The Battle for Saving Babies
May 24, 2019
Now that the legislative session is over, I wanted to take a quick moment to update you on some of the recent slew of actions of legislators across the nation with respect to the unborn. In all my years, I have never seen such a energized movement to stand for children in the womb, and the awakening of the faith based community.
This action comes because many believe that the conservative-majority of the Supreme Court might someday accept a case challenging the landmark 1973 Roe v. Wade decision, overturning it in part or in whole. Should that happen, the legality of abortion would once again be governed on a state-by-state basis, with states potentially choosing to maintain the status quo under Roe v. Wade, ban abortion entirely, or impose various restrictions on it.
In 2006, Hawaii legislators passed a Freedom of Choice Act, so if Roe v. Wade was overturned, Hawaii would still have legalized abortion on demand. That law reads:
“The State shall not deny or interfere with a female’s right to choose or obtain an abortion of a nonviable fetus or an abortion that is necessary to protect the life or health of the female.”
Haw. Rev. Stat. § 453-16 (Enacted 2006).
Here are some of the things that have happened around the nation:
(This list will be updated as my research continues and events unfold.)
NEWS AROUND THE NATION WILL BE REVISED AS NEW STORIES ARE POSTED. (Revised May 29, 2019)
On May 15, 2019, the State of Alabama passed a measure that would entirely outlaw most abortions at every stage of pregnancy, from conception on, and criminalize the procedure for doctors. Those who perform abortions could be charged with a felony and face up to 99 years in prison.
GEORGIA: On May 7, 2019, Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp signed a bill that would ban abortions if a fetal heartbeat can be detected. The legislation says that “no abortion is authorized or shall be performed if the unborn child has been determined to have a human heartbeat.” It includes some exceptions, including if the pregnancy risks the life or poses substantial and irreversible physical harm to the pregnant woman.
ILLINOIS: On May 28, 2019, the Supreme Court sidestepped part of a case (Box v. Planned Parenthood of Indiana and Kentucky, No. 18-483) that could have tested the constitutional right to abortion established in Roe v. Wade. In an apparent compromise, the court turned down an appeal seeking reinstatement of an Indiana law that banned abortions sought solely because of fetal characteristics like sex or disability. But the court upheld part of the same law requiring abortion providers to bury or cremate fetal remains. However, on May 29, 2019, and in response to abortion bans in other states and to codify current practices should Roe V. Wade be overturned, the Illinois House approved an expansive abortion bill that sponsors say will strengthen the state’s current laws. The measure would repeal the state’s current abortion law, adopted in 1975. In its place would be language in which certain elements are removed, such as: spousal consent; criminal penalties for doctors who perform abortions; waiting periods; and other restrictions on facilities where abortions are performed. The updated legislation, which passed a House committee on Sunday, also clarifies the definitions of viability and health. The Reproductive Health Act also includes language that treats abortion as health care.
INDIANA: On April 24, 2019, Indiana placed a near-total ban on the most common type of second-trimester abortion in the state. Gov. Eric Holcomb signed into law two measures approved by the Republican-controlled General Assembly that further restrict the availability of abortion in Indiana.
KENTUCKY: On March 15, 2019, Kentucky’s Republican governor, Matt Bevin signed a law that prohibits abortion after a fetal heartbeat is detected, which typically happens around six weeks into pregnancy. The bill was set to take effect immediately, and poised to become one of the strictest anti-abortion laws in the country. By the 24th, the law was suspended indefinitely while a federal judge in Louisville considers lawsuits claiming that they are unconstitutional.
LOUISIANA: On May 29, 2019, Louisiana lawmakers voted to ban abortions once a fetal heartbeat is detectable — as early as six weeks into a pregnancy — with no exceptions for rape or incest. The bill would allow for abortions preventing a pregnant woman’s death or “serious risk of the substantial and irreversible impairment of a major bodily function,” and would require doctors who perform abortions under such circumstances to specify their eligibility in writing. Abortions on “medically futile” fetuses that would not survive past birth are also not subject to the restrictions.
LOS ANGELES: On May 23, 2019, the Los Angeles County instituted a one-year travel restriction to Alabama in response to the state’s new restrictive abortion law.
MISSISSIPPI: On March 21, 2019, Phil Bryant, the Republican governor of Mississippi, signed a bill largely banning abortions once doctors can detect a trace of a fetal heartbeat with an ultrasound, a milestone that can come as early as six weeks into pregnancy.
MISSOURI: On May 24, 2019, Missouri Gov. Mike Parson signed a bill that criminalizes abortions in the state after eight weeks of pregnancy. Under the law, any person who performs an abortion after eight weeks could be charged with a Class B felony punishable by five to 15 years in prison.
NEW YORK: In January 2019, the state of New York enacted the Reproductive Health Act (RHA) to bring state laws in line with current federal law guaranteeing abortion rights, and to preserve access to abortion services should Roe v. Wade be overturned. The legislation allows for late-term abortion (i.e., after 24 weeks) if the health of the mother is threatened or the fetus is not viable. (Previously, late-term abortions had only been legal in New York if the life of the mother was at risk) It also expands the list of health care professionals who can perform abortions beyond physicians to also encompass highly trained nurse practitioners, licensed midwives, and physician assistants. (Click here to for information on Focus on the Family’s ALIVE AT New York event!)
OHIO: On April 11, Ohio passed a bill banning abortion in the very early weeks of pregnancy after a fetal heartbeat is detected. The law, known as the “Human Rights Protection Act,” SB 23 outlaws abortions as early as five or six weeks into a pregnancy, before many women know they’re pregnant. It is one of the most restrictive abortion laws in the country. The bill does include an exception to save the life of the woman, but no exceptions for cases of rape or incest.
VIRGINIA: On May 6, 2019, in a landmark ruling, the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia became the first federal court to strike down a law prohibiting advanced practice clinicians from providing first-trimester abortion care. These “physician-only” laws—which are on the books in 34 states—have no medical basis and are designed to restrict abortion access by mandating that only physicians can provide abortion care, despite evidence that non-physician healthcare providers can safely and effectively provide such care. Then, surprisingly, on May 16th, the COURT REVERSED ITS OWN OPINION.
PHILADELPHIA: After a state representative verbally harassed pro-lifers outside an abortion mill, the pro-life movement responded with a rally. In an online video last week, Democrat Brian Sims (Philedelphia) shouted at a pro-life demonstrator outside a Planned Parenthood facility. He can be heard screaming at the woman, saying things like, “Shame on you!” and, “You have a problem protesting in public? Don’t protest in public!” In response to Sims’ verbal harassment, pro-lifers organized a rally outside that same Planned Parenthood location.
SO WHAT CAN WE DO RIGHT NOW TO SUPPORT LIFE IN HAWAII?