Pro-Life Group Issues State-by-State Report Card on Abortion Issues
by Paul Nowak
LifeNews.com Staff Writer
January 20, 2004
Chicago, IL (LifeNews.com) — Louisiana has received recognition for being the best state in protecting the safety of women and the rights of the unborn, while Vermont is the worst, according to the Americans United for Life’s 2004 state report cards.
The pro-life law firm annually reviews state policies and ranks the states according to the efforts made to protect women and children.
"The states are critical players in the cause for life, "said Denise M. Burke, AUL staff counsel and project coordinator. "The states are where more women are protected, where more life-affirming laws are passed and where more lives are saved. When Congress passes legislation designed to protect women and children, such as 2002’s Born-Alive Infant Protection Act or the recent ban on partial-birth abortion, it is simply following a path already forged by the states."
Texas, #2 on the list, was also named the most improved state. However, considering that Louisiana’s top score was only 36 out of a possible 42, all states have room for improvement when it comes to safeguarding women and the unborn.
Points are awarded on 24 criteria, with more than a third coming from three categories: informed consent (Woman’s Right to Know), unborn victims of violence protections, and health and safety regulations for abortion facilities.
"Abortion clinics are essentially regulatory-free zones in most states,’ Burke said of the latter point. "Women enter at their own risk, because too many politicians would rather ignore the substandard conditions at some abortion clinics than face the wrath of the abortion industry."
In addition to an overall score, AUL assigned a letter grade for states, reflecting the strength and productivity of their legislative session in 2003. Nine states (Arkansas, Colorado, Illinois, Louisiana, Michigan, Missouri, Tennessee, Texas and Virginia) received an A for their efforts in 2003.
Also considered were the positions and actions of the state’s governor, attorney general, and courts. Alaska, Florida, Indiana, Maine and North Dakota lost points for state supreme court rulings AUL considered harmful to women and unborn children.
"Statewide elections for governor and attorney general have a tremendous impact on how vigorously states will defend the protective laws that legislatures pass," said Burke. "Too often, judges thwart the will of the people, invalidating laws such as informed consent and parental notice laws, which have significant and widespread public support. Governors and attorneys general have to be prepared to vigorously defend these laws against the legal challenges that will inevitably be filed by many abortion advocacy groups."
"During this tragic 30th anniversary year of nationwide abortion on demand, the health and vigor of the Cause for Life is reflected in the many important pro-life initiatives passed in the States," said Nikolas Nikas, AUL’s General Counsel.
"The pro-life movement is not going away; indeed, it is growing stronger and persuading America that abortion is both the destruction of unborn children and the ultimate exploitation of women. This legislative session the States have continued to act to limit that destruction and to prevent that exploitation in a myriad of ways," Nikas added
Affiliates of National Right to Life deserve a significant amount of credit for the successes.
"Many of our affiliates have been successful in passing protective legislation over the years. These laws are reducing the number of abortions and are saving lives," Mary Balch, J.D., Director of the National Right to Life Committee’s Department of State Legislation, told LifeNews.com. "NRLC is proud of all of its’ affiliates and the work they do. We look forward to passing more protective laws in all the states that will protect all unborn children, the medically dependent and the vulnerable."
Here’s a thumbnail sketch of the major pro-life legislation that passed victoriously through statehouses this year:
Human cloning bans: Arkansas and North Dakota prohibited human cloning for any purpose. Missouri created a special trust fund and Life Sciences Board banning public funding for research involving human cloning, as well as research involving abortion or fetal tissue.
Crimes against the unborn child: Arkansas made the battering of a pregnant woman a Class A felony. Colorado created the crime of "wrongful termination of pregnancy." Connecticut increased the penalty for assault against a pregnant woman if it results in the loss of her baby. Nebraska recognized that a wrongful death case could be pursued following the killing of an unborn child. North Dakota required medical professionals, counselors, police, and clergy to report cases in which a pregnant woman abused alcohol or drugs during pregnancy. Texas revised its definition of death to include "for an individual who is an unborn child, the failure to be born alive."
Women’s Right to Know: Arkansas required abortionists to tell women that they may see an ultrasound image of their unborn child prior to an abortion. Minnesota enacted a law offering women the right to know about the risks of abortion, alternatives to abortion, facts about fetal pain and human development, an abortion-breast cancer warning "when appropriate," and a 24-hour "reflection period" prior to an abortion. South Dakota required that the state develop a website containing information on abortion. Texas required that a woman be offered information from a doctor by telephone or in person at least 24 hours before an abortion. Virginia amended its informed consent law to ensure that, if a woman chooses to review the state’s materials, that they be provided "in a respectful and understandable manner, without prejudice." Adoption must also be presented as a "positive alternative" to abortion. West Virginia required information on medical risks, abortion alternatives, and a 24-hour reflection period prior to an abortion. After the Missouri legislature passed their Woman’s Right to Know Bill, it was vetoes by Governor Holden. A bi-partisan effort in both the House and Senate successfully overrode the veto.
Clinic regulations: Indiana required that abortion centers be regulated by the Department of Health. Texas required that abortions be performed by licensed physicians; that an abortion facility may not be located within 1,500 feet of the property where a church or school is located; and that centers performing 50 or more abortions a year be licensed.
Parental involvement: New Hampshire required 48-hour parental notice before an abortion unless the abortion is needed to prevent a minor’s death. Virginia required parental consent for abortions for minors.
Funding of alternatives to abortion: Colorado passed a resolution honoring the state’s 54 crisis pregnancy centers and encouraging the government to provide money for medical equipment and abstinence education at crisis pregnancy centers. Louisiana appropriated $1.5 million in federal funds for abortion alternatives programs. Mississippi extended federal funding of a state program rewarding the top five counties with the greatest reduction in out-of-wedlock births without an increase in abortions. Pennsylvania appropriated $4.3 million in state funding and $1 million in federal funds for alternatives-to-abortion agencies.
Limits on abortion funding: Alaska passed a law reiterating the ban on public funds for abortions not mandated by federal Medicaid rules. Colorado banned public funds from being used to pay for abortion. Kansas prohibited funding to "promote, refer, or educate" in favor of abortion. Kentucky banned state funds or state insurance coverage from being used for abortions for state and local government employees. Michigan prohibited funds for pregnancy prevention programs from being used for abortion counseling, referrals, or services. North Dakota urged Congress to allow states to enact prohibitions on the use of federal family planning funds by public and private agencies within the state. Tennessee banned state funds from being used to perform abortions, with certain exceptions. Texas prohibited funds from being used to pay for abortions.
Abortion reporting requirements: Iowa required the reporting of information about the type of abortion method used, including whether RU-486 was used. Louisiana passed a resolution directing the Department of Health and Hospitals to comply with current law by compiling a statistical report on number of abortions and complications by parish and municipality. West Virginia’s new informed consent law also required abortion facilities to provide statistics to the state Department of Health.
"Choose Life" license plates/adoption promotion: Arkansas and Tennessee permitted the establishment of "choose life" license plates. Louisiana expanded the "choose life" plates to include motorcycle plates. Virginia created an adoption awareness campaign.
Late term/partial-birth abortion bans: Virginia adopted a ban on partial-birth abortions.
Abandoned infant protection: Illinois required sex education materials to advise students about the Abandoned Newborn Infant Protection Act. Virginia offered an affirmative defense to a parent who leaves a baby with a hospital, rescue squad, or ER within two weeks of birth.
Assisted suicide/palliative care: New Hampshire established an end-of-life study commission. Ohio outlawed assisted suicide and created a task force to study the treatment of intractable pain.
Stillbirth certificates for miscarriages/burial of children born dead: Florida required health care facilities and doctors to inform women of the right to bury or cremate an unborn child following a miscarriage. The Illinois legislature called for still birth certificates for unborn children 26 weeks or older. Louisiana required still birth certificates for unborn children 20 weeks or older. Maryland required still birth records for children 20 weeks or older. Mississippi amended the death reporting law to require the reporting of still births caused by a mother’s drug use. Montana required fetal death records. Nebraska amended existing law to allow relatives of a dead unborn child to control the disposition of the remains. Virginia required the state registrar to issue still birth certificates upon request for parents of unborn children 20 weeks and older.
The complete 2004 AUL State Report Cards are available at https://www.AUL.org.