Voters in two states OK anti-abortion measures, but Oregon funding stays

Voters line up prior to casting their ballots at a polling station in Nesconset, N.Y., on Election Day Nov. 6. (CNS/Gregory A. Shemitz)

By Dennis Sadowski / Catholic News Service

WASHINGTON (CNS) — An Oregon measure that would have banned state funding for elective and late-term abortions was defeated by voters Nov. 6, while an amendment to the West Virginia constitution stating that women do not have a right to an abortion was passed by a narrow margin.

Alabamans also approved a measure that makes it state policy to “recognize and support the sanctity of unborn life and the rights of unborn children.”

The measures were among several nationwide that attracted the interest of Catholic voters, including the legalization of marijuana, the expansion of Medicaid and what would have been the first-ever carbon emission tax in a single state.

The Oregon anti-abortion proposal gained the support of Archbishop Alexander K. Sample of Portland, who urged Catholics to approve the measure in a column that appeared Nov. 1 on the website of the Catholic Sentinel, the archdiocesan newspaper.

The measure was written to overturn a 2017 Oregon law that expanded taxpayer funding for abortion.

The passage in West Virginia opens the door to the state Legislature banning abortion if the U.S. Supreme Court overturns its 1973 Roe v. Wade decision that legalized abortion nationwide.

In Washington, the state’s bishops saw one ballot initiative they supported gain approval from voters while another that was designed to address carbon pollution was defeated.

Initiative 1639, which established new restrictions on gun ownership, was approved 60.4 percent to 39.6 percent.

Supported by the Washington State Catholic Conference, the initiative calls for strengthening background checks, imposes a 10-day waiting period before completing the purchase of semi-automatic weapons, requires safety training, establishes storage requirements and increases the minimum wage to buy assault rifles from 18 to 21.

A proposal to establish a carbon emissions tax was handily defeated by Washington voters, 56.3 percent to 43.7 percent. Fossil fuel companies and developers poured millions of dollars in advertising to block the initiative.

Washington’s bishops said that “wise action” was needed to address climate change to protect the common good for present and future generations and urged voters to carefully consider the emission tax plan.

Oregon voters also turned down an effort to overturn the state’s sanctuary law that forbids state and local law enforcement agencies from using public resources to arrest people whose only criminal violation is that they are in the U.S. illegally. The final count was 62.8 percent to 37.2 percent to keep the law in place.

Elsewhere, voters approved Medicaid expansion for low- and moderate-income residents in traditionally conservative Idaho, Nebraska and Utah, the only three states where such measures were up for a vote.

Michigan voters approved the legalization of marijuana for recreational use, 55.8 percent to 44.2 percent, making the state the 10th in the nation to do so.

Medical marijuana initiatives were approved in Missouri and Utah. However, voters in North Dakota defeated a similar measure.

Voters in Arkansas and Missouri approved issues to raise each state’s minimum wage. In Arkansas, the minimum wage was to rise to $11 an hour from $8.50 by 2021, while in neighboring Missouri, the wage was to increase to $12 an hour from $7.85 by 2023.

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