Editor’s note. This memo was distributed by NRLC General Counsel James Bopp, Jr. two days before the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade. We are reposting it because of its intrinsic importance and because some readers may not have seen it when it first ran. In the memo, NRLC proposed a Post-Roe Model Abortion law for the states to adopt.
“For decades, National Right to Life and its state affiliates have led the effort to pass life-affirming laws at the state level that protect unborn children and their mothers – efforts that have drastically reduced the number of abortions and brought us to this moment in our nation’s history,” said Carol Tobias, president of National Right to Life. “With this model law, we are laying out a roadmap for the right-to-life movement so that, in a post-Roe society, we can protect many mothers and their children from the tragedy of abortion.”
The model law recommended by the National Right to Life Committee would first protect the lives of unborn children from abortion except when necessary to prevent the death of the mother, which has been the accepted policy of the pro-life movement since 1973 and for many years before. In addition, the model law ensures that no criminal or civil penalty will be imposed on a pregnant woman.
Second, because current realities require that abortion laws have a robust enforcement mechanism to ensure that they are effective, the model law provides criminal penalties, but also broad criminal enforcement authority—granted to both local prosecutors and states’ attorneys general—and civil remedies and licensing revocation for physicians who perform illegal abortions.
The model law also reaches well beyond the actual performance of an illegal abortion. It also includes aiding and abetting an illegal abortion, and a variety of other acts in furtherance of illegal abortion; trafficking in abortifacients; trafficking minors to obtain illegal abortions; and, in a RICO-style provision, the use of proceeds from a pattern of illegal abortion activity to engage in such activity.
On the civil side, the model law would allow state or local officials and affected persons to bring a civil action against any person or entity that violates any provision of the model law, permitting a court to enjoin the offender to prevent future violations; permitting compensatory damages if the plaintiff has suffered actual injury or harm from the defendant’s conduct; punitive damages, payable to the not-for-profit organization of the plaintiff’s choice, that provides services to pregnant women; and costs and reasonable attorney’s fees.
“Our model law builds on the substantial experience the right-to-life movement has had in developing pro-life legislation and we believe it presents the best opportunity to protect the unborn,” James Bopp said. “It is important that states not only prohibit illegal abortions, but also employ a robust enforcement regime, so that these laws are sure to be enforced.”
The text of the model law can be found here.