Pro-life advocates celebrated dozens of legal victories in 2018

Pro-life advocates celebrated dozens of legal victories in 2018

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.

Texas seeks ban on fetal dismemberment

Texas seeks ban on fetal dismemberment

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.