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Pro-life State Laws
Shatter Record in 2011

BY TOM STRODE                                                                                                                   ©2011 Baptist Press

State governments have enacted a record number of abortion restrictions this year, including bans by six states on the lethal procedure during the last half of pregnancy.

States have adopted 80 abortion restrictions in their 2011 legislative sessions, far exceeding the previous record of 34 from 2005, according to a July report by the Guttmacher Institute.

Of this unprecedented number, four states--Alabama, Idaho, Kansas and Oklahoma--enacted bans on abortions at 20 weeks' gestation based on evidence a baby in the womb experiences pain by that point. Another two states--Missouri and Ohio--approved prohibitions at 20 weeks or later based on fetal viability, which is the ability of the unborn child to live outside the womb.

Indiana also adopted a pain-capable abortion ban, as it is known, but it includes language providing discretion to abortion doctors that the National Right to Life Committee (NRLC) considers a potential loophole.

Last year's election--which swept a large number of pro-life candidates into state legislatures--is a major reason for the rapid ascent in abortion restrictions.

"Obviously a lot of that is because elections do matter," said Mary Spaulding Balch, NRLC's director of state legislation. "In this last election, there was a wave of change in the direction of protecting the unborn child."

Passage of some of the new laws was based not just on the size of a Republican majority, however, she said.

"We have even had wins in states where it was bipartisan," Balch told Baptist Press. "It wasn't just one party that was becoming more active" in protecting the unborn, she said, citing as an example the North Carolina legislature's override of Democratic Gov. Beverly Perdue's veto of a bill requiring a 24-hour waiting period and an ultrasound display for a mother of her unborn child before an abortion. The override required Republican and Democratic votes.

Michael New, an assistant professor of political science at the University of Alabama and an expert on abortion-related state laws, agreed the 2010 election was one of the reasons for the vast increase in pro-life measures.

"This is partly because of the gains pro-lifers made in the 2010 elections," New wrote August 5 in a blog post for National Review Online. "However, [the] pro-life movement has also had to respond to the threat posed by Obamacare."

"Obamacare" is the term frequently used by critics of the 2010 health-care reform law, which pro-lifers oppose because it authorizes subsidies for insurance plans that cover abortion. Eight states enacted laws this year barring abortion coverage in insurance plans offered in the health exchanges established by last year's health reform.

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