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Steve Weatherbe

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Pro-aborts tout one big victory in 2016 but admit many legislative setbacks

Steve Weatherbe
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Denise Burke

WASHINGTON, D.C., January 4, 2016 (LifeSiteNews) – The Center for Reproductive Rights lamented the passage of 60 new laws in 2016 restricting the abortion industry but also was encouraged by some “incredible victories” and the possibility of pro-life laws being undone in the future.

However, Americans United for Life (AUL) said one of those victories — the U.S. Supreme Court’s anti-life ruling in Whole Woman’s Health vs. Hellerstedt — will be only narrowly felt. AUL noted that the pro-life movement’s ongoing efforts to convince Americans that abortion harms women is bearing fruit with more than 300 pro-life laws passed in many U.S. states since 2011.

The Center for Reproductive Rights provided a state-by-state rundown of what it calls “anti-choice” bills and measures considered or enacted in 2016, as well as  the Whole Woman’s Health decision and several legal challenges of new state laws by abortion groups using the Supreme Court ruling.

The CRR report, titled 2016 State of the States: A Pivotal Time for Reproductive Rights, zeroes in on what it sees as the worst of the new laws: “Eight states passed new laws intended to defund Planned Parenthood, and eight states passed laws that ban the donation of embryonic or fetal tissue or otherwise restrict the disposition of such tissue. And four states passed copycat legislation banning the standard D&E abortion procedure.”

The report acknowledges the key role the Center for Medical Progress’ undercover operation played in inspiring much of the legislation. The videos exposed the profiteering in aborted baby parts by Planned Parenthood in what the abortion giant called a “smear campaign.”

The CRR report’s authors clearly pin their hopes on the Supreme Court ruling in Whole Woman’s Health being used to overthrow many of the new pro-life laws. The abortion group called Whole Woman’s Health “a huge victory” that “dealt a blow to sham abortion restrictions that purport to protect women’s health. … Reproductive rights advocates must use Whole Woman’s Health to dismantle each and every sham abortion restriction on the books.”  

The abortion group cited seven challenges already in the courts. Among them are Arkansas’ new law requiring abortionists to have visiting privileges at local hospitals and Indiana’s new ban on abortions based on the unborn child’s gender or fetal abnormality and its requirement that aborted unborn children be either buried or cremated.

But Denise Burke, vice president for legal affairs at Americans United for Life, told LifeSiteNews that the Supreme Court’s ruling in Whole Woman’s Health was “narrow” in scope and would not have the “huge” impact the CRR report anticipates. The ruling threw out laws requiring doctors to secure admitting privileges at local hospitals and abortion clinics to meet the same health and safety standards as other free-standing clinics. AUL is a major proponent of state-level abortion restrictions.

In the Supreme Court ruling, which Burke termed “astonishing,” it decided Texas legislators lacked sufficient evidence that either measure improved women’s health enough to justify the “burden” that the new restrictions would place on women’s access to health facilities.

AUL has taken action to prevent the same argument from being used again by amassing a detailed list of health and safety lapses in the nation’s abortuaries in its report Unsafe: How The Public Health Crisis in America's Abortion Clinics Endangers Women. It documents how 227 abortion providers across 32 states were cited for more than 1,400 health and safety deficiencies between 2008 and 2016 and details “hundreds of significant violations.”

Among those, 130 clinics failed “to ensure a safe and sanitary environment and to follow infection control policies;” 100 clinics did not “accurately document patient records and keep patient medical information confidential;” 82 failed “to ensure staff are properly trained for duties;” 74 did not “to purchase and maintain the required equipment,” and 30 failed “to monitor patient vital signs.”

Burke, the report’s author, said 43 different states considered 360 pieces of legislation last year and 19 passed legislation. This fell into laws protecting unborn children themselves on the basis of their ability to experience pain, and those deriving from the requirement that women be properly informed of the health consequences before consenting to abortion. That encompassed the right of parents to be informed when minors seek abortions, and the right to be informed that unborn children experience pain around 20 weeks’ gestation.

Those laws should not be affected by Whole Woman’s Health, Burke said, and had gone unchallenged for 20 years.

Burke said the anticipated appointment of one or more pro-life judges to the Supreme Court by the Trump administration might not show results for several years because the court hears only 100 cases a year that progress through lower courts first. “But there are more than 100 vacancies at the federal district and appellate levels where most of the new laws would be challenged” in the short term. Burke hopes to see more pro-life appointments in those courts, including four in the notoriously liberal Ninth Circuit.  

“We continue to make progress in protecting women and children,” Burke said. “We are succeeding in a very big way in convincing the American public that abortion harms women. These laws at the state level reflect that.”



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