Pro-life activists and public officials made significant legislative gains in 2018, reports the Huffington Post. Lawmakers passed nearly two dozen new protections for unborn children last year, including an unprecedented number of comprehensive abortion restrictions.
Iowa, for example, banned abortions of unborn children with detectable cardiac activity. Doctors frequently detect fetal heartbeats after just six weeks of gestation. Mississippi, meanwhile, voted to prohibit abortions after 15 weeks of pregnancy. Both states have eclipsed a benchmark previously established by pro-life activists: to ban abortions after 20 weeks of gestation.
Pro-life lawmakers’ goals have become more ambitious, notes Elizabeth Nash, senior state issues manager at the Guttmacher Institute, a pro-abortion think tank. “In some states that already have so many restrictions on the books, all that is left is to ban abortion . . . the next big leap is an early abortion ban,” Nash said.
State legislators also moved to protect unborn children from discrimination based on disability. In late 2017, Ohio legislators prohibited doctors from aborting an unborn child simply because the child has been diagnosed with Down syndrome. The bill belongs to a broad family of legislative proposals which seek to protect unborn children from unequal treatment based on race, gender, or physical abnormality.
Further, pro-life activists successfully campaigned to ban abortion by “dilation and evacuation” in Kentucky. Such abortions dismember unborn children in order to remove them from the mother’s womb. Nash notes that Kentucky’s law would prohibit most abortions after 15 weeks of pregnancy.
Finally, pro-life litigators sought to challenge permissive abortion statues in the courts. The appointments of conservative justices Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh have encouraged states to challenge the Supreme Court’s longstanding Roe v. Wade decision. “You have states across the country that are essentially lining up with prefiled abortion bans,” Nash said.
“If a state passes an abortion ban, it will be challenged and work its way through the system and can have impact[s] across the entire country. Because if the Supreme Court overturns or undermines Roe v. Wade, that applies to every state, not just the state with the case.”
States such as Oregon with no laws protecting the unborn, however, would not see any legal changes if Roe v. Wade were overturned.
Italy has experienced a steady decline in abortion rates, even though the country legalized abortion four decades ago, reports PRI. The reason? Doctors have become increasingly pro-life, and refuse to perform even legal abortions. Under Italy’s abortion law, gynecologists may register as “conscientious objectors,” and refuse to provide abortions without penalty.
“For example, in the public University of Rome, we have more than 60 doctors but only two provide abortion,” noted Silvana Agatone, a gynecologist who practices in Rome. “In 2005, the percentage of gynecologists that didn’t provide abortions was about 59 percent. Now [it is] 70 percent. And it’s growing every year.”
Nurses and anesthesiologists may also obtain conscientious objector status: In some regions of Italy, 90 percent of all care providers refuse to terminate pregnancies. Thus, many women who seek abortions at public hospitals cannot find any physician willing to end the life of their unborn children.
Agatone believes Italy’s pro-life movement has burgeoned because conservative political factions, such as the League and the Five Star Movement, have enjoyed recent success. Both the League and the Five Star Movement seek an outright ban on abortions.
Given the public’s support for pro-life measures, the ban may someday receive significant support in Parliament.
The Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals will consider Texas’ ban on fetal dismemberment, reports the Texas Tribune.
In 2017, Texas legislators passed Senate Bill 8, which prohibited doctors from performing abortions via “dilation and evacuation”–grasping and extracting fetal tissue with surgical instruments. After a federal judge blocked the measure, Texas sought to reinstate the bill before the Fifth Circuit Court.
Justices on the court heard arguments from Texas attorneys and litigators from pro-abortion groups, including the Center for Reproductive Rights and Planned Parenthood. Texas assistant solicitor general Heather Gebelin Hacker deemed dilation and evacuation a “barbaric” procedure. “It’s illegal to kill an animal that way in Texas, we wouldn’t execute a murderer that way, and notably the abortion providers don’t tell women that that’s what the procedure entails,” Hacker stated.
Hacker noted that less harmful abortion methods, such as potassium chloride injections, have a proven safety record and are currently available at abortion clinics. Thus, Texas’ ban on fetal dismemberment would not affect abortion access in the state.
Center for Reproductive Rights counsel Janet Crepps, meanwhile, responded that the ban was “invasive” and “medically unnecessary,” and that potassium chloride injections increase patients’ risk for complications. “Just the idea the state thinks that’s what’s within its power is contrary to the whole idea that women have a right to autonomy, dignity,” Crepps added.
Judges on the Fifth Circuit Court asked litigators to interpret Alabama’s dilation and evacuation ban, which was struck down by the Eleventh circuit Court of Appeals. The justices also sought clarification on potassium chloride injections.
Whole Woman’s Health CEO Amy Hagstrom Miller told reporters after the hearing that alternative abortion methods, such as injections, are “absolutely not the standard of care.” Referring to Alabama’s failed dilation and evacuation law, Miller stated, “I really lean on the fact that a [dilation and evacuation] ban hasn’t withstood these kind of proceedings to date.”
Emily Horne, a senior legislative associate for Texas Right to Life, expressed a different view. “It comes down to we’re really talking about a modest restriction on a very brutal abortion procedure while the child is alive,” she said.
Observers expect the court to issue its ruling in the next few months.
In spontaneous remarks to thousands of listeners at the Vatican, Pope Francis condemned abortion by comparing the practice to a targeted assassination.
“Is it right to hire a hit man to solve a problem?” the Pope asked. “You cannot, it is not right to kill a human being, regardless of how small it is, to solve a problem. [Abortion] is like hiring a hit man to solve a problem,” he stated.
Conservative Catholics had criticized the Pope for his reticence on abortion and other controversial topics. Observers considered Pope Francis’ latest pro-life remarks to be “some of his toughest to date.”
The Pope delivered his address at St. Peter’s Square during his weekly general audience, an occasion which attracted tens of thousands of spectators. Many in the crowd responded favorably to Pope Francis’ statements on abortion.
“I ask you: Is it right to ‘take out’ a human life to solve a problem? What do you think? Is it right? Is it right or not?” he asked. “No,” shouted the crowd.
“[H]ow can an act that suppresses an innocent and helpless life that is germinating be therapeutic, civilized or even simply human?” the Pope continued.
Catholic doctrine holds that life begins at conception and terminates at natural death. In previous interviews with news agencies, the Pope had focused his remarks on social issues such as inequality and immigration, stating that the Catholic Church had become “obsessed” with the debate surrounding abortion and traditional marriage. He had never questioned the Church’s teaching on abortion, however, and his latest comments confirm his commitment to pro-life values.
Louisiana’s 5th Circuit Court of Appeals has ruled that abortion physicians must continue to have admitting privileges at nearby hospitals, reports The Hill.
Pro-abortion litigators had argued that the admitting privileges law imposed an “undue burden” on women seeking abortions, because the regulation would force abortion clinics in Louisiana to shut their doors. However, the 5th Circuit Court found “no evidence that any of the clinics will close as a result of the Act.”
Judges on the court concluded that only 30% of Louisiana women at most could expect to wait longer for abortions as a result of the regulation.
The 5th Circuit Court distinguished Louisiana’s admitting privileges law from an analogous Texas regulation which the Supreme Court struck down in 2016. The Supreme Court had used an “undue burden” test to determine that Texas’ law was constitutional.
In contrast, when the 5th Circuit Court applied the same test to Louisiana’s regulation, it found that the regulation “does not impose a substantial burden on a large fraction of women.”
Louisiana’s Department of Health and Hospitals did not immediately respond to a request for comment from news agencies.
The U.S. 8th Circuit Court of Appeals has allowed Missouri to enforce laws which restrict abortion, reports The Hill.
The court overturned a previous ruling which blocked the regulations. As a result, abortion doctors in Missouri must now maintain affiliations with local hospitals, and clinics must obtain ambulatory surgical center licenses.
In 2016, Planned Parenthood disputed the regulations in court, arguing that the restrictions served no purpose and unduly burdened women seeking abortions.
“Look no farther than Missouri to see what kind of harm courts can inflict on women’s rights and freedoms,” said Dawn Laguens, Planned Parenthood’s executive vice president. “[J]udges on the 8th Circuit continue to re-write the books on abortion access. Today’s ruling threatens to eliminate abortion access at all but one health center in the state.”
Pro-life lobbyist Samuel Lee expressed a different view. Missouri’s abortion law does not jeopardize women’s access to healthcare, but in fact “protects the health and safety of women who are seeking abortions in Missouri without imposing an undue burden on them,” Lee explained.
Indeed, U.S. Circuit Judge Bobby Shepherd found that a lower court improperly struck down Missouri’s regulations. That court did not consider the potential benefits of the state’s hospital affiliation requirement, Shepherd wrote in the majority opinion for the 8th Circuit.
Shepherd condemned the lower-court judge for relying on “slight implication and vague conjecture.” The lower court should instead have based its decision on “adequate information and correct application of the relevant standard.”
Shepherd’s ruling provides precedent for further restrictions on abortion. As the 8th Circuit Court’s decision demonstrates, abortion rights litigators may fail to mount a sound legal counterattack to abortion limits.