While Louisiana Gov. Buddy Roemer (D) is deciding whether to sign what would be the nation's most restrictive state antiabortion law, abortion opponents are touting successes in qualifying ballot-initiatives in two states and quashing an abortion-rights measure in a third state.
Right to Life of Michigan filed petitions with 333,187 signatures to the Board of State Canvassers to initiate a bill requiring girls age 17 or under to get a parent's or a judge's consent before obtaining an abortion. The Michigan Constitution required about 192,000 valid signatures to put the parental consent measure before the legislature.
Lawmakers passed a similar measure earlier this year but could not override Democratic Gov. James J. Blanchard's veto.
The legislature has 40 days to pass the measure or it automatically goes on a statewide ballot in November and, if approved by voters, becomes law. If lawmakers pass the measure it would become law and would be subject to gubernatorial veto. A majority of House and Senate members signed the petitions.
In Oregon, antiabortion activists filed an estimated 82,500 signatures -- 18,000 more than needed -- to put a parental notification referendum on the November ballot.
In Missouri, organizers of STOP! PAC, an abortion rights group, said last week that they will not meet a deadline to gather the 112,000 signatures needed to place a constitutional amendment on the fall ballot. Their initiative would have repealed the Missouri law that led to the Supreme Court's decision last year in the case of Webster v. Reproductive Health Services, and would have barred the legislature from enacting any abortion restrictions.
Missouri Right to Life campaigned to discourage voters from signing the petition.
"This pro-life triple play shows the relative strength of the pro-life and pro-abortion sentiment among Americans," said Darla St. Martin of the National Right to Life Committee (NRLC).
Loretta Ucelli of the National Abortion Rights Action League said that after failing "in the legislatures and to a degree at the polls," antiabortion forces were turning to "ballot measures as a way to chip away at the right to choose."
On Capitol Hill yesterday, Reps. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) and John Porter (R-Ill.) introduced legislation to allow women to receive abortion counseling at federally funded clinics. The bill is a response to 1988 regulatory changes prohibiting clinics supported by federal funds from informing women about abortion.
"The federal government simply should not be in the business of withholding any needed health care information," Wyden said.
Douglas Johnson, NRLC legislative director, said the bill is doomed. "Under this bill, the federal government would promote abortion as a birth-control option," he said. "I can't imagine President Bush signing" such a measure.