The Cost of Playing Defense on Women’s Health – July 9, 2014

Over the last 10 years, there have been 14 statewide ballot measures attacking women’s health. These attacks, taken as a whole, reveal an extremist position that voters have consistently rejected.

Take for example, the so-called “personhood” laws. These laws are an attempt to insert government into decisions that should be kept between a woman, her family and her doctor — private decisions related to birth control, fertility treatments and management of miscarriages. It’s a position so extreme that even pro-life voters think it’s a bad idea.

This year is no different. Three measures attacking women have qualified for ballots in November:

The cost of fighting these attacks over the last 10 years has been significant. All told, women’s health advocates have spent over $43 million playing defense on ballot measures.

That’s a staggering amount. But the true cost is even greater.

With each defensive campaign comes huge outlays of time and energy — two vital resources that are hard to quantify in a campaign’s bottom line. Just imagine what passionate advocates could do with all that time and energy (and money) were they not stuck playing defense.

There is also an emotional toll to consider. People are fatigued by constant attacks. Conversely, research conducted by the Ballot Initiative Strategy Center has shown that voters are extremely motivated — a critical metric for ballot-measure campaigns — by the opportunity to vote for something they support.

With that in mind, perhaps there is an opportunity to turn the tide and play a little offense of our own.

In recent years, voters have stood up and protected women when these issues are on the ballot.

These victories are cause for optimism and, potentially, opportunities to advance issues that support women.

This November, it remains critical to educate voters about what’s at stake for women. The ballot measures in Colorado, North Dakota and Tennessee cannot be ignored. But as we look ahead to 2016, 2018 and beyond, we must think about how we can use our resources to advance a proactive agenda.

It’s time to consider playing a little offense of our own.

Originally published on Huffington Post.