In 1973 Roe v. Wade and Doe v. Bolton invalidated state abortion bans and made abortion for any reason legal on the federal level in the United States throughout the pregnancy. But certain state restrictions on abortion were still possible. In the next few years, the pro-life movement mobilized against these rulings. In 1980 a grassroots pro-life movement formed to not just counter abortion, but to help women choose life. By caring about both the woman and child, the pro-life movement moved beyond being simply anti-abortion. Legal strategies to reverse Roe v. Wade also began. The pro-life work of crisis pregnancy centers became like a fireproof building, while the work of legislators trying to save as many dying children as possible became the firefighters.
Those legislative “firefighters” have set about passing several important restrictions to abortion working with state laws. You can view a map of abortion restrictions where, in 2013, more than 25 states had implemented four or more restrictions to abortion! You can see below the types of restrictions that have been implemented state by state. Many pro-life groups have sprung up to help in this effort. For example, Americans United for Life has help craft model legislation for such restrictions, with an “Infant Protection Project” and a “Women’s Protection Project.” This is because abortion isn’t solely about protecting the unborn, but also the women who are at serious physical and psychological risk from abortion.
One particularly encouraging development has been the ability to work with unlikely allies in the middle, who have reservations about abortion on demand for any reason. Many are willing to pass restrictions which truly benefit women’s health, ensure abortion isn’t coerced, or limit late term abortions, as long as that legislation that allows for certain exceptions. (In fact, rape and incest make up only about 1 percent of all abortions and are rarely the only reason given to obtain an abortion.)
The Washington Examiner put it this way, “Large majorities oppose re-criminalizing all abortions. But large majorities also support limits on abortion, including banning them after … 24 weeks (when half or more [babies can survive]).” Sen. Marco Rubio explained his philosophy working with these moderates on passing legislation which includes exceptions: “I recognize that in order to have consensus on laws that limit the number of abortions, a lot of people want to see those exceptions.” And he clarifies, “I’ll support any legislation that reduces the number of abortions.”
But the public momentum slowed some after pro-lifers faced a crushing defeat this summer when the Supreme Court ruled against abortion restrictions in Texas meant to protect women’s health by ensuring each abortion clinic and abortionist was up to safe medical standards. It’s particularly crushing to have legislative successes trampled by court overreach. But this defeat should not discourage pro-lifers to continue legislative efforts in the states, many of which have been and continue to be successful ways to save lives, as you will see in the list of types of pro-life laws below.
Until Roe v. Wade is repealed, we need more of these laws to advocate for unborn babies and also for women who are at risk from abortion. We pray these kinds of laws will pass in many states and, eventually, on the federal level.
Below are some types of pro-life laws that have helped to reduce the number of abortions in this country.
Gestational Limits: These laws make abortion legal after a certain age in the womb — often at viability.
Ultrasound Requirement: These laws require women to have an ultrasound before they decide on abortion. Sometimes they are required to hear a description of the ultrasound. Sometimes women who are raped or incest victims are excused from this requirement.
Informed Consent: These laws ensure women have all the information about abortion and its risks before deciding to go through with one.
Restrict Interstate Access: These laws prevent women from traveling across state borders for abortion.
Health and Safety Requirements: These laws require abortion clinics to meet certain safety standards like ambulance access.
Legal Restrictions on the Abortionist: These laws often take the form of requiring an abortionist to have admitting privileges at a nearby hospital (ensuring a certain standard of medical report and competency). There are also cases of laws which reduce medical malpractice protection for abortionists.
Parental Consent Laws: These laws require parents at least be informed about a minor’s decision to abort; in some cases they must consent to the decision.
Defund Planned Parenthood: Legal proposals like defunding Planned Parenthood and other abortion clinics aim at limiting or banning federal or state funds like grants from being awarded to these organizations.
Allow States to Defund State Medicaid to Clinics Performing Abortions: Recently, the House passed a bill which authorizes states to decide that they will not provide Medicaid reimbursement of medical expenses if the medical office providing that service is also performing abortion. Thus, this legislation clears a path for states to stop giving money to abortion providers.
Web-Cam Abortion Bans: There are proposals to administer abortion drugs via skype-like technology without needing to meet the doctor! These laws ban that.
Choose Life License Plate: These allow people to pay to have Choose Life License Plates on their cars; money raised goes to pro-life centers.
Waiting Periods/Counseling Before Abortion: This makes women wait, receiving counseling and/or simply time between expressing her desire for abortion an actually obtaining one. At times, this requires two trips to the clinic.
Fund Health Center Alternatives and/or Adoption Options: Some states with pro-life leadership have, instead of funding abortion clinics, funded programs that fund adoption agencies, pregnancy centers, or non-abortive healthcare centers.
Fetal Homicide Laws: These laws mean that if a criminal harms a pregnant mother he is responsible for the harm causes to both mother and child as two victims.
Partial-Birth Abortion Ban: A national law now bans partial-birth abortion, the procedure of delivering most of the baby’s body before snapping the neck while the child’s head is still in the birth canal. There is some evidence from the Center for Medical Progress videos that Planned Parenthood may still be using the partial-birth abortion procedure to obtain “intact specimens” of whole baby organs.
Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act: This law would ban abortion after 20 weeks, because it is scientifically proven that the baby at that gestation can feel pain and the abortion is painful to them. The law failed to pass the United States Senate. However, some states have implemented the law.
Note: Find out what laws your state still needs to limit abortion! Explore your state’s laws here, and find out how they compare to other states here.
The pro-choice research entity Guttmacher Institute also provides detailed charts of abortion restrictions (you can click on a restriction, such as gestational limits here called “state policies on later abortions,” and see the states that have it. A summary overview chart of all restrictions is here).