By Casey Romanoff Coffin, Legislative Assistant, Department of State Legislation
Editor’s note. This appeared in the December issue of National Right to Life News. Please be sure to share with your pro-life family and friends.
We have had our challenges in 2023, the first full year since Dobbs overturned Roe v. Wade but, as always, we persevere in our work to protect unborn children and their mothers.
There were many pro-life legislative wins. Iowa’s pro-life Governor Kim Reynolds called a special session after Roe was overturned so that the legislature could pass a bill protecting unborn children with a detectable heartbeat (around 6 weeks gestation). Florida, North Dakota, and South Carolina enacted similar heartbeat protections. Nebraska and North Carolina protected the unborn after 12 weeks gestation. Montana, among other life-affirming laws enacted this year, protected unborn children from horrid dismemberment abortions, and the lives of children born alive during an abortion.
Arkansas expanded its law to allow fire stations to provide newborn safe haven “baby boxes.” These boxes allow a mother to anonymously surrender her newborn child to a continuously monitored location (like a hospital or police station).
Mississippi amended its law to increase the age to 45 days old that a child can be surrendered while in New Mexico, a local fire chief called it a “tremendous victory” when a newborn was surrendered to the town’s baby box. West Virginia’s first box was installed in November; Kansas expanded its law to allow the boxes to be located at police and fire stations and other locations. Baby boxes are a visible example of how our society cares for mothers in crisis and their newborns.
In a big win for families, Idaho enacted a statute, built on a section of NRL’s model law, that protects pregnant minor girls by criminalizing transport by an adult within the state to conceal the abortion from the minor’s parent or guardian.
Wyoming enacted a first-ever law that prohibits prescribing, dispensing, selling, and using dangerous chemical abortion drugs.
There were other life-affirming laws enacted across the country. Arkansas required that a medical provider that performs or refers for an abortion must display an ultrasound before a woman has an abortion and must verbally describe the child seen on it.
Mississippi, Utah, and Wyoming extended Medicaid benefits to women to one-year postpartum. West Virginia’s “Support for Mothers and Babies Act” allows pregnancy resource centers (PRCs) to apply for grants. Louisiana and North Dakota now allow citizens a tax credit for contributing to PRCs, while Mississippi increased their tax credit allowance for contributions to PRCs. Florida, Mississippi, North Carolina, Ohio, and Tennessee appropriated money to help PRCs.
Kansas and North Dakota established the Alternatives to Abortion (A2A) program which helps women choose life by offering them numerous services. Texas continues to fund their successful A2A program. North Dakota now allows tax exemptions for diaper purchases.
Those are just some of the pro-life legislation passed in the states this year. (See “2023 State Legislative Session Enacted Laws: A list of each state law passed during the 2023 State Legislative Session”. It is tragic that more of our fellow citizens do not know about these protections – we all seem to be fed only a steady diet of how pro-lifers work to take away “women’s rights.” This is simply not the case.
Challenges remain as we approach 2024. Pro-lifers suffered a loss in Ohio where, once again, abortion advocates used a state ballot initiative to force their abortion-on-demand agenda on millions of unsuspecting citizens. Pro-lifers fought hard to defeat the initiative, but they faced a well-funded adversary and a pro-abortion media repeating their every word verbatim.
We anticipate more such initiatives next year. We continue unswervingly to educate how these initiatives are written with intentionally vague language so that abortion advocates can “protect” an unfettered right to terminate life.
In Kansas, the pro-abortion governor vetoed a pair of pro-life bills. However the pro-life legislature overrode the veto of pro-abortion Gov. Laura Kelly’s veto of the Born-Alive Infants Protection Act and life-saving Abortion Pill Reversal (APR) legislation. APR allows a woman to possibly reverse the effects of a chemical abortion, if done within a certain timeframe. These vetoes show what we face from “pro-choice” advocates.
The pro-abortion Colorado governor signed into law legislation called “Deceptive Trade Practice.” The law subjects a medical provider to disciplinary action if they provide APR. Thankfully, a Catholic healthcare provider in the state asked for a halt to the law’s enforcement, and they succeeded in winning a preliminary injunction.
In Pennsylvania and Wisconsin, pro-abortion activists elected abortion advocates to the respective state supreme courts. Pennsylvania pro-abortion Gov. Josh Shapiro announced plans to stop funding the state’s “Real Alternatives” parenting and pregnancy support program.
On the heels of their successful 2022 ballot initiative, Michigan repealed many pro-life protections. Minnesota repealed its “Positive Alternatives Act” which provided practical assistance to pregnant mothers.
Since these challenges remain, your legislators need to continue hearing from you. Let’s all help make 2024 a good year for moms and babies.