North Dakota Voters Strike Down Dangerous Ballot Initiative
Tuesday was a good day for women in North Dakota. Voters in this state decisively rejected a ballot initiative called the “Religious Liberties Restoration Amendment,” which could have jeopardized a wide range of health services, including access to birth control.
The U.S. Constitution protects religious freedom — that’s why it’s in the First Amendment of the Bill of Rights. This amendment would have added grey areas to all future legislation, allowing loopholes for those to claim “religious freedom” as a defense — and proponents intended to eliminate key protections built into the Affordable Care Act — including no co-pay birth control.
While the Catholic Bishops and opponents of women’s health continue to chip away at women’s access to birth control on the national level, the defeat of Measure Three in the conservative state of North Dakota (by nearly 30 points, no less!) represents an important warning for those seeking to make women’s health a political issue.
Birth control is basic, essential health care and it’s used nearly universally by women for a range of issues. Some have tried to characterize access to birth control as a “social” issue, which is a code way of saying it isn’t important in difficult economic times. But the reality is that birth control can cost up to $600 per year. This is fundamentally an economic issue.
Planned Parenthood Minnesota, North Dakota and South Dakota Action Fund (PPMNSAF) worked on behalf of North Dakotans Against Measure Three to educate voters and let them know how dangerous a precedent this type of measure would have set, and voters listened:
““Tonight, North Dakotans — with a strong and clear NO vote — affirmed that religious liberty is securely protected in the U.S. Constitution. Measure Three was divisive, unnecessary and could have had dangerous consequences. Tonight’s vote protects state laws against child abuse or neglect, laws against domestic violence, laws that affect access to health care, including birth control, and laws that ensure equal opportunity in the workplace.”
A majority of Americans (77 percent) agree with these North Dakotans — birth control is a popular benefit that should not be a political football to be tossed around for debate. Yesterday voters spoke loud and clear, reiterating their belief that birth control is an important and critical benefit by rejecting this dangerous measure decisively in the polls. It was a big day for North Dakotans, and a big day for Americans who support women’s health!