Bioethics on the Ballot

In addition to the closely-watched senate and gubernatorial candidates, 146 ballot questions were up for vote yesterday in 42 states across the nation. Below is a review of the some of the most pressing bioethics issues on the docket and the latest information on what passed according to Politico’s Ballot Tracker

Personhood and Abortion

  • Colorado has voted No (64.4%) on Personhood ballot that “would define an unborn child as a person in the criminal code.”
  • North Dakota has voted No (64.1%) on Personhood ballot that “would legally define an unborn child as a person.”
  • Tennessee has voted Yes (56.2%) on Abortion Restrictions that “would allow the legislature to enact, amend or repeal statutes on abortion.”

Note: Tennessee’s successful ballot provides an amendment to the state constitution that affords legislators more flexibility to pass laws that restrict how and where women are able to access abortions – even if they cannot outlaw them entirely. This ballot represents the latest in a long effort within Tennessee to respond to the Supreme Court’s 2000 decision in Planned Parenthood. For more on the legal implications of all three ballots, see Emma Green’s write-up in the Atlantic and Jonathan Will’s discussion from earlier today.

Food Labeling

  • Colorado has voted No (66.3%) on Food Labeling ballot that “would require genetically engineered foods to be labeled as such.”
  • Oregon has voted No (50.7%) on Food Labeling ballot that “would require genetically engineered foods to be labeled as such.”

Note: The issue of GMO labeling appeared on the ballot in Washington (2013) and California (2012) and was defeated both times. The margin of defeat in Oregon is the lowest thus far, with a margin of just over 16,000 votes. While not all precincts have formally reported, The Oregonian has declared the measure dead, noting that the ballot represents the most expensive ever in the state’s history. Supporters reportedly raised north of $8 million with opponents raising more than $20 million.

Medical Marijuana

  • Florida has voted No (42.4%) on a Medical Marijuana ballot that “would legalize medical marijuana.”

Note: This Florida ballot required 60% of the vote to pass – leaving it just between 2-3% short. To date, 23 states and DC have legalized marijuana for medical use. In other cannabis news, Alaska, the District of Columbia and Oregon each passed a ballot last night to legalize “the use and transfer of recreational marijuana.” For more on what held Florida up in this case, see Matt Ferner’s piece in the Huffington Post.

Did I miss something? Let me know! Post below in comments or find me (and Petrie-Flom) on Twitter @LaurenTaylorMPH and @PetrieFlom.

The Petrie-Flom Center Staff

The Petrie-Flom Center staff often posts updates, announcements, and guests posts on behalf of others.

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