The abortion debate reflects our national values. The political reality is quite stark: Republicans favor pro-life legislation while Democrats advance abortion. There is a clear shift in the political power following the 2020 election.
Here is an overview of national legal trends that help abortion providers and hurt pro life clinics:
1. Eroding Religious Freedoms
HR 5 is called the “Equality Act.” It is an existential threat to our constitutional rights, including the right to life. If signed into law, HR 5 will destroy Americans’ religious freedom and conscience rights. It radically expands the 1964 Civil Rights Act of 1964 even beyond the Supreme Court’s June 2020 ruling in Bostock v. Clayton County, Georgia.
HR 5 claims to fight unjust discrimination against gay and transgender individuals.The bill will define and include sex, sexual orientation, and gender identity to be among the prohibited categories of discrimination or segregation. But it targets people who believe in a traditional definition of marriage and those whose religious beliefs prohibit them from participating in abortion.
If it becomes law, the Equality Act will:
- exempt itself from the bipartisan Religious Freedom Restoration Act, infringing on religious freedom
- force religious organizations to either host functions violating their beliefs or close their doors
- require women to compete against men and boys in sports, and to share locker rooms and shower facilities with men and boys
- force faith-based charities to violate their religious beliefs or shut down
- jeopardize existing prohibitions on the use of federal taxpayer funds for abortion, likely pressuring or even mandating the performance of abortions by health care providers in violation of their consciences
- force health care professionals, against their best medical judgment, to support treatments and procedures associated with “gender transition.”
2. Using Taxes to Fund Abortion
The $1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief package, known as the American Rescue Plan, uses taxpayers’ dollars to fund abortion. The law contains billions earmarked for projects that have nothing to do with COVID relief. And, unlike previous legislation, it omits pro-life protections required by the Hyde Amendment. The Hyde Amendment currently bans the use of most federal funding for abortions through programs like Medicaid.
This omission was intentional. Although Sen. Rand Paul offered an amendment to block use of COVID relief funds for abortion, the Daily Beast reported that the amendment failed.
According to Catholic Vote, “This is the first time in 45 years that Congress passed a spending bill without the pro-life protections found in the Hyde Amendment.” President Joe Biden, a self-professed Catholic, has recently renounced his prior support for the Hyde Amendment. The Catholic Church condemns abortion as a mortal sin.
3. Anti-Life Legal Trends
In a recent online webinar, the National Institute of Family and Life Advocates (NIFLA) identified state legal trends that will disproportionately impact the pro life community.
More Licensing Requirements
A Virginia state bill, HB 1683, would require state licensing for ultrasound providers. It sounds innocuous, but state regulation is expensive and burdensome. States already have licensing requirements for medical professionals. Adding yet another layer of medical licensing to use ultrasound equipment is unnecessary and burdensome.
Ultrasound images show women the humanity of the babies growing inside them. It is a powerful tool to change women’s minds about abortion, saving babies.
More regulations on ultrasound use drives up the cost for small pregnancy clinics to offer ultrasound screenings to women in crisis pregnancies. The result? Fewer pro life clinics will be able to offer ultrasounds. Fewer babies saved.
Targeted Government Reporting
Here a state legislature authorizes a commission to conduct a study targeting pregnancy centers directly. An example is currently in the New York Senate, S470. According to NIFLA, this type of targeted study unfairly discriminates because the study does not include abortion providers, only centers which advocate for life.
Government Compelled Speech
This type of pro abortion law forces pregnancy clinics to immediately inform any woman who contacts them that they do not perform abortions and will not make a referral for abortion services. New York’s 2019 Senate Bill 2264 is an example of this type of unconstitutional compelled speech.
NIFLA successfully challenged such government-compelled speech in its landmark win before the U.S. Supreme Court in NIFLA v. Becerra, defending 150 California pregnancy centers. In that case, California tried to compell pro life clinics to tell women how to obtain a state-funded abortion.
Laws Barring “Deceptive Statements” by Pro Life Clinics
In a law that sounds a lot like the current cancel culture, a Connecticut bill, SB 835, targets pro life clinics by barring “deceptive statements” made verbally or in writing. This bill is very selective, targeting “limited service pregnancy centers” that do not offer abortion, or in other words, pro life clinics.
The law would hold such clinics liable for “any statement concerning any pregnancy-related service or the provision of any pregnancy-related service that is deceptive, whether by statement or omission….” Such a vague standard holds centers accountable not only for statements the centers make but also for failing to make a statement, by omission. Just like NIFLA v. Becerra, this type of law is unconstitutional because it compels speech.
A trifecta occurs when one party controls all three branches of government. Democrats currently hold a trifecta in California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Massachusetts, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Oregon, Rhode Island, Virginia and Washington. Look for pro abortion laws coming from these states .
The third part of this series summarizes current anti-life legislation in California.
Elisabeth Deffner contributed to this series.