State legislatures across the country have enacted an avalanche of restrictions that deny women of their reproductive rights. Just this year alone, more than 300 anti-abortion measures have been introduced in the states -- in direct violation of the Supreme Court's decision in Roe v. Wade.
The anti-abortion legislation is an unprecedented assault on a woman's right to make decisions about her body and health. At least 185 anti-abortion laws have been enacted since 2011, and the likelihood that more will be passed this year are very real.
"Half of pregnancies are unintended," Elizabeth Nash told Lawyers.com. She is the state issues manager for the Guttmacher Institute. "Instead of trying to figure out why and preventing women from being put in the situation to need an abortion, we're doing nothing but putting all these restrictions in place to make it harder to access services when they are needed."
The laws are the result of the 2010 elections, when droves of conservative and tea party candidates were voted into the state legislatures. The result has been a surge of radical and unconstitutional laws that choke off reproductive rights.
- Eleven states have passed abortion bans, making it illegal to get an abortion at 20 weeks after fertilization, or as early as 12 weeks in Arkansas and six weeks in North Dakota. Women are often unaware they are pregnant within this time. Roe v. Wade provides a right to abortion up to 24-26 weeks, when the fetus is viable.
- Eight states have passed "personhood" laws, giving the zygote legal rights. These laws could make an abortion a crime -- regardless of rape, incest or the life of the mother.
- Eight states require the doctor to give the woman false information, such as requiring doctors to tell women that having an abortion increases their risk of suicide. Scientific research refutes this claim.
- In 26 states, women are required to receive anti-abortion "counseling" followed by a waiting period before they're allowed to undergo an abortion.
The Worst States
The laws come more than 40 years after the U.S. Supreme Court secured a woman's right to choose to end a pregnancy. According to a Pew Research Center poll, 63 percent of Americans say the high court's decision should remain in place.
The new state restrictions have nothing to do with protecting women's health and everything to do with making it harder to get an abortion. The state laws try to skirt the Constitution, making abortion services harder to get by making them more expensive, inconvenient, frightening and demeaning for women.
The courts have struck down unconstitutional laws in Arizona, Arkansas, Texas and South Carolina, but the states keep passing the laws anyway. In North Dakota, Gov. Jack Dalrymple cynically budgeted $400,000 to defend the state's illegal abortion laws, knowing the state will be sued and lose.
It started in Arkansas, where lawmakers approved a measure banning abortions at 12 weeks into the gestation process, or about halfway to the point of fetal viability. The U.S. Supreme Court decision Roe v. Wade guarantees a woman's right to an abortion at any point prior to viability.
Arkansas Gov. Mike Beebe vetoed the measure, correctly noting that it was "blatantly unconstitutional." The Legislature overrode that veto, making Arkansas America's most restrictive state on the issue of reproductive rights.
Three weeks later, North Dakota passed a bill outlawing abortions when fetal heartbeats are detected. With certain ultrasound tests that can be as early as six weeks, before many women even know they're pregnant.
The North Dakota Legislature and Gov. Jack Dalrymple also approved a requirement that physicians in the state's lone abortion clinic obtain patient admitting privileges at a local hospital, copying the strategy used to attack the last remaining clinic in Mississippi. They passed a separate unconstitutional ban cutting off abortion access at 20 weeks.
Then, going one step further, they approved the nation's first "personhood" amendment, which grants legal protections to the unborn from the moment of conception. That amendment will appear on the November 2014 ballot, and if voters approve it, North Dakota will prohibit all abortion in any form.
Silence from anti-abortion groups
Lawyers.com reporters Aaron Kase and Josh Crank repeatedly contacted anti-abortion groups for comment about the state laws. None would speak up, including the American Life League, Americans United for Life, Birthright International, National Right to Life Committee, Operation Rescue, Personhood USA and Susan B. Anthony List. Of those, only Americans United for Life responded, stating that Roe v. Wade "is a very flawed ruling that AUL knows will someday be overturned," but declined further comment.
"We want to put the pro-abortion crowd on the defensive, just like Hitler was when he was forced to fight the Americans, British and Russians at the same time," Gualberto Garcia Jones, attorney for Personhood USA, told conservative news site WND. "He didn't have the forces to fight everywhere. That's what we want to do to the pro-abortion supporters."
Logically, people who oppose abortion should not get them for themselves, and stop meddling in other people's lives. The anti-abortion restrictions are equivalent to putting a waiting period on free speech, or saying that a person has right to jury trial, but legislating who a person's attorney should be and ending funding for the courts.
"They want to ban abortion even in cases where the mother is raped, where she's a victim of a crime, where it affects her health and well-being," attorney and constitutional law expert Joanne Fanizza told Lawyers.com. "That's clearly a violation of Roe v. Wade. They claim to be pro-life, but to whose life are they pro?"