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    Letting the people decide: how the antiabortion referenda fared.

    Donovan P

    Family Planning Perspectives. 1986 May/Jun; 18(3):127-8, 144.

    On election Day, 1985, voters in 3 New England towns--Bristol, Connecticut, Dover and Derry, New Hampshire-- were asked to decide whether the US Supreme Court's decision of Roe v. Wade legalizing abortion should be overturned. In each town, voters decisively rejected the proposition that Roe v. Wade should be set aside. The Bristol initiative was sponsored by the Reverend Patrick Mahoney, a fundamentalist minister. Opposition to the Bristol referendum, was led by the Coalition Against Referendum I (CARE I), which was made up of members of Planned Parenthood, abortion rights and women's groups, and environmental and progressive political groups, as well as students from Wesleyan and Yale Universities. A poll of Bristol voters conducted by CARE I showed that a majority of voters favored reversal of Roe v. Wade. The poll also indicated, however, that voters prized their privacy, resented government interference in family life, respected Supreme Court decisions and regarded a local referendum an inappropriate vehicle for expressing opinions on emotional issues like abortion. CARE I's advertising campaign stressed the personal nature of the abortion decision, as well as the issue of privacy vs. government interference. Opponents of the referenda introduced in Dover and Derry, New Hampshire, adopted the same basic campaign themes as those used by CARE I. Opponents bought no advertising. They relied exclusively on calling voters. The strategy of sponsoring local referenda may not end with the failure of the antiabortion activists in Bristol, Derry and Dover. The results of those efforts, however, must raise serious doubts about their effectiveness.
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