June 12, 2011


The New Pro-Life Surge: Political gains by U.S. conservatives unleash waves of anti-abortion legislation. (Sarah Eekhoff Zylstra, 6/10/2011, Christianity Today)

[B]y early April, 142 abortion-related provisions had passed at least one chamber of a state legislature, compared with 67 in 2009. More than half of the 142 bills (57 percent) introduced this year seek to restrict abortion access, compared with 38 percent in 2010.

About 40 new anti-abortion laws were on the books by mid-April. They include:

expanding the waiting period requirement in South Dakota from 24 hours to 72 hours, and requiring women to visit a crisis pregnancy center in the interim.

requiring a physician who performs an abortion in South Dakota to provide counseling on all risk factors related to abortion.

allowing any hospital employee in Utah to refuse to "participate in any way" in an abortion.

making it a felony in Arizona to perform or provide money for abortions sought because of a baby's race or sex.

prohibiting insurance plans that participate in the state insurance exchange from including abortion coverage in Virginia, Arizona, Idaho, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, and Tennessee.

prohibiting the abortion of a fetus capable of feeling pain in Nebraska, Kansas, Idaho, and Oklahoma. The organization National Right to Life has drafted a model bill for pro-life lawmakers to use.

Republican victories in the 2010 mid-term elections account for much of the legislative surge. Republicans won control of the House of Representatives and made gains in the Senate. But their success at the state level was more significant. They took 29 governorships and 680 seats in state legislatures, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.

It's the largest gain in modern history. The previous record was held by Democrats in the post-Watergate 1974 election, in which they picked up 628 seats. Republicans now control the governor's office and both legislative chambers of 21 states, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.

"The November elections brought huge change in the state houses," said Charmaine Yoest, president of Americans United for Life. "But we've been tilling this ground for a while."

The forward momentum began, Yoest said, when the Supreme Court upheld the federal ban on partial-birth abortion in 2007.

"They chipped away at the absolute right to abortion," Yoest said. "The Supreme Court said that states do have the right to limit abortion. That was a seismic shift." Pro-life advocates began to see how far they could get with restrictions, such as parental notification and informed consent laws, she said.

The legislation has been snowballing since the Republican sweep: "Just in the first three months of this year, we've provided testimony on 17 life-related legislative matters," she said. In previous years, the average number of testimonies provided was two or three for the entire year.

Public Opinion Changes

Restricting abortion through new state laws seems to be highly effective in reducing abortion rates.

"We see that the number of abortions has gone down by 22 percent between 1990 and 2005," said Michael New, political science professor at the University of Alabama. "An important reason is the restrictions that more and more states are passing."

Posted by at June 12, 2011 7:03 PM

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