms. Last year, companies like Pepsi, Coca Cola and Monsanto spent $22 million defeating a similar push in Washington where proponents spent $9 million trying to pass it.

Oregon also has a controversial immigration initiative that would uphold a law allowing four-year driver’s licenses for those who cannot prove legal presence in the U.S. Another big-spending item is a spate of gambling initiatives in seven states expected to draw more than $100 million, including a hard-fought initiative in Massachusetts that would repeal a 2011 law allowing gambling resorts that would halt construction on sites.

A gun rights conundrum could happen in Washington, which looks poised to pass two initiatives that countermand one another. One would require universal background checks for all guns, and another forbids more extensive background checks than those required at the federal level. Officials say such a situation has never happened before, and no one is sure what would happen if both pass. Also on guns, Alabama is also looking to become the third state after Louisiana and Missouri to pass a “fundamental right to bear arms,” making it harder to restrict firearm access.

Alabama is also seeking to become the eighth state to forbid state’s recognition of laws violating its policies, including all foreign law. This measure is a follow up to a bill introduced by state Sen. Gerald Allen last year that specifically references Sharia law.

Missouri and Connecticut are looking to joining 33 other states and the District of Columbia in early voting.

And, finally, Maine is looking to ban bear baiting, trapping or the use of dogs to hunt bears. Long live Smokey.

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