Columns

State-by-State, Pro-Life Advocates Set Sights on 2017

Demonstrators carry a banner during the March for Life 2016 in front of the U.S. Supreme Court in Washington on Jan. 22, 2016. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon, File)

Pro-life advocates plan to introduce an array of state legislation in 2017 aimed at restricting abortion rights.

The proposals are not part of a nationwide strategy. Instead the bills that either have been, or will be, introduced range from an Indiana Republican who wants to ban all abortions, to Texas Republicans who have already introduced three anti-abortion measures, to an Alabama Republican who said he is just “looking for one good piece (anti-abortion) legislation for 2017.”

Pro-choice advocates are confident much of the pro-life legislation will be declared unconstitutional unless – and this is their big worry – President-elect Trump appoints a pro-life U.S. Supreme Court justice.

Indiana

Even though Indiana Planned Parenthood leaders are already planning their legal strategy should it be approved, state Rep. Curt Nisly said he’s working on legislation to outlaw all abortions in the state.

“My goal is to treat the death of an unborn child like you would any other human being. As an elected official, I will continue to support pro-life policies seeking to preserve the dignity of all human life and provide a voice for the voiceless,” Nisly said in a statement.

Amy Schlichter, executive director of the pro-life organization Hoosiers4Life, said in a video promoting Nisly’s effort that Indiana already has a law on the books that states “human physical life begins when a human ovum is fertilized by a human sperm.”

“The law is there to stop abortions in Indiana,” Schlichter said. “Instead the Legislature has chosen to regulate it.”

Nisly and Hoosiers4Life won’t be getting much, if any, support from top Republicans in the Indiana Legislature.

Republican Gov.-elect Eric Holcomb said anti-abortion legislation is nowhere near the top of his 2017 list.

“I will be squarely focused on our legislative agenda,” Holcomb told WTTV when asked about Nisly’s legislation. “That’s what I’ll be focused on, not potential bills that aren’t related to taking this state to the next level.”

Texas

The Dallas Morning News reported Texas Republican Sen. Bob Hall has already filed a proposal for a state constitutional amendment to prohibit abortions in the Lone Star State to “the fullest extent authorized under federal constitutional law.”

Rep. Matt Schaefer said he will propose legislation that would ban abortions for women after 20 weeks in the case of fetal abnormalities.

“This practice doesn’t value what God values,” Schaefer said in 2015 when he proposed similar legislation. “God values that child who is defenseless.”

If a woman does get an abortion in Texas, Rep. Byron Cook (R) wants to put the state’s fetal remains rules and regulations, which mandate burial or cremation for the fetus, into law, rather than having the remains flushed away like medical waste.

Alabama

In Alabama, Rep. Ed Henry (R) told the Decatur Daily he just wants to find that one significant piece of anti-abortion legislation that will make a difference.

“The pro-life community is right now working on one thing that we’re going to do in Alabama in the coming legislative session,” Henry said. “We haven’t decided what it is going to be at this time.”

Whatever they choose, Henry said he wanted to be sure it was not just another “marginal” law, which can win legislative approval but doesn’t really change the reproductive healthcare landscape.

“We give the legislators an out by claiming they voted for something that was pro-life but didn’t make a significant difference,” Henry said.

Trump White House

Not only will pro-choice advocates have to worry about protecting abortion rights on a state-by-state basis in 2017; they are also faced with a president-elect, who at least for the time being, seems decidedly pro-life.

Candidate Trump wrote a letter addressed to “Pro-Life Leaders” in which he promised to appoint pro-life justices to the Supreme Court. Trump also wrote that he was committed to signing into law the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act, defunding Planned Parenthood, and making the Hyde Amendment permanent law.

Still, Stephanie Toti, a senior counsel for the Center for Reproductive Rights, told Mother Jones that she wasn’t terribly concerned by the prospect of a Trump-appointed Supreme Court justice doing something as radical as overturning Roe v. Wade.

“Women have a fundamental right under the Constitution to access abortion care,” Toti said.

California

But that doesn’t mean Democrats in California are taking anything for granted.

They aren’t yet facing state legislation to roll back abortion rights. However, Sen. Hannah Beth-Jackson and Assemblywoman Cristina Garcia vowed that it will never again be 1972 in America— the year before the Roe v. Wade decision.

“Given the president-elect’s promise to appoint an anti-choice judge to the Supreme Court, the safety and economic security of California’s women, and those around the country, are at grave risk,” said Garcia.

Jackson said while she was confident California abortion rights would not change, there was a concern that President-elect Trump’s statements and policies would “drag us back to an era of back-alley abortions.”

“We will not back down,” Jackson added, “and we will not be silent.”