Slow Start, Pro-Lifers Making Gains in State Legislatures
With 50 state legislatures meeting at different times and for various lengths of time, it’s sometimes hard to see the “Big Picture.”
Pro-lifers knew going into the 2007 legislative cycle that it could well be tougher than in years past. After all, a number of pro-life Republicans were defeated last November, caught in a wave of voter resentment over unrelated issues.
And early in 2007, progress was limited. In some states, it appeared as if legislators were catching their breaths after intense battles the year before.
But according to NRLC State Legislative Director Mary Spaulding Balch, events came into perspective in March. Not only are pro-lifers now taking steps forward in traditional areas, they are making important strides forward in a relatively new arena: the use of ultrasounds.
“You know it must be a very powerful tool because pro-abortionists are running scared,” Balch told NRL News. “They offer a barrage of rationalizations, but the bottom line is they are petrified that women will change their minds after seeing their babies.”
In nine states, the proposed legislation would require that if an abortionist uses ultrasound to draw a bead on the unborn child, he must offer the woman a chance to see her baby. In South Carolina, where the bill has already passed the state House, the abortionist would be required to show the woman an ultrasound and the woman would sign a form saying she had seen the ultrasound image.
“Incredibly, the law has been described as “sexist’ and ‘imposing a burden’ on pregnant women,” Balch said. “The same people who scream that women must always be told ‘all their options,’ including abortion, balk at allowing women to see whom it is whose life they are about to take.”
But it was the background to the South Carolina law, and similar proposals in three other states, that stand out to Balch.
She explained how a lobbyist had been viciously harangued by an angry lawmaker. A week later that same legislator voted for the measure in the House. What had changed?
Many grassroots pro-lifers e-mailed his office to explain why the proposal made eminent sense, Balch said. In addition, a powerfully revealing piece ran March 20 on ABC Evening News about the law, which included ample footage of ultrasounds.
“A pro-abortion spokeswoman intimated to ABC News that technicians at crisis pregnancy centers were giving women misleading information about their unborn child,” Balch said. “Meanwhile the viewer was seeing one ultrasound after another and had no difficulty seeing that the child was one of us, a member of the human family.”
If resistance to the use of ultrasounds is intense, it pales in comparison to resistance to proposed anti-coercion laws.
“All the law would do is require a sign in the patient waiting room that tells women that the abortionist can’t go ahead with the abortion unless the decision to abort is voluntary,” Balch said. “You would think this would be non-controversial, but you’d be wrong.”
Other good news includes the wholly unexpected defeat of an assisted suicide bill in Vermont. (See editorial, page two.)
Mississippi passed a comprehensive law March 22 which included the requirement that abortionists give women the choice to view an ultrasound prior to the abortion. The state joins eight other states—Alabama, Arkansas, Indiana, Michigan, Oklahoma, Utah, and Wisconsin—with such laws on the books. In addition, Idaho and Georgia are actively pushing laws that would require abortionists who use ultrasound to share a picture of the child with his or her mother.
Mississippi’s new law also contains a proviso that would take effect should Roe v. Wade be overturned. When that happens, the only abortions permitted would be when continuing the pregnancy directly threatens the woman’s life or in cases of rape.
“We had a bit of a slow start the first two months,” Balch said, “but we’re clearly picking up momentum.”