Published May 09, 2012
Pro-life activists say they aren't abandoning efforts at the national level, but admit they're now focused on state legislative efforts. In more than two dozen states, several different kinds of measures are now pending. Some require women seeking an abortion to first have an ultrasound; others set the limit on abortion at 20 weeks into a pregnancy. Ten states have also voted to de-fund Planned Parenthood.
Marjorie Dannenfelser, president of the Susan B. Anthony List, says there is a significant amount of pro-life momentum at the state level. "This is a moment that's a culmination of many factors, starting 40 years ago with Roe v. Wade." Dannenfelser notes that 92 pieces of pro-life legislation passed state legislatures in 2011 alone.
Those advances aren't going unchallenged by pro-choice advocates. The Center for Reproductive Rights (CRR) has launched a number of lawsuits related to the new measures. Julie Rikelman, litigation director for CRR, says, "National organizations are forcing state legislatures into spending a lot of time and effort to waste taxpayers' money on proposals that are clearly unconstitutional." CRR has scored victories recently in Oklahoma and Texas.
Last week, the Oklahoma Supreme Court voided a ballot initiative that would have allowed voters to decide whether to define "personhood" as starting at the moment an egg is fertilized. Days later a federal appeals court ordered Texas to continue funding Planned Parenthood. Texas has passed a law that would strip the organization of state dollars, but the state will have to continue providing that money while a suit challenging the law proceeds.
"Women and their families should be making decisions [about reproductive issues], not politicians," Rikelman says. But both sides of the debate agree, it may be six men and three women who ultimately decide. As to the numerous state measures and related lawsuits Dannenfelser predicts, "The last stop will be the U.S. Supreme Court."