Pro-life forces have legislative momentum across the country heading into 2013, but pro-choice supporters also see plenty of opportunities to win in and out of the courts, as the nation’s political clash over abortion rights shows no signs of easing ahead of the 40th anniversary this month of the Supreme Court’s Roe v. Wade decision.
In the wake of November’s elections, 27 states now “enjoy a Republican majority in the legislature,” said Marjorie Dannenfelser, president of the Susan B. Anthony List, which supports pro-life candidates.
“We expect these states to be fertile ground for pro-life legislation,” she said, noting that Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder, a Republican, signed a pro-life omnibus bill Friday.
Groups are also cited the additions of pro-life Sens.-elect Deb Fischer of Nebraska, Jeff Flake of Arizona and Ted Cruz of Texas, as well as the appointment of Rep. Tim Scott to replace outgoing Sen. Jim DeMint of South Carolina. All are Republicans.
However, pro-choice advocates are savoring President Obama’s return to office, as well as the additions of like-minded Sens.-elect Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts and Tammy Baldwin of Wisconsin, and New Hampshire Gov.-elect Maggie Hassan. They also welcomed the defeat of numerous “personhood” measures that would give human rights to the unborn, as well as Florida voters’ rejection of a pro-life constitutional amendment.
Storm of pro-choice rulings
Pro-choice allies have scored victories in the courts.
For instance, the American Civil Liberties Union in Georgia sued to block the state’s new “fetal pain” law, which prohibits most abortions after 20 weeks of gestation out of concern that a fetus can feel pain at that age.
The Georgia law — the seventh of its kind in the nation — was slated to go into effect Tuesday, but a judge with the Fulton County Superior Court issued a preliminary injunction against it on Dec. 20.
“We’re glad that this dangerous, overreaching law has been put on hold,” said Chad Brock, staff attorney with the ACLU of Georgia, which represented three doctors who said the law would hurt women.
Pro-choice attorneys also won a case in Oklahoma against two abortion-regulating laws.
“A woman’s right to a full range of reproductive health care is fundamental and constitutionally protected,” Nancy Northup, president and chief executive of the Center for Reproductive Rights, said after the Oklahoma Supreme Court threw out a law that would have required a pregnant woman to view her pre-abortion ultrasound and hear a verbal explanation about it.
The state high court also ruled unconstitutional a second Oklahoma law that banned “off-label” use of chemically induced abortions.
Pro-life supporters lamented the setback. The “off-label” law was especially important because at least eight women have died of complications after receiving abortion-inducing drugs in a way that “directly contravened” the approved Food and Drug Administration protocol, said Mailee Smith of Americans United for Life. The Oklahoma Supreme Court’s decision means women are “left to the whims of an abortion industry that misuses abortion drugs for profit,” she said.
Blizzard of pro-life bills