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North Dakota will vote today on whether life begins at conception

(Tom Williams / CQ-Roll Call via Getty News Images

On Tuesday, voters in Colorado, North Dakota, and Tennessee will decide on ballot initiatives that could further restrict abortion access. Here's a quick guide to each proposal, and what it would mean for women's reproductive health.

North Dakota's "life begins at conception" amendment

Measure 1, if passed, would make North Dakota the first state to define life as beginning at conception. The ballot initiative would add the following language to the state's constitution: "The inalienable right to life of every human being at any stage of development must be recognized and protected."

Like Colorado's Amendment 67 (see below), there's disagreement about how Measure 1 would affect the legality of abortion. Supporters of the amendment say that existing protections in North Dakota law would still allow for abortion. But opponents argue that the law is written too broadly and Measure 1 would make abortion illegal. The director of North Dakota's only in vitro fertilization clinic has said he would close his practice if Measure 1 passed. Embryos are sometimes discarded in treatment and his lawyer has warned that could put workers at risk of legal action.

A poll fielded in late September and early October showed 50 percent of North Dakotans supporting Measure 1 and 35 percent opposing.

"We are covered for malpractice but criminal charges? We're on our own," Steffen Christiensen, who directs the in vitro clinic, told ABC News. "Sooner or later, someone would try to make an example of us."

Colorado's "Personhood" amendment

Colorado's Amendment 67 would add "unborn human beings" to the definition of "person" and "child" in the state's criminal code. This is a less sweeping version of the personhood ballot initiative that Colorado rejected in 2008 and 2010, which would have added unborn human beings to other parts of state law.

What exactly would happen if Amendment 67 passes isn't totally clear. Some supporters say it would be tantamount to an abortion ban, making it a crime to terminate a pregnancy. Others say the scope is more limited, allowing prosecutors to press charges against those who commit violence against a fetus (a drunk driver who kills a pregnant woman, for example, could be charged with two counts of murder). Thirty-eight other states have fetal homicide laws that criminalize this type of violence, but all explicitly exempt abortion. The Colorado proposal does. not.

Amendment 67 opponents argue that the ballot initiative would ultimately outlaw abortion in Colorado. Karen Middleton, NARAL Pro-Choice Colorado director, has said that "if personhood becomes law in Colorado, it will ban abortion even in cases of rape and incest. It could ban common forms of birth control and in vitro fertilization."

The most recent poll on Amendment 67, conducted by USA Today and the University of Suffolk, found 35 percent of Coloradans support the measure and 45 percent are in opposition.

Tennessee's Legislative Powers Amendment

Amendment 1 in Tennessee is not a specific restriction on abortion access. Instead, it would add a new section to the state constitution specifying that the document does not protect a legal right to abortion, even in cases of pregnancies resulting from rape or incest. This is the language it would add:

Nothing in this Constitution secures or protects a right to abortion or requires the funding of an abortion. The people retain the right through their elected state representatives and state senators to enact, amend, or repeal statutes regarding abortion, including, but not limited to, circumstances of pregnancy resulting from rape or incest or when necessary to save the life of the mother.

Amendment 1 is meant to counteract a 2000 Tennessee Supreme Court decision, which overturned multiple abortion restrictions, including a 48-hour waiting period to terminate a pregnancy and required counseling prior to the procedure. If this paragraph is added to the constitution, supporters say it would allow them to pursue any abortion restrictions that are legal under Roe v. Wade, even if they violate that 2000 decision.

Opponents of Amendment 1 argue that the ballot could lead to stringent abortion restrictions that outlaw the procedure even in cases of rape and incest.

mid-October poll found that 39 percent of Tennessee voters support Amendment 1, 32 percent oppose it, and the rest are still undecided.

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