This past Friday, the Guttmacher Institute released a policy analysis highlighting the significant legislative progress that pro-lifers have made at the state level in 2021. The report indicates that a whopping 536 pro-life laws have been introduced this year. More important, 61 pieces of pro-life legislation have been signed into law and 13 states have enacted at least one pro-life law. Furthermore, eight gestational age limits have already been enacted. The Guttmacher Institute states that the number of pro-life laws enacted during the past four months is “unprecedented.” Excellent news for pro-lifers!
Guttmacher also noted that legislatively, last week was the most productive week for pro-lifers in at least a decade, as 28 pro-life bills were signed into law. Highlights from the year included Idaho and Oklahoma each passing bills that protect preborn children after a fetal heartbeat can be detected. Additionally, Montana passed legislation protecting preborn children after 20 weeks gestation. Arizona governor Doug Ducey signed a bill prohibiting abortions due to a prenatal diagnosis such as Down syndrome. Additionally, in response to the recent FDA decision allowing women to obtain chemical abortion drugs by mail during the pandemic, Montana, Indiana, and Arizona all enacted safeguards on chemical abortions.
There are several important lessons pro-lifers can learn from this. First, impressive pro-life progress can take place at the state level even during Democratic presidential administrations. During the Clinton administration approximately twelve state level pro-life parental involvement laws took effect and eleven states passed Casey-style informed-consent laws. During the Obama administration over 400 state-level pro-life laws were enacted. Various Supreme Court decisions, including Planned Parenthood v. Casey and Gonzalez v Carhart, and pro-life gains in many state legislatures have made it easier to enact these protective pro-life laws.
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Second, the success that Republicans have enjoyed at the state and local level has made it much easier to pass protections for unborn children. Currently, Republicans control both chambers of the state legislature in 30 states and possess unified control of government in 23 states. In fact, even though Democrats won the Presidency and control of both the U.S. House and U.S. Senate during the most recent election cycle, Republicans actually won unified control of two additional state governments during the 2020 election cycle. As recently as 1990, Republican controlled both chambers of the state legislature in only five states. The investments that pro-lifers have made in local elections are certainly paying impressive dividends.
Finally, in many blue states, pro-lifers are playing good defense. Recent Guttmacher Institute policy analyses often highlight states that have either expanded access to abortion or made abortion policy more permissive. However, social liberals and supporters of legal abortion and have enjoyed little success at the state level this year. Efforts to repeal the pro-life parental-involvement law in Illinois remain stalled. Thus far, the New Jersey state legislature has been unable to pass the Reproductive Freedom Act, which would explicitly make abortion legal throughout all nine months of pregnancy and make it possible for non-physicians to perform abortions. Finally, in April, pro-lifers defeated a bill to legalized assisted suicide in Connecticut.
That said, even though pro-lifers have made significant progress at the state level, the Biden administration is aggressively seeking to expand access to abortion both at home and abroad. Shortly after Joe Biden’s inauguration, the Mexico City Policy was repealed. NGOs that promote or perform abortions are now eligible to receive U.S. foreign-aid dollars. Additionally, the Biden administration is moving to restore Planned Parenthood’s eligibility for Title X grants. This means Planned Parenthood will receive tens of millions of additional federal dollars. Finally, this month President Biden will release his fiscal 2022 budget proposal, which will likely call for a repeal of the Hyde Amendment. As always, pro-lifers would do well to be diligent.
LifeNews Note: Michael J. New is a Research Associate at the Busch School of Business at The Catholic University of America and is an associate scholar at the Charlotte Lozier Institute. Follow him on Twitter @Michael_J_New