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Public Policy

State Net Capitol Journal Politics & Leadership: Abortion Restrictions Retreat While Gay Marriage Advances

NM VOTERS REJECT RESTRICTIVE ABORTION BAN: Thirteen states have passed "fetal pain" laws banning abortion after 22 weeks of pregnancy or earlier, spurred by the belief that 22 weeks is the point at which fetuses have developed the ability to feel pain. Last Tuesday, voters in Albuquerque, New Mexico were given the opportunity to become the first city in the nation to push that ban back to 20 weeks. But by a margin of 55 percent to 45 percent they rejected the "Pain Capable Unborn Child Protection Ordinance." Turnout was 24 percent, topping that of a recent mayoral election in the city by four percent.

"Let this be a lesson to all 50 states and the Congress: Tonight the people of Albuquerque rejected an extreme agenda pushed by out-of-state and out-of touch groups that want to end safe and legal abortion altogether," said opposition campaign director Jennifer Ford. "Dangerous bans like this do not belong in Albuquerque or New Mexico or the nation."

But anti-abortion activists like Father Frank Pavone, national director of Priests for Life, don't see it that way at all.

"It is a brilliant strategy, and we will see to it that this effort is introduced in other cities and states," he said. (ALBUQUERQUE JOURNAL, CHRISTIAN SCIENCE MONITOR)

MOMENTUM SHIFT ON GAY MARRIAGE? With Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn's (D) signing of SB 10 last week, his state became the 16th to legalize same-sex marriage. But that action may have marked a major turn in the battle over the issue.

This year five states with Democrat-controlled legislatures — Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Minnesota, and Rhode Island — passed bills legalizing same-sex marriage. The bills were all happily signed by the states' Democratic or independent governors.

But none of the 34 states where same-sex marriages are still prohibited by law are wholly dominated by Democrats, with the exception of West Virginia, which has a tradition of social conservatism. That means advocates for gay marriage "have run out of easy targets," according to Brian S. Brown, president of the National Organization for Marriage. With most of the remaining states either having constitutional bans on gay marriages or significant popular opposition to them, he said, the "false narrative of 'inevitability' ends here."

Gay marriage advocates reject the characterization of their victories as "easy" and say they plan to be active in several states next year, including Indiana and Oregon.

There's "a shifting landscape" on marriage, said Brian Silva, executive director of Marriage Equality USA. "When we provide education, when we talk to people, when we live our lives out loud, we're finding that in states from Iowa to Illinois, from coast to coast, we are winning because people respond to family," he said. (WASHINGTON TIMES, STATE NET)

CITIZENS UNITED HELPED UNIONS WIN ELECTIONS: Coming out of New Hampshire's gubernatorial primaries last year, Republican Ovide Lamontagne had a major financial advantage over Democrat Maggie Hassan, with $250,000 in his campaign war chest compared to Hassan's $17,000. But leading up to Election Day, union-backed organizations, including the Democratic Governors Association (DGA), and national unions themselves spent millions on the general election race, mostly on ads bashing Lamontagne, who supported "right to work" legislation, helping propel Hassan to victory.

"Hassan was propped up and carried to victory by the outside groups," said Fergus Cullen, former head of the state GOP.

When the U.S. Supreme Court lifted the limits on political contributions in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission in 2010, it was generally believed that the Republican Party, with its wealthy corporate backers, would be the biggest beneficiaries. But in New Hampshire and a number of other states last year that didn't turn out to be the case. Democrats reportedly outspent Republicans by $1 million in New Hampshire. And in 38 states examined by the Center for Public Integrity, Democrats outspent Republicans by over $8 million. (CENTER FOR PUBLIC INTEGRITY)

— Compiled by KOREY CLARK

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