ALERT: State-level politics is where pro-life thrives

Crossposted on Amplify

While a lot of public attention has been given to abortion policy in Washington (abortion funding in health care reform, the potential overturn of Roe V. Wade, etc), all the action is happening at the state level.  And it’s not good.  This year saw an avalanche of extreme pro-life legislation, aimed at restricting access to abortion.  Many of the laws add procedures that have nothing to do with “life,” and everything to do with not trusting women with the decision to have an abortion.  This year in Oklahoma, for instance, SEVEN abortion-related bills have passed, including one that requires that a woman look at an ultrasound of the fetus before the procedure. Another of the Oklahoma bills requires the doctor to ask 38 questions about why the women wants to have an abortion, what her personal life is like, etc.  From my perspective, this will force legitimate clinics to resort to using contemptible fear tactics that we usually see from “pregnancy crisis centers."

Pro-life groups are really pushing it this year.  In Nebraska, a bill passed that bans abortions after 20 weeks.  The bill claims that this is because after 20 weeks, the fetus can feel pain, but many scientific groups have challenged this claim.  Really, what is going on is that pro-life groups are trying to replace the concept of viability as the limiting factor for abortion (as set by Roe V. Wade) with the much vaguer concept of fetal pain.

This year, a record 370 bills aimed at restricting abortion were introduced at the state level.  Many of them passed, and the ones that passed were very serious.  More details about the avalanche of anti-choice state legislation can be found in this New York Times article.

So what does this mean? From my perspective, it means that anti-choice groups have been smart to push their legislation in venues that receive much less news coverage: state legislatures.  They have been successful in part because so many people are focused on the national debate, where very large decisions are made.  Instead of taking the fight there, anti-choice groups have taken the fight to where smaller, and honestly less interesting, decisions are made.  But even though there has not been a significant pro-life victory at the national level (maybe we can count HCR as one), there have been so many smaller victories at the state level that I believe the country has become substantively more anti-choice.  This means that it is more difficult for women to get an abortion, and when they do they are treated with more hostility.  Anti-choice legislation affects the procedures and policies that providers must follow, but it also has an effect on the culture in general that often is harmful.  Both women seeking abortions and abortion providers face more danger in states where anti-choice legislation is in place.

If we are truly passionate about protecting the right of choose, we must make a difference at the state level.  Figure out what the pro-lifers are trying to do, and identify groups that are working to protect choice.  Educate friends, neighbors, family, and take the fight to your legislators and tell them what you believe.  Even in very conservative states, it is possible to influence policy in order to prevent the passage of radical anti-choice legislation.  It’s o.k. to follow the debate at the national level, but we really need to pay attention and try to make a difference at the state level as well.  The more people who contribute to the cause in their own communities, the better off our country will be.