By Casey Romanoff Coffin, Legislative Assistant, Department of State Legislation
Editor’s note. This appeared in the January issue of NRL News. Please share with your pro-life family and friends.
2022 was an historic year that saw the U.S. Supreme Court finally end the so-called constitutional right to abortion. The decision in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health, which overturned Roe v. Wade and returned the abortion issue to state legislatures, was a joyous moment for mothers and unborn children. It was the culmination of decades of work for all of us in the pro-life movement who had worked diligently alongside hundreds of dedicated pro-life state legislators across the country to legally defend the vulnerable at the state level.
2023 is our opportunity to do even more to expand protections for unborn children and increase support for moms during and after pregnancy.
Pro-life momentum continues to grow at the state level.
Some states began 2023 with laws not in effect this time last year. Thirteen states had previously enacted so-called “trigger laws,” which would take effect when Roe was reversed, as it was on June 24, 2022. Other states had pre-Roe pro-life laws re-enacted.
Pro-life legislators have already rolled up their sleeves and gotten to work. They have already pre-filed (filed before the new session started) or introduced life-affirming, life-sustaining bills in their 2023 legislative sessions. Kansas legislators introduced a bill to prohibit the dispensing of dangerous chemical abortion drugs via telemedicine. Missouri legislators pre-filed a bill before the legislative session that would extend Medicaid coverage to postpartum women up to one year after birth. Several other states plan to introduce similar legislation.
Pro-lifers should expect legislation protecting unborn children from the earliest stages of life to the crucial first months outside their mother’s womb. We anticipate early pregnancy protection bills such as “heartbeat” bills, which protect unborn children when their hearts begin to beat (around six weeks). “Gestational age” bills will protect unborn children capable of feeling pain (around 15-weeks gestation).
The “Every Mother Matters Act” (EMMA) would require states to provide listings of available medical, mental, welfare, private assistance programs, and alternatives to abortion for pregnant women. Informed consent bills will allow women the right to know about abortion’s medical risks, accurate medical facts about abortion, and life-affirming abortion alternatives. Bills to prohibit the use of public funds to pay for abortion are also expected.
National Right to Life’s post-Roe model abortion law provides a roadmap for the right-to-life movement to defend as many mothers and children as possible. This law protect the lives of unborn children from abortion except when necessary to save the mother’s life. The NRLC model also offers criminal penalties and broad criminal enforcement authority, civil remedies, and licensing revocations for physicians who perform illegal abortions.
In light of recent efforts by pro-abortion states inviting travel over state lines to access abortion in states where it remains legal, and their effort to make chemical abortions more easily available, the model law includes prosecution for trafficking minors to obtain illegal abortions and trafficking in abortifacients.
But we face many challenges. Abortion advocates such as Planned Parenthood have promised to do “whatever it takes” to promote abortion and continue to work hand-in-hand with their advocates in state legislatures. Pro-abortion bills to expand abortion on demand have already been pre-filed and introduced. The bills include shielding abortion providers who perform abortions on women who travel from states who restrict abortion; requiring health plans and state Medicaid funds to cover abortion; repealing various pro-life laws; and passing laws to “codify” abortion into state law. Unfortunately, abortion advocates had success using their millions of dollars for a misinformation campaign to defeat pro-life state referendums and to pass state constitutional amendments finding a “right to abortion” in some state constitutions.
We pro-lifers have a lot of work ahead and some means unchartered territory. But we know that our work is steeped in love and in truth. As Saint Paul instructed, “So stand your ground, with truth a belt round your waist and uprightness a breastplate.”