Advocates for survivors of sexual violence in North Dakota and Tennessee urged voters to turn down two dangerous anti-abortion measures when they go to the polls on this Tuesday, stressing the damage these measures would cause.
Saturday, in South Nashville, Vote No On 1 supporters were joined by actor-activists Ashley Judd and Connie Britton, who shared their own reasons for opposing Amendment 1 in Tennessee. Speaking to a crowd of around 100 advocates, Judd talked about how her life would have been devastated by the anti-abortion measure. She bravely shared with fellow supporters that she was raped twice before the age of 18 – a reality Amendment 1 makes no exception for.
“What if I were that vulnerable young woman at the age of 15 who was put in that horrific position?” Judd asked. “I don’t want any child, teenager, or woman in Tennessee to have to bear the double burden of sexual violence and unintended pregnancy. That is not something that is appropriate or sustainable for her life.” She added that being a person of faith does not have to preclude opposition to Amendment 1. “I’m Ashley Judd. I am a southerner, I’m a Christian, and I’m pro-choice.”
If passed by Tennessee voters on Tuesday, Amendment 1 would take away state constitutional privacy rights and give politicians far-reaching power to pass laws banning abortion, even in cases of rape, incest, or life endangerment. The Amendment could also threaten access to some forms of birth control.
Edwith Theogene, a National Field Organizer for the Feminist Majority Foundation, has been in Tennessee mobilizing students against Amendment 1. “Politicians have no concept of or idea what I am doing with my private life,” Theogene told WZTV in Nashville. “I don’t think they should impede on my privacy rights and make these decisions for me. This is a private decision left for a woman, her faith, and her family.”
Advocates for survivors of sexual assault in North Dakota also came out against another dangerous measure being proposed in their state this weekend. Measure 1, a proposed personhood amendment, would amend the state constitution to create an “inalienable right to life” starting at “any stage of development” – including the moment of fertilization or conception. If passed by North Dakota voters, Measure 1 would ban abortion with no exception for rape, incest, or the life of the mother. Measure 1 would also restrict access to common forms of birth control like the pill, IUDs, and emergency contraception; ban in vitro fertilization; and could make women who suffer a miscarriage subject to criminal investigation.
Linda Isakson, the Assistant Director of the North Dakota Council on Abused Women Services, emphasized how Measure 1 would undermine a woman’s agency with no regard for the circumstances she faces. “So many victims want that decision-making power after a sexual assault,” Isakson said. “By denying them that right, we further traumatize somebody who’s already been traumatized.”
Renee Stromme, the executive director of the North Dakota Women’s Network, added that there is nothing pro-life about Measure 1. “When a woman and her unborn child have equal rights in the eyes of the law, this presents a conflict,” Stromme said. “If only one life could survive, the state would have to decide whether the mother or the child would die.”
Measure 1 has been widely opposed by students, the North Dakota Medical Association, which represents North Dakota’s doctors, medical students, the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. The AARP of North Dakota has expressed concern that the Measure goes too far because it threatens end-of-life care, and other organizations opposing Measure 1 have highlighted its potential negative impact on organ donation.
Election Day is tomorrow, November 4.
Media Resources: WZTV Nashville 11/2/14; Grand Forks Herald 11/1/14; Feminist Newswire 10/31/14, 10/30/14, 10/27/14, 10/23/14, 10/22/14, 10/17/14, 10/6/14; North Dakotans against Measure 1; AARP North Dakota; Northern Plains Conference United Church of Christ; Vote No on One Tennessee