In 2015, the fight against abortion began with a setback when a highly publicized 20-week abortion ban failed to pass in the U.S. House of Representatives despite its Republican majority. But the pro-life movement regrouped and accomplished legislative victories on the state and federal level, making last year one of the most life-affirming since the Supreme Court legalized abortion in 1973.
The National Right to Life Committee (NRLC) and Americans United for Life (AUL) celebrated the 2015 victories in two recent reports that also outlined legislative priorities for 2016. Pro-lifers hope last year’s momentum will carry through to November and help sweep a pro-life president into the White House.
According to AUL’s 2015 legislative session report, 48 states introduced about 315 measures related to abortion, a 17 percent increase over 2014. And state lawmakers enacted 30 of those measures, which included 20-week abortion bans, abortion facility regulations, chemical abortion regulations and admitting privilege requirements.
Oklahoma ranked first among states for passing legislation prohibiting some dismemberment abortions and for strengthening its informed consent laws, progress that also earned the state a place on AUL’s Life List All Stars. Kansas, Louisiana, Arkansas, Mississippi, Nebraska, Indiana, North Dakota, Missouri and Texas also made the top 10 in AUL’s state ranking. Washington ranked least life-affirming state for the seventh year in a row, followed by Vermont, New Jersey, California, and Oregon.
“The momentum for creating a culture that respects life in the law increases each year,” said AUL president Charmaine Yoest. “This is a historic time for life. More life-affirming and protective state laws have been enacted since 2010 than in any similar period since Roe v. Wade.”
Oklahoma, Arkansas, and Texas also made AUL’s Life List All Stars, a ranking given to states that most successfully enacted legislation protecting both mothers and their children. Arkansas enacted seven abortion regulations, including a law that requires informing women that their chemical abortions can be reversed. Texas continued to defend its abortion facility standards in court while enacting legislation strengthening its parental consent law.
And according to NRLC, the declining abortion rates prove legislation enacted since Roe v. Wade is working. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) data released in November showed a 4.2 percent decline in abortions from 2011 to 2012 – 31,000 fewer abortions overall. NRLC credits the abortion decline to long-term legislative and educational strategies.
But work remains for 2016. Though abortions have declined overall, the rate of chemical abortions is increasing. About 20 percent of all abortions are chemical abortions, the highest percentage since the government legalized the abortifacient RU-486 in 2000, according to the CDC.
AUL already has seen interest in new model legislation focused on regulating the treatment of fetal remains. Yoest also said state leaders are considering stronger abortion facility regulations after the Supreme Court agreed to review Texas’ abortion provider health and safety regulations. NRLC aims to continue shifting abortion arguments to focus on the unborn child’s plight by promoting legislation focused on the child.
Three states – West Virginia, Nebraska, and Missouri – already have introduced legislation to ban dismemberment abortions, and NRLC expects more states to follow suit in the coming months. Kansas and Oklahoma passed the legislation last year. Partial-birth abortions already are illegal in the U.S., and dismemberment abortions are just as brutal. U.S. lawmakers introduced a dismemberment abortion ban on the federal level in September.
NRLC also expects to see more 20-week abortion bans proposed in state legislatures. Though the legislation failed at the federal level, 12 states have passed the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act.
Douglas Johnson, legislative director for NRLC, said electing a pro-life president in November would encourage Congress to pass more pro-life legislation. NRLC anticipates federal legislation banning dismemberment abortion, increasing protection for healthcare workers, and protecting abortion survivors in the coming year. The Born-Alive Abortion Survivors Protection Act already passed the House in September.
“Even after seven years of pro-abortion policies from the Obama administration, the right-to-life movement is making tremendous gains on behalf of mothers and their unborn children,” said NRLC president Carol Tobias. “As the November election approaches, the right-to-life movement stands ready to protect our pro-life majorities in Congress and elect a pro-life president.”