In the wake of the recent disappointment with Congress’ failure to vote on the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act—which would ban abortion at 20 weeks, the age at which it’s been determined an unborn child can feel pain—it’s nice to remember there’s a big beautiful world outside of the Capital Beltway. And that world generally is more in touch with American opinion and more amenable to common sense than Washington.
Because state legislators are closer to the people, elections still have consequences soon after they happen. Today, in 24 states, Republicans hold both the upper and lower house of the legislature as well as the governor’s mansion. There are only seven states where Democrats are in control.
“Republican” does not always equal “pro-life.” But in a Venn diagram with one circle labelled “Republican” and another labelled “pro-life, there will be a big overlap. Ergo, expect more pro-life initiatives to emerge in some states this year.
These days poll after poll gets results similar to the Quinnipiac University Poll last year which found that 60% of registered voters support a law to ban abortion after 20 weeks—including 59% of women. It’s not just pro-lifers who can see that the tide is turning against “all abortion, all the time.”
NARAL laments the 835 “anti-choice” laws that have been enacted since 2010, when another big wave of conservatives won state-level elections. Last year was a relatively slow one in this regard, with only 12 states passing 20 new pro-life laws.
Of course, for NARAL, any attempt to rein in the abortion-on-demand regime created by Roe v. Wade is anti-choice. Some recently-enacted measures, however, are arguably more about women’s health than about life per se. Most people would think they were just about common sense.
Arizona, for instance, passed a law allowing surprise inspections of abortion clinics by state health officials—like, say, what restaurants have to be prepared for. Remember: Roe v. Wade didn’t permit even that much oversight of abortion clinics.
NARAL calls it “anti-choice” to insist that the doctor performing the invasive procedure of abortion have admitting privileges at a local hospital. But isn’t that really protecting women’s health? Some form of that protection has been enacted in 39 states, most recently Oklahoma and Louisiana.
Explicitly pro-life measures have had success too: Last year, South Dakota became the eighth state to ban sex-selection abortion, along with Arizona, Illinois, Kansas, North Carolina, North Dakota, Oklahoma and Pennsylvania. Georgia barred its state-employee health-insurance plan from covering abortions except if the mother’s life was in danger. Alaska enacted “unlawful death” status for unborn children who die “through the unlawful or negligent actions of another person.” Alabama increased its waiting period to 48 hours.
Another electoral wave similar to 2010’s occurred last November. State legislative sessions are in progress now, and pro-life bills are off to a good start. Just last week, for instance, Pain-Capable legislation moved another step forward in South Carolina, West Virginia, Ohio, and Virginia.
In Kansas, Governor Sam Brownback has let it be known that he will sign the Unborn Child Protection from Dismemberment Abortion Act if it makes it to his desk. This unwieldy collection of words (how can we abbreviate it? UCPDAA doesn’t have much of a “ring” to it) describes the latest pro-life initiative—banning abortions in which unborn children are dismembered and pulled out of the womb limb by limb.
Kansas, recall, is the home of the late George Tiller clinic—the flagship pioneer of partial-birth abortions, which have been banned at the federal level and outlawed in 19 states. Another 42 states restrict abortion after a certain point in pregnancy, usually at 24 weeks, the time of fetal viability.
In the words of Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy’s dissent to the U.S. Supreme Court’s 2000 Stenberg v. Carhart decision: “The fetus, in many cases, dies just as a human adult or child would: It bleeds to death as it is torn limb from limb. The fetus can be alive at the beginning of the dismemberment process and can survive for a time while its limbs are being torn off.”
These are some pretty grim and ghastly things for legislators to talk about. But talk they will as the Dismemberment Abortion bill moves through the legislative process. State Senate Majority Whip Garrett Love’s initiative is going to make it impossible for anyone in the Kansas legislature—or any politician anywhere in the country once the media starts reporting on it—to hide behind “it’s just a blob of tissue” rhetoric any more.
Not all states in the beautiful world outside the Capital Beltway are created equal, alas, as AUL’s “Life List” shows. There’s a reason it’s called the “heartland” where those green states are located!
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Connie Marshner has been a pro-life, pro-family researcher, grassroots trainer, organizer, and lobbyist; manager; writer; homeschooler; editor; campaign adviser; coalition leader; fundraiser; and political strategist. She is absolutely thrilled now to be a blogger for Human Life Review.