State governments are on pace to enact a record number of pro-life laws during a year.
Already in 2021, a total of 13 states have placed into law 61 abortion restrictions, including eight bans on the procedure, according to a report issued April 30 by the Guttmacher Institute. The number of laws restricting abortion far surpasses the previous record for the first four months of a year – which was 42, including six bans, in 2011, the institute reported.
During April 26-29 alone, governors in seven states signed 28 restrictions into law, the report said. Among the pro-life laws were bans of various kinds in Arizona, Idaho, Montana and Oklahoma.
Pro-life advocates welcomed the wave of pro-life measures.
“The momentum across state legislatures to enact common-sense measures that protect life is encouraging and energizing,” said Elizabeth Graham, vice president of operations and life initiatives for the Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission (ERLC). “Protecting human life is a fundamental responsibility of government, and we are eager to continue supporting these efforts in states like Oklahoma, Idaho, Montana and Arizona.
“We are grateful for the Baptist leaders and committed pro-life advocates in each of these states who worked to pass these laws and ensure the health and safety of women and children. Our prayer is that God would continue to bless this work and hasten the day when preborn children are protected in law and cherished in our culture.”
Marjorie Dannenfelser, president of Susan B. Anthony List, said the “unprecedented surge of pro-life activity” in the states “proves life is winning in America.”
The Guttmacher Institute — which supports abortion rights and formerly was a special affiliate of the Planned Parenthood Federation of America for 30 years – said the flood of pro-life laws “must be taken seriously as the unprecedented threat to reproductive health care and rights that it is. The year 2021 is well on its way to being a defining one in abortion rights history.”
This year’s actions by pro-life legislatures and governors have occurred while President Joe Biden and his administration have rolled back numerous pro-life policies implemented by the Trump administration.
Since Biden’s Jan. 20 inauguration, his administration’s steps to support abortion rights and funding have included issuing a proposed rule to overturn a ban on Title X family planning funds for organizations that perform or promote abortions and announcing it would no longer enforce during the COVID-19 pandemic a requirement a woman must appear in person to receive the abortion drug mifepristone. Biden also has revoked a policy that barred money for organizations that provide or encourage abortions internationally.
“There could not be a stronger rebuke” to the Biden administration than the surge of pro-life laws in the states, Dannenfelser said in a written statement. “The states are sending an unmistakable message to pro-abortion Democrats nationwide – and to the Supreme Court – that the pro-life movement will never rest until unborn children and their mothers are protected in the law.”
In recent years, state legislatures with pro-life majorities have passed various bans on abortions early in pregnancy in the hope they will be found acceptable by the Supreme Court and possibly lead to the reversal of the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision that legalized abortion throughout the United States. The confirmation during the Trump administration of three justices considered to be conservative has given pro-life advocates hope the high court is ready to use a state law as the vehicle to overturn Roe.
While the federal government and many state governments are trending in opposite directions on abortion policies, the pro-life movement continues to grow through ministries and outreaches that include pregnancy resource centers. Among these:
- The Psalm 139 Project – the ERLC’s ministry to help provide ultrasound technology to gospel-focused, pro-life pregnancy centers – has already placed six such machines in 2021 and has at least 10 more placements in progress. The ERLC plans to place from 20 to 25 machines this year.
- 40 Days for Life, a semi-annual campaign that includes peaceful prayer vigils outside abortion clinics, reported 755 unborn children were saved in its latest effort, which ended March 28. The outreach, which began in Texas in 2007, has occurred in 64 countries and has reported nearly 19,000 unborn babies rescued, 221 workers no longer in the abortion business and 110 clinics closed.
Among the new measures enacted April 26 and 27 by Republican governors, according to news reports:
- Arizona Doug Ducey signed April 27 a multi-faceted bill that prohibits abortions based on disabilities such as Down syndrome.
- Idaho Gov. Brad Little endorsed legislation April 27 to ban most abortions after a fetal heartbeat can be detected, which could occur as early as six weeks into pregnancy. The law will be “triggered” only when a federal appeals court supports a similar measure from another state.
- Montana Gov. Greg Gianforte signed three pro-life measures April 26, including a prohibition on abortions on babies 20 weeks or more after fertilization based on scientific evidence that a child in the womb experiences pain by that point in gestation.
- Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt signed four pro-life proposals April 26 and 27, including a heartbeat ban and a prohibition on abortion in the state if the Supreme Court reverses its Roe ruling.
In addition, Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson signed into law April 27 legislation that requires all facilities that perform abortions to be licensed as such by the state’s Department of Health. According to the Guttmacher Institute, the new law is Arkansas’ 20th abortion restriction already enacted this year, tying the record set by Louisiana in 1978.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Tom Strode is Washington bureau chief for Baptist Press.)