US Catholic Faith in Real Life

The state-by-state approach to pro-life efforts continues to yield results

By Scott Alessi | Print this pagePrint | Email this pageShare

Last January we published a story looking at the overwhelming flood of state laws passed to enact restrictions on abortion. In total, 2011 saw the passage of a record 92 state laws aimed at limiting access to abortion, part of a new pro-life strategy that favored chipping away at the problem over fighting for one all-encompassing federal law that would make all abortions illegal. It is a strategy that not all pro-lifers embraced, but clearly one that was making some headway.

Yesterday the Guttmacher Institute released a report that shows the trend continued in 2012: A total of 43 additional state laws restricting abortion were passed. Not quite the same level as the previous year, but still well beyond the number of laws passed in any year prior to 2011.

Many of the 2012 laws were along the same lines as those passed the year before. Some states enacted regulations on abortion providers, a measure that gives state health departments more control over clinics and makes the process safer for women (something that state Catholic conferences have been supporting, since even though they are opposed to abortion they still want to ensure the process is safe for women who do elect to have one). Other laws require counseling, waiting periods, or limits on when a woman can have an abortion. And some states targeted the financial side, limiting access to abortion coverage under state health insurance exchanges.

Clearly some of these laws will be more effective than others, and some will face legal challenges in the year ahead. Their true test of success will come when we have detailed numbers that show how the abortion rate has been affected in states that have passed these laws. And as pregnant women continue to seek out abortion, pro-life legislators must be open to looking at other factors that are influencing the numbers, such as lack of health insurance, unemployment, poverty, domestic violence, and a host of other personal and economic concerns that these women face.

What I found most interesting in the Guttmacher report was buried way at the end: state efforts that have nothing to do with abortion but are undoubtedly "pro-life." Three states and the District of Columbia passed laws relating to substance abuse and pregnancy, brininging the total number of states (including DC) with such laws to 38. Even more interesting to me was this bit of information tacked on to the very end of the report:

"Six states and the District of Columbia enacted provisions related to reproductive health and exposure to harmful substances such as lead, mercury, Bisphenol-A (BPA) and pesticides. Provisions to protect children from lead exposure were enacted in Louisiana and Nebraska. Meanwhile, Connecticut, Illinois and Oregon took steps to keep mercury out of the environment. Also, Illinois banned the use of BPA in reusable bottles and cups for young children, and the District of Columbia required the development of regulations prohibiting the use of pesticides near most schools and child-occupied facilities."

Laws that protect the health and well-being of the unborn, not to mention children and adults too? Now that sounds like a "pro-life" effort that we should all get behind, even if we do it one state at a time.