State-level pro-life success

Pro-life activists hold placards as they march during the 48th annual March for Life in Washington, DC on January 29, 2021.
(Carlos Barria / Reuters)

Last Friday, the Guttmacher Institute released a policy analysis highlighting the significant legislative progress pro-lifers made at the state level in 2021. The report says 536 pro-life laws were introduced this year. More importantly, 61 pro-life laws have been enacted and 13 states have enacted at least one pro-life law. In addition, eight gestational age limits have already been enacted. The Guttmacher Institute says the number of pro-life laws enacted in the past four months is “unprecedented.” Excellent news for pro-lifers!

Guttmacher also noted that on the legislative front, last week has been the most productive week for pro-lifers in at least a decade, as 28 pro-life bills have been enacted. Among the highlights of the year, Idaho and Oklahoma each passed bills protecting unborn children after a fetal heartbeat is detected. Additionally, Montana passed a law protecting unborn children after 20 weeks of gestation. Arizona Governor Doug Ducey signed a bill banning abortions due to prenatal diagnosis such as Down syndrome. Additionally, in response to the recent FDA decision allowing women to get chemical abortion drugs by mail during the pandemic, Montana, Indiana, and Arizona have all adopted chemical abortion safeguards.

There are several important lessons pro-lifers can learn from this. First, impressive pro-life progress can take place at the state level even during Democratic presidential administrations. During the Clinton administration, approximately twelve state laws on pro-life parental involvement came into effect and eleven states passed Casey-style of informed consent laws. During the Obama administration, more than 400 state-level pro-life laws were enacted. Various Supreme Court decisions, including Planned Parenthood v. Casey and Gonzalez vs. Carhart, and pro-life gains in many state legislatures have made it easier to pass these protective pro-life laws.

Second, the success Republicans have enjoyed at state and local levels has made it much easier to pass protections for unborn children. Currently, Republicans control both houses of the state legislature in 30 states and have unified government control in 23 states. In fact, even though the Democrats won the presidency and control of the United States House and Senate in the most recent election cycle, the Republicans did in fact gain unified control of two more state governments in the United States. during the 2020 electoral cycle. As recently as 1990, Republicans controlled both houses of the state legislature in just five states. The investments pro-lifers have made in local elections are certainly paying impressive dividends.

Finally, in many blue states, the pro-lifers play a good defense. Recent policy analyzes by the Guttmacher Institute often highlight states that have either expanded access to abortion or made abortion policies more permissive. However, social liberals and supporters of legal abortion have thus seen little success at the state level this year. Efforts to repeal the pro-life parent involvement law in Illinois remain at a standstill. So far, the New Jersey state legislature has been unable to pass the Reproductive Freedom Act, which would explicitly make abortion legal during the nine months of pregnancy and allow non-physicians to perform abortions. Finally, in April, pro-lifers rejected a bill to legalize assisted suicide in Connecticut.

That said, while pro-lifers have made significant strides at the state level, the Biden administration is aggressively seeking to expand access to abortion both at home and abroad. Shortly after Joe Biden’s inauguration, the Mexico City policy was repealed. NGOs that promote or perform abortions are now eligible to receive US foreign aid dollars. Additionally, the Biden administration is set to reinstate Planned Parenthood’s eligibility for Title X grants. This means Planned Parenthood will receive tens of millions of additional federal dollars. Finally, this month, President Biden will release his budget proposal for fiscal year 2022, which will likely call for the repeal of the Hyde Amendment. As always, pro-lifers would do well to be diligent.

Michael J. New is an associate researcher at the Busch School of Business at the Catholic University of America and an associate researcher at the Charlotte Lozier Institute. Follow him on Twitter @Michael_J_New


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