A Pro-Life Election?


Rebecca Leber worries that the GOP’s victories on Tuesday, especially in statehouses across the country, spell danger for abortion rights:

Before Tuesday, Republicans controlled 60 of 99 legislative chambers. Thanks to the election, they will soon control at least 66. Majority status in two others remain undecided, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. The only two Democratic “successes” of the night were holding onto majorities in the Iowa Senate and the Kentucky House. The GOP also picked up three gubernatorial seats. This has bad implications for women, particularly on abortion rights. State legislatures were responsible for 200 new abortion restrictions between 2011-2013.

At the federal level, Susan B. Anthony List president Marjorie Dannenfelser celebrates the fact that “the next Congress will usher in a record-breaking number of pro-life women”:

The Congress that convenes in January will have at least 21 pro-life women, breaking a high of 18 following the 2010 elections. In 2010, there were no pro-life women in the Senate. In the next Congress, Iowa Senator-elect Joni Ernst will become the third pro-life woman to serve, joining Kelly Ayotte (R., N.H.) and Deb Fischer (R., Neb.).

While prenatal “personhood” initiatives failed by wide margins in Colorado and North Dakota, Robin Marty worries that personhood activists are already working on a new strategy focusing on the local level:

While North Dakota and Colorado were busy pushing for yet another statewide voter referendum, groups like the Personhood Alliance, a “life at conception” pro-life group formed by Dan Becker, president of Georgia Right to Life, intend to launch a “ground-breaking campaign” for 2015 that will introduce “pro-life ballot initiatives at the county and municipal level.” … By moving to a city-by-city strategy, anti-abortion activists can target just the places where actual abortions are being performed. There, at the clinic doors, they hope they might find some moderate success, since their statewide plans to pass personhood have been nothing but one failure after another.

Emma Green has more on at Tennessee’s Amendment 1, which will allow the state to enact more restrictive abortion laws:

The amendment language is specifically framed in response to the state Supreme Court’s 2000 decision in Planned Parenthood [v. Sundquist]. In that ruling, the court overturned several state statutes, including requirements that abortion procedures must take place in hospitals; that women must get counseling from physicians before getting an abortion; that they must then wait two days until having the procedure; and that “a physician may bypass the requirements of [these statutes] only when ‘necessary to preserve the life of the pregnant woman,’ regardless of her health.” …

Now that the amendment has passed, the General Assembly may have more flexibility to legislate what women must do in order to terminate a pregnancy, including those “resulting from rape or incest.” State legislators still can’t create statutes that violate federal legal standards on abortion—it can’t be outlawed entirely, for example. But they will “almost certainly” have a greater ability to pass restrictions on how and where women get the procedure, said [Hedy Weinberg, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Tennessee]—and they plan to, she added.

 notes that Tennessee was previously “something of an anomaly in the South, where it was the only state without significant abortion restrictions on the books”:

That meant a large number of women from surrounding states such as Arkansas, Alabama, Mississippi and Kentucky would travel to Tennessee to receive the procedures. About a quarter of the abortions in Tennessee are performed on women traveling from out of state, the Tennessean reported.

Anita Wadhwani talks with a supporter of the law who “believes Tennessee lawmakers will now have the ability to pass laws that deter out-of-state women from coming to Tennessee for the procedure”

“If we have an informed consent law and a waiting period, the incentive for women to leave their home state to come to Tennessee will be reduced,” said David Fowler, president of Family Action Council of Tennessee and a former state senator who originally proposed the constitutional amendment in 2001. “Tennessee in my opinion took the notion of abortion on demand to a new level, saying you can show up in the morning, have an abortion and leave that afternoon,” he said. “When the state has a waiting period law, I think you will see fewer who will find it expedient to travel to Tennessee.”