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Abortion Politics,
California-style

Could Proposition 73 help put Gov. Schwarzenegger's reform slate over the top?

12:00 AM, Oct 28, 2005 • By BILL WHALEN
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On the "yes" side, that includes the California Catholic Conference of Bishops, the California Prolife Council, the Traditional Values Coalition, the Campaign for Children and Families, and prominent individuals such as Domino's Pizza founder Tom Monaghan and Sonoma vintner Don Sebastiani. The big artillery on the "no" side includes Planned Parenthood of California, the California Family Health Council, the ACLU, and the Abortion Right Action League.

But the fight won't be expensive. Life on the Ballot, Prop. 73's main committee, has raised about $1.2 million, which is roughly the same amount budgeted by Planned Parenthood of California. That means little in the way of televised advertising on the measure, but enough resources for direct mail, newspaper advertisements, and other get-out-the-vote efforts, which is not to be underestimated in a low turnout affair like California's special election.

Which leads to the third factor: how Prop. 73 could work to Schwarzenegger's advantage. The pro-choice governor is on the record in support of parental rights. ("I wouldn't want to have someone take my daughter to a hospital for an abortion or something and not tell me. I would kill him if they do that," Schwarzenegger told reporters last month.) And that support could pay off on November 8. A stronger-than-expected turnout from pro-life voters could give the governor's slate a conservative bump, the thought being that those voting yes on Prop. 73 will continue to vote yes on the next four initiatives in Schwarzenegger's reform ticket.

It could make for an ironic ending to this special election: for all the talk about his moderate beliefs, it may take a fight over abortion to rescue Arnold Schwarzenegger on November 8.

Bill Whalen is a research fellow at the Hoover Institution, where he follows California and national politics.