Author archives: Chantel Hoyt

Pro-Abortion States Are Desperately Moving to Codify a “Right” to Abortion

by Chantel Hoyt

March 23, 2022

With the Supreme Court’s decision in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization quickly approaching, legislators in pro-abortion states are bracing themselves for the possibility that Roe v. Wade’s reign over state abortion laws might finally come to an end, returning to the states the ability to regulate abortion as they see fit and more fully protect unborn life.

Not surprisingly, it is the states with the most pro-abortion laws that are leading the effort to enshrine “abortion rights” language in their state codes or constitutions. Colorado is swiftly moving HB22-1279, the Reproductive Health Equity Act (RHEA), through the legislature, which would not only insert a “fundamental right” to abortion in state statute, but also explicitly deny unborn children any rights under the state (this includes all unborn children, regardless of gestational age).

Maryland (HB 1171) and Vermont (PR 5) are attempting to enshrine a right to abortion in their state constitutions, ensuring that, through future changes in the legislature and governorship, this “right” will remain in the constitution and be difficult to remove. If either of these states are successful, they will become the first to secure a “right to abortion” in their state constitution. If Maryland’s bill passes the Senate, it will go before voters in the state’s November 2022 election. After passing the legislature in February, Vermont’s Proposition 5 is already set to be on the ballot this November.

Additionally, pro-abortion activists in the state of Michigan have launched the Michigan Right to Reproductive Freedom Initiative as an effort to get a constitutional amendment ensuring a right to abortion on voter’s ballots this November. Similar to the language of Maryland’s proposed amendment, it establishes a “fundamental right to reproductive freedom,” which shall not be “denied, burdened, or infringed unless justified by a compelling state interest achieved by the least restrictive means.” This amendment would supersede a pre-Roe abortion ban, enacted in 1931, which has been unenforceable due to Roe. In order to get on the ballot, this measure needs to gain 425,059 signatures (equal to 10 percent of votes cast for governor in the last gubernatorial election). It remains to be seen whether this measure will be on the ballot this year for Michigan voters.

These laws stand to be alarmingly far-reaching, invalidating what few pro-life laws these states have and cementing their current practice of actively funding abortion. Colorado, Maryland, and Vermont’s amendments would guarantee abortion through all nine months of pregnancy for any reason, going far beyond Roe’s precedent of guaranteeing abortion to the point of viability (Michigan’s amendment allows abortion up to the point of viability). Each one of these laws would not only allow but defend abortions sought solely due to the race, sex, or disability of the unborn child.

 In Colorado, some legislators and constituents are cautioning that the RHEA, as currently written, would prevent the state from enforcing its parental notification law for minors seeking abortions. Maryland Right to Life has pointed out that the state’s proposed constitutional amendment would force physicians to carry out abortions against their consciences and religious convictions. After all, if something is a “fundamental right,” can it rightly be denied without the government stepping in to intervene?

Colorado, Maryland, Michigan, and Vermont are each seeking to become abortion destinations in the aftermath of Roe, where women from pro-life states can travel and abortionists can kill their unborn children. As troubling as this is, thankfully, even more states are poised to do just the opposite. Twenty-two states have laws (whether enacted before Roe and never repealed or designed to go into effect in the event Roe is overturned) to protect the unborn at conception or at the point his or her heartbeat can be detected (usually around 6-8 weeks), and others are currently moving to enact legislation to protect more unborn babies. Let these states stand out as a contrast to the states working so hard to maintain their cultures of death. The battle surely rages on, but there is hope in the midst of the darkness.

If you are a pro-lifer living in one of these pro-abortion states, please be encouraged. In Psalm 4:12, David reminds himself of God’s justice and care for the helpless, saying, “I know that the Lord will maintain the cause of the afflicted, and will execute justice for the needy.”

If you live in Colorado, Maryland, Michigan, or Vermont, contact your legislators voicing your opposition and vote NO if one of these measures is on your ballot this November. Your voice matters!

For Marylanders, click here to send a message to your state Senators, telling them to oppose HB 1171!

For Coloradans, click here to send a message to your state Senator, telling them to oppose HB22-1279!

Abortion Survivors Are One Signature Away from Gaining Full Protection in Ohio

by Chantel Hoyt

December 17, 2021

It is a hopeful day for abortion survivors in Ohio. Senate Bill 157, which requires reporting on the number of infants who survive abortions and strengthens the state’s existing protections for these infants, has been sent to Governor Mike DeWine’s desk. If he signs it, Ohio will become the 10th state to establish reporting requirements regarding abortion survival rates.

This change is significant. Currently, most states do not report abortion survival statistics, so we have no way of knowing just how many babies survive abortion attempts in the United States each year. However, we know that these babies exist. Of the nine states that require reporting, six have confirmed cases of abortion survivors—Arizona, Florida, Indiana, Michigan, Minnesota, and Texas. These states have reported a combined 203 infants who survived abortion attempts since 1997. (It should be noted that Michigan is the only state that has been reporting these numbers as far back as 1997. Most of these states did not begin reporting until at least 2006, and Texas only just began reporting in 2019.)

Given that this data is only from nine states, the true number of abortion survivors in the United States is still largely unknown. The Ohio legislature has done its part to help close the gap—now it’s up to Governor DeWine to see it through.

Ohio SB 157 would do more than simply require yearly reporting on the number of infants who survive abortions. It would require the director of health to develop a child survival form to be submitted to the department each time a child is born alive after an abortion. Some of the information to be gathered on this form includes the type of abortion procedure carried out, the gestational age of the child, and any complications that occurred. With these reports being filed monthly, Ohio would soon have data that would shed light on how often babies are born alive and under what circumstances.

Existing law imposes the criminal penalty of abortion manslaughter if anyone purposely takes the life of a child who is born alive after an attempted abortion. It also requires that care be given to preserve the child’s life. SB 157 would add to these protections by requiring the abortionist to immediately arrange for the transfer of the newborn to a hospital. The bill imposes professional penalties (i.e., revocation or suspension of licensure) for those who fail to comply.

Those in the Ohio legislature who voted for SB 157 have shown themselves to be advocates for abortion survivors. If Governor DeWine signs this bill, the data gleaned as a result will serve to raise awareness about abortion survivors in Ohio and around the country.

Click here to see how your state compares to Ohio regarding Born Alive Protections.

Good News: Ohio Is Strengthening Protections for Abortion Survivors

by Chantel Hoyt

December 10, 2021

On Wednesday, the Ohio House passed Senate Bill 157, a bill requiring that health and life-preserving care be rendered to infants who are born alive after an abortion and that incidents of infants being born alive following an abortion must be reported to the state’s department of health. The bill passed with a 61-35 vote along party lines.

SB 157 will now be sent to the state’s Republican governor, Mike DeWine. If he signs it, Ohio will become the 10th state in the nation to require the reporting of infants born alive after an abortion attempt (click here to see how your state ranks on FRC’s Born Alive Protections map).

Ohio Representative Gary Click recently tweeted about SB 157, saying, “This is one of the most important bills I have had the pleasure to support!”

Reporting requirements like the ones contained in SB 157 are an often-overlooked component of born-alive protection bills in the United States, but they carry great importance. Without these requirements, the number of abortion survivors in the United States remains unknown. This makes it easier for abortionists to operate in the shadows, without accountability for infants born alive for whom they fail to provide care. Much of the American public is left believing the lie that abortion survivors do not exist and that babies are never born alive following abortion attempts.

Although we lack the full picture of the data due to the lack of reporting requirements, we know that abortion survivors exist. Reports from the CDC; known cases of abortionists Kermit Gosnell and Douglas Karpen snipping the necks and spines of babies born alive; and the stories of abortion survivors like Melissa Ohden, Gianna Jessen, Claire Culwell, and Josiah Presley prove that these events do indeed occur.

Legislation like Ohio SB 157 is critical for attaining a more accurate estimation of the number of abortion survivors in the United States and to hold abortionists accountable for how they treat these infants.

If you live in Ohio, please click here to send a letter thanking your state officials for passing this legislation and urging Governor DeWine to sign it once it reaches his desk.

Wisconsin’s Gubernatorial Election Cannot Come Soon Enough for the Unborn

by Chantel Hoyt

December 9, 2021

This past Friday, Wisconsin Governor Tony Evers vetoed five pro-life bills that had aimed to protect unborn children and their mothers. This move came just two days after oral arguments in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, the case that could overturn Roe v. Wade and return the ability to restrict abortion to the states.

While the country anxiously awaits the Court’s decision in Dobbs, Tony Evers has once again shown himself to be pro-abortion. In his three years as governor, he has vetoed legislation to protect born-alive abortion survivors twice. Even a bill requiring that parents be given informational materials when their child (born or unborn) is diagnosed with a congenital disability could not survive Evers’ pen.

Evers announced the vetoes on Twitter: “I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again today, as long as I’m governor, I will veto any legislation that turns back the clock on reproductive rights in this state—and that’s a promise.”

Here are the bills that Evers vetoed:

  • SB 16 – This bill would have required that practitioners exercise professional skill, care, and diligence to preserve the life of infants who survive abortion, required that the infant be immediately transported to a nearby hospital, and imposed a criminal penalty against those who fail to comply (Evers vetoed a similar measure in 2019). (Click here for more information on Born-Alive Abortion Survivors Protection Acts.)
  • SB 503 – This bill aimed to prevent Medicaid funds from going to abortion businesses by prohibiting the Department of Health Services from certifying such businesses. (Click here for more information on defunding abortion and abortion businesses in the states.)
  • SB 591 – This bill would have required that a woman planning to undergo a chemical abortion be informed of the possibility of reversing the effects of the first pill in the event she changes her mind. This bill would have also added to existing abortion reporting requirements by requiring abortion businesses to report the number of previous abortions each woman has had; whether the abortion was paid for by private health coverage, public assistance coverage, or self-pay; and the reason for the abortion.
  • SB 592 – This bill would have required physicians to provide certain educational resources to parents whose child (whether born or unborn) receives a positive test result for a congenital condition (e.g., Down syndrome). This would have included information on the congenital condition, possible outcomes of the condition, the child’s life expectancy, and supportive resources and organizations.
  • SB 593 – This bill would have prohibited an abortion sought solely on the basis of the unborn child’s race, sex, skin color, national origin, ancestry, or disability. It provided a civil penalty for those who fail to comply, indemnified the mother (i.e., absolved her of legal liability), and created a civil cause of action for any individual directly harmed by a violation (Evers vetoed a similar measure in 2019). (Click here for more information on Prenatal Nondiscrimination Acts.)

State Senator Julian Bradley, one of the primary sponsors of SB 593 (the bill prohibiting discriminatory abortions), released a statement saying, “Killing an unborn baby because of their race, sex or disability is not healthcare. This is a radical, pro-discrimination veto from Governor Tony Evers. Wisconsinites deserve to know life is valued whether they are a man or woman, white or black, or have a disability.”

Senator Chris Kapenga, one of the primary sponsors of SB 16 (the bill requiring that medical care be given to abortion survivors), tweeted, “the Gov’s track record makes it clear he doesn’t have a problem with discriminating against some of the most vulnerable women—the ones still in the womb…” Senator Kapenga went on to say that by vetoing the bills designed to allow women to make informed decisions, Governor Evers was clearly trying to “limit knowledge,” causing more women to choose abortion.

As Governor Evers is up for reelection in 2022, the people of Wisconsin should remember his track record regarding the unborn and vote accordingly.

For more information on pro-life laws in the states, see FRC’s pro-life maps.

State Round-Up: Protecting Adoption Agencies and Foster/Adoptive Families

by Chantel Hoyt

July 20, 2021

Editor’s note: This is part of an ongoing series about key provisions that states have advanced in 2021 to defend the family and human dignity.

The U.S. Supreme Court’s recent decision in Fulton v. City of Philadelphia was a win for Catholic Social Services (CSS). It allows them to continue serving the neediest children without compromising their religious beliefs. However, the decision was not the strong affirmation of religious liberty for which many were hoping. As noted in FRC’s blog on the opinion:

The Supreme Court did the bare minimum to protect CSS and other faith adherents. It was only because Philadelphia had other exceptions, but not religious ones, that the Court found the city in violation of the First Amendment.

In his concurrence, Justice Alito warned that “[t]his decision might as well be written on the dissolving paper sold in magic shops.” Whether a city with no exceptions for secular agencies can force a religious agency to violate its religious beliefs is yet to be decided by the Court. Therefore, more needs to be done to protect and affirm the religious liberty of faith-based agencies. Fortunately, several states are taking steps to do just that.

Thus far, 10 states have Child Welfare Provider Inclusion Acts (CWPIAs), legislation that protects adoption and foster care providers from government discrimination based on protected beliefs about the nature of marriage and family. “Government discrimination” can come in many forms. Strong CWPIAs list as many of these forms as possible, with some of the most common being:

  • Denying a license, permit, or other authorization, or the renewal thereof, or revoking/suspending such license, permit, or other authorization.
  • Denying a grant, contract, or participation in a government program.
  • Denying the agency’s application for funding or refusing to renew the agency’s funding.

Ideally, the beliefs protected will also be clearly defined (i.e. the religious belief or moral conviction that marriage is between one man and one woman), although this has been less common in the CWPIAs introduced thus far. Many of these bills also include a strengthening provision—a civil cause of action for agencies whose rights have been violated by the government. Some bills also specifically protect child welfare agencies from being subject to civil fines or damages for acting in accordance with their beliefs.

Since 2010, 49 CWPIAs have been introduced in 19 states. Ten states have enacted these bills in some form—Alabama, Kansas, Michigan, Mississippi, North Dakota, Oklahoma, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, and Virginia. The first was introduced and enacted in Virginia in 2012, and the most recent was enacted in Tennessee in 2020.

In 2021, four CWPIAs have been introduced in four states—Iowa (HF 170), Kentucky (HB 524), South Carolina (HB 3878), and Massachusetts (H. 1536).

Iowa HF 170 is unique in that it clearly defines the protected beliefs child welfare agencies may hold. Among these are the beliefs that “Marriage is or should be recognized as the union of one man and one woman” and that “The terms ‘male’ and ‘female’ refer to distinct and immutable biological sexes that are determinable by anatomy and genetics by the time of birth.”

Oklahoma resolutions HJR 1059 (2016) and HJR 1023 (2017) read similarly to Iowa’s bill, as they specifically protect child welfare agency’s “beliefs or the lawful expression of those beliefs, including sincerely held religious beliefs regarding marriage, family, or sexuality.” 

Most CWPIAs specifically protect the right of adoption and foster agencies (many of which have a religious mission) to decline certain placements if doing so would violate a sincerely held religious belief or moral conviction. However, spelling out which beliefs warrant protection adds an extra layer of clarity for these agencies.

One important thing to note: Half of the bills introduced after 2010 have only protected agencies’ “written” beliefs contained in a policy or organizing document. Some bills even include a requirement that these beliefs be written and available to be viewed. This can exclude some agencies from protection if their sincerely held religious beliefs or moral convictions about marriage are not spelled out in a written policy or on the agency’s website. Therefore, CWPIAs are stronger when they don’t make this stipulation and instead protect all sincerely held religious beliefs to have protection. For example, South Carolina HB 3878 (2021) prohibits government discrimination against an agency for providing or declining to provide “any adoption or foster care service… based on or in a manner consistent with a sincerely-held religious belief or moral conviction.”

Contrary to what is often said by the media, CWPIAs do not stop same-sex couples from becoming adoptive or foster parents, nor do they limit the pool of potential foster and adoptive parents. The majority of child welfare agencies in the United States are willing to place children with same-sex couples. Most faith-based agencies, such as Catholic Social Services in Philadelphia, will help these couples find other agencies willing to assist them.

Forcing welfare agencies to either violate their beliefs, close their doors, or serve in a more limited capacity is detrimental to the children these agencies serve. Allowing faith-based agencies to operate alongside non-faith-based ones ensures that more children in need will receive care, not fewer. Recognizing this fact, 10 states have already enacted CWPIAs into law. Given the number of lawsuits seeking to force foster and adoption agencies to act in ways contrary to their beliefs, other states would be wise to get ahead of the problem and follow suit.

State Round-Up: Chemical Abortion Bans

by Chantel Hoyt

July 19, 2021

Editor’s note: This is part of an ongoing series about key provisions that states have advanced in 2021 to defend the family and human dignity.

While many states have enacted pro-life laws in recent years, the abortion industry has been searching for ways to circumvent such laws. The best way to do this, it has determined, is through risky, do-it-yourself chemical abortions, which leave mothers to endure the trauma of abortion alone in their bathrooms, with no support or medical follow-up.

Twenty years ago, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved mifepristone (Mifeprex®; also known as RU-486 or simply “the abortion pill”) to chemically induce abortions. Since then, the abortion industry has latched on to the abortion pill as a lower-cost alternative to surgical abortions—and one that can be carried out virtually anywhere. As a result, abortion pill usage has surged even as the overall number of abortions in the United States is in decline. According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), the use of early “medical abortions” (a euphemistic term for chemical abortions) increased 114 percent from 2006 to 2015. And according to statistics provided by the Guttmacher Institute, 39 percent of abortions in 2017 were chemical, a 25 percent increase since 2014.

Chemical abortion is praised by pro-abortion activists for expanding abortion availability, particularly for women who don’t live near an abortion business since they push mothers to self-administer the drugs at home. These activists choose to overlook chemical abortion’s higher rate of risk compared to surgical abortion and push for the removal of the FDA’s safety standards, arguing they are unnecessary and unduly limit “abortion access.” The abortion industry seems willing to gamble with women’s lives and health.

The good news is that many states are not. Since 2011, 74 bills to ban or place regulations on chemical abortion have been introduced in 29 states. Of these bills, 21 have been enacted in 14 states. These bills vary in approach. Some seek to ban chemical abortion outright, while others seek to regulate chemical abortions in an effort to mitigate its health-damaging and life-threatening risks to mothers. Bills typically include some combination of the following key provisions:

  • Require that the pre-abortion exam be performed, and the abortion pills be administered, in-person by a licensed physician. (These laws are often referred to as “Skype abortion” bans, since without them abortionists can abuse telehealth to dispense chemical abortion drugs without ever physically examining the mother.)
  • Require that physicians meet certain certification and qualification standards, including:
    • Being certified by an “Abortion Inducing Drug Certification Program” at the state board of pharmacy.
    • Being capable of performing an in-person exam to confirm the pregnancy, the absence of an ectopic pregnancy and determine the gestational age and intrauterine location of the unborn child, as well as document said information in the patient’s medical chart.
  • Require follow-up appointments (minimum of two).
  • Require patients to be informed of the “final printed label” (FPL) of each drug.
  • Require informed consent for mothers.
  • Require reporting of Adverse Event Complications and reporting to the state board of pharmacy.
  • Provide a penalty for noncompliance (criminal, civil, and/or professional).
  • Create a civil cause of action (i.e., abortion providers who violate the law can be sued).

In 2021 so far, a record-high 22 bills have been introduced and seven enacted in six states. Here is a rundown of the seven bills enacted so far this year:

  • Alabama HB 377 banned chemical abortions completely and imposed a criminal penalty for noncompliance. Specifically, it prohibits any person or entity from manufacturing, distributing, prescribing, dispensing, selling, or transferring the abortion pill or any substantially similar generic or non-generic abortifacient drug in the state. This is the strongest measure to be enacted this year.
  • Oklahoma SB 778 also requires the person administering the abortifacient drug to be a licensed physician, establishes informed consent and reporting requirements (i.e., number of chemical abortions), codifies criminal, professional, and civil penalties for noncompliance, and creates a civil cause of action for the mother, father, and maternal grandparents of the unborn child if these rules are not adhered to. This bill also prohibits the distribution of abortifacient drugs in schools or on other state grounds.
  • Oklahoma SB 779 additionally requires the person administering the abortifacient drug to be a licensed physician but adds that this physician must have admitting privileges at a local hospital. This bill also establishes the Oklahoma Abortion-Inducing Drug Certification Program, which requires manufacturers, distributors, and physicians to be certified to manufacture, distribute, or provide abortifacient drugs, and establishes requirements for certification. This bill also requires the physician to schedule a follow-up appointment, establishes informed consent requirements, creates a reporting system, establishes criminal penalties for noncompliance, and creates a civil cause of action for the mother of the unborn child. This bill, together with SB 778, puts strong regulations in place, ensuring proper safety precautions are taken and enforced.
  • Montana HB 171 requires that abortifacients be administered in-person by a “qualified medical practitioner” and prohibits the drug from being provided through a courier, delivery, or mail service, which targets the “mail-order abortion” model that the abortion industry is moving toward. It also requires the physician to perform an in-person exam of the mother prior to administering the drug to verify that a pregnancy exists, determine the mother’s blood type (since being Rh negative could cause complications), and establish the gestational age and intrauterine location of the unborn child. This bill also provides informed consent requirements, reporting requirements, civil and criminal penalties for noncompliance, a civil cause of action, and requires the physician to schedule a follow-up appointment. In addition, the bill also prohibits anyone from providing an abortifacient drug at a school or on school grounds.
  • Arkansas HB 1402 requires persons administering abortifacients to be licensed physicians, credentialed to manage abortion complications, or have an agreement with an associated physician who is credentialed to handle abortion complications. The bill also requires the physician to perform an in-person exam of the mother prior to administering the abortion pill in order to verify that an intrauterine pregnancy exists, determine the mother’s blood type, and establish the gestational age of the child. This bill additionally requires the physician to schedule a follow-up appointment (making all reasonable efforts to ensure that the mother returns) and prohibits the distribution of abortifacient drugs via a courier, delivery, or mail service. It did not establish any new penalties.
  • Ohio SB 260 requires physicians to be physically present when abortifacients are administered and requires the physician to perform an in-person exam prior to administering the drug. It also mandates a 24-hour waiting period before the administration of abortifacients and imposes criminal penalties for noncompliance.
  • Arizona SB 1457 places leaner regulations on chemical abortion. It requires that abortifacient drugs only be provided by a qualified physician (elsewhere defined in law) and prohibits a manufacturer, supplier, physician, or any other person from providing an abortifacient drug via a courier, delivery, or mail service. This bill doesn’t establish regulations as robust as the others, above. However, to the bill’s credit, it establishes strong abortion regulations in other areas not related to chemical abortion, such as prohibiting an abortion solely based on a diagnosis of a genetic abnormality of the unborn child.

No other year has seen so many bills to regulate or ban chemical abortion introduced, let alone enacted. State legislators are seeing the lack of restraint and regulation of chemical abortions and taking action to establish necessary safeguards. All Americans should agree that the abortion industry should not be allowed to operate at the expense of the health and safety of mothers. States are sending a clear message that they will not stand idly by and allow abortion businesses like Planned Parenthood to profit from the cheaper but riskier abortion pill regimen. Given the dramatic increase of chemical abortions over the past few years, more states are sure to respond with their own legislative efforts to reign in this growing sector of the abortion industry.

For more information on chemical abortions and why safety restrictions are necessary for the sake of women’s health, please refer to FRC’s issue analysis.

State Round-Up: Protecting Unborn Children from Discriminatory Abortions

by Chantel Hoyt

July 15, 2021

Editor’s note: This is part of an ongoing series about key provisions that states have advanced in 2021 to defend the family and human dignity.

Modern medical technology can detect genetic characteristics and diagnose many disabilities in the womb. Unfortunately, these scientific advancements have increased the potential for abortions that are motivated by bias against an unborn child’s race, sex, ethnicity, national origin, and/or disability.

Babies who are prenatally diagnosed with a disability may be the most common victims of discriminatory abortions. An international study found that 63 percent of babies prenatally diagnosed with spina bifida and 83 percent of babies prenatally diagnosed with anencephaly are aborted. Another study revealed that an estimated 67 percent of women in the United States who receive a prenatal diagnosis of Down syndrome choose abortion. In Denmark, more than 95 percent of mothers who receive a prenatal Down syndrome diagnosis choose to abort their child, and in 2019, 15 years after screening became universally available, only 18 babies with Down syndrome were born in the whole country.

State legislators across the country are becoming increasingly aware of this problem and are introducing prenatal nondiscrimination acts (PRENDAs) to protect children from discriminatory abortions. In 2019, they were emboldened when Justice Thomas penned a lengthy opinion in Box v. Planned Parenthood in which he cited abortion’s eugenic roots and its continued eugenic potential.

Much like other pro-life bills, support for PRENDAs has been growing over the past few years. From 2013 to 2020, an average of 10 state-level PRENDAs were introduced each year. In 2021, a record-high 31 were introduced. So far, two have been enacted, in Arizona (SB 1457) and South Dakota (HB 1110). Fourteen other states have enacted some version of these protections. In fact, the past three years have seen more PRENDAs enacted (seven) than in all the preceding years combined.

These bills typically have four key provisions:

  • Prohibit anyone from knowingly aborting the unborn child of a woman who sought the abortion solely on the basis of an inherent characteristic (e.g., sex, race, ethnicity, national origin) or disability of the child.
  • Provide a penalty for noncompliance (criminal, civil, and/or professional).
  • Indemnify the mother (i.e., absolve the mother of legal liability).
  • Create a civil cause of action (i.e., abortion businesses who violate the law can be sued).

In addition, some bills may mandate information be provided to the mother about perinatal palliative care if the unborn child has a life-threatening illness or abnormality. This year, four out of the 31 bills introduced do this (all four are from Texas).

Of the PRENDAs introduced this year, 16 protect unborn children from abortion on the basis of sex, 11 on the basis of race, 22 on the basis of a disability or genetic abnormality diagnosis, six on the basis of ethnicity, and one on the basis of national origin.

So far, Arizona’s SB 1457 and South Dakota’s HB 1110 have been enacted this year. Arizona’s law builds on existing PRENDA law, adding “genetic abnormality” to the list of characteristics protected against discriminatory abortions (in addition to sex and race). This bill weakens the penalty from a class three felony to a class six felony. Existing law in Arizona indemnifies the mother and creates a civil cause of action. South Dakota’s bill is strong, prohibiting abortions sought on the basis of a Down syndrome diagnosis and imposing the criminal penalty of a class six felony for noncompliance. Additionally, this bill indemnifies the mother and creates a civil cause of action.

Texas introduced four strong PRENDAs (HB 3218, SB 1647, HB 3760, SB 1173) that include each of the key provisions listed above as well as provisions for mothers to learn more about perinatal palliative care. Seven statesPennsylvania (HB 1500), Massachusetts (H 2409), Michigan (HB 4737), Texas (HB 4339), South Dakota (HB 1110), Washington (SB 5416), and Arkansas (SB 468)also introduced strong bills that include each key provision. Each of these bills prohibits abortions sought because of one or more of the following characteristics of the unborn child: diagnosis or potential diagnosis of Down syndrome, diagnosis of a disability, genetic abnormality, race, ethnicity, or sex.

Four states—Florida (CS/HB 1221, SB 1664), Texas (HB 1432), South Carolina (HB 3512), and Washington (HB 1008)—introduced moderate bills, missing one or two of the key provisions (a civil cause of action and/or indemnification of the mother). Florida, Washington, and South Carolina’s bills prohibit abortions based on a diagnosis of a disability or genetic abnormality of the unborn child (Washington’s is specific to Down syndrome). Texas’ bill prohibits abortions based on the ethnicity or national origin of the unborn child, and South Carolina’s bill additionally prohibits race and sex-selective abortions.

Seven states—North Carolina, Arizona, Arkansas, Illinois, Maryland, West Virginia, and Oregon—introduced relatively weak or limited PRENDAs missing more than two of the key provisions. Some of these bills included other limitations that made them especially weak. North Carolina’s bill (H 453) adds to an existing ban on sex-selective abortions by also prohibiting abortions on the basis of the unborn child’s race or Down syndrome. This bill contains no other provisions. Arizona’s bill (SB 1381) adds to existing PRENDA statutes by adding “disability” as a protected trait for which a child may not be aborted. This bill is weakened by the fact that “disability” is not defined. Arkansas’ bill (SB 519) amends a section of law prohibiting sex-selective abortions and requires the physician carrying out the abortion to attempt to obtain the woman’s medical records to determine if she has previously undergone an abortion due to the child’s sex. This bill does not contain any other provisions. However, to Arkansas’ credit, the state already does prohibit sex-selective abortions. Illinois’ bills (HB 3047, HB 1893, HB 3043, HB 3053, and HB 3046) prohibit abortions sought solely based on the sex of the unborn child. Besides containing no other PRENDA provisions, these bills include a weakening statement that allows abortions sought because of a genetic disorder linked to the child’s sex. This goes against the purpose of PRENDA laws, to protect unborn children from being aborted due to an immutable trait. Maryland and West Virginia’s bills (MD HB 846 and WV HB 3024) prohibit abortions based on a diagnosis of Down syndrome but include no other provisions. Oregon’s bill (SB 654) prohibits sex-selective abortions but limits this protection to the third trimester. This too goes against the purpose of PRENDA laws since the sex of babies can be determined as early as 14 weeks. In effect, this would prohibit few, if any, discriminatory abortions.

Discriminatory abortions are a grim reality in the United States and around the world, but they are not going unchallenged. Thus far, state legislators have introduced PRENDAs in over 35 states and successfully enacted them in 16. If the surge of state-level PRENDA bills in 2021 is any indication, these numbers are sure to rise in the coming years. There is cause for optimism that states’ laws will one day reflect American’s rightful opposition to discriminatory abortions, and eventually to the eugenic roots of abortion itself.

For more information on why PRENDAs are essential, please refer to FRC’s issue analysis.

State Round-Up: Protecting Access to Counseling

by Chantel Hoyt

July 8, 2021

Editor’s note: This is part of an ongoing series about key provisions that states have advanced in 2021 to defend the family and human dignity.

Most Americans would support passing laws that seek to protect minors from harm. However, the question of exactly how we should go about protecting minors and what we should be protecting them from is a bit more contentious.

This year, 21 states have introduced bills seeking to ban sexual orientation change efforts (SOCE) or what its detractors call “conversion therapy.” In actuality, what these bills ban is patient-directed counseling and talk therapy. Specifically, they prohibit licensed mental health care professionals from counseling individuals to help them cope with unwanted same-sex attraction or gender identity issues. Although eight states have introduced legislation to protect patients’ right to access the therapy of their choice, more needs to be done to stop the spread of counseling bans in the United States and protect the freedoms of counselors and their patients.

Counseling bans have almost always applied only to minors and typically define SOCE or “conversion therapy” as “any practice or treatment by a mental health professional that seeks to change an individual’s sexual orientation or gender identity…” Most often, they incur professional penalties for mental health care professionals who fail to comply. Some may contain exceptions for pastors or other religious clergy, but these exceptions do not extend to licensed professionals who are also pastors or people of faith. Some of these bills also prohibit expending public funds for “conversion therapy.”

The media’s portrayal of “conversion therapy” often evokes images of electroshock or other pain-inducing methods. However, there is no evidence that a single practitioner of SOCE is using these methods today. Counseling bans rarely, if ever, mention such methods but instead use expansive language that sweeps up mere talk therapy. (Indeed, the SOCE ban in Washington state was held up for years because Democrats there refused to agree to language outlawing these specific practices.)

Virtually every counseling ban today applies to both sexual orientation and gender identity. A counseling ban that includes gender identity is especially harmful, as it mandates that mental health care professionals use a “gender-affirming” model of care with their clients. This makes it unlawful for a therapist or psychiatrist to do anything other than affirm a minor’s gender identity, even if said identity does not align with the minor’s biological sex, and even if that’s the kind of counseling the patient wants.

These bills are harmful for three reasons:

  1. They place content and viewpoint-based restrictions on constitutionally protected speech,
  2. They undermine the autonomy of individuals and their parents to choose the therapy that is right for them, and
  3. They harm minors who are struggling with these issues by making the counseling they need unavailable.

Since 2011, 265 counseling ban bills have been introduced in 43 states. Twenty-four of these bills have been enacted in 18 states.

Currently, 20 states plus the District of Columbia have counseling bans in place. Counseling bans have been prevented from taking effect in Alabama, Georgia, and Florida due to court injunctions. Based on U.S. census data on the populations of these 20 states, it is estimated that about 41 percent of minors living in the United States today live in a state with a counseling ban in place.

From 2011 to 2019, the number of counseling bans introduced each year rose steadily, peaking in 2019 at 57. This number dropped to 28 in 2020 but has since risen again in 2021 (43 in 21 states). Fortunately, none have been enacted yet. Thirteen of the bills introduced this year applied not only to minors, but also to adults. Two bills introduced in North Carolina extended counseling bans to adults with disabilities, while Minnesota and Alaska introduced bills that applied to minors and “vulnerable adults.” Bills introduced in Kentucky and Texas apply the ban to individuals of all ages. This is somewhat of a recent development, as in years past, few of these bills applied to adults.

Six bills this year also prohibit advertising for “conversion therapy” (again, this is really talk therapy) or related goods and services. Florida’s bills even impose a criminal penalty (a felony of the third degree) for violating such prohibitions. Such dangerous penalties have become more prevalent in the past two or three years. This raises questions about what constitutes an “advertisement” and how this could affect churches and other faith-based institutions. If anything, counseling bans have gotten even more expansive this year, with more bills applying to more individuals and imposing new penalties.

Apart from simply opposing counseling bans and stopping them in their tracks, some states have taken a more proactive approach by introducing legislation to protect counseling. These bills vary widely in terms of specifics, but many include two key provisions:

  1. Prohibit the state from restricting the rights of mental health professionals to counsel patients with same-sex attraction or gender identity issues, as well as the right of patients or their parents to choose such counseling.
  2. Provide that individuals may give or receive counsel in accordance with their religious beliefs or moral convictions.

In addition to these two provisions, some bills may create a civil cause of action for practitioners or patients who feel that their freedom of speech was unjustly violated.

About half of the 21 Counseling Protection Acts introduced since 2015 take the general form described above. However, the following states have taken a different approach:

  • Massachusetts introduced a bill in 2021 that would amend a section of law banning SOGI “change efforts,” adding a section specifying that SOGI change efforts do not include practices that “utilize discussion alone.”
  • Wisconsin introduced two bills in 2021 that would prohibit state regulatory boards from promulgating rules that establish that employing or promoting a treatment that attempts to change a person’s sexual orientation or gender identity is unprofessional conduct.
  • North Dakota (2021), South Dakota (2020), and Kansas (2019) each introduced bills that would preempt the state government from endorsing or enforcing certain policies, including policies banning “conversion therapy,” on the novel theory that to do so would be to establish a state religion. (None of these bills has passed, so this reinterpretation of the Establishment Clause has not been tested.)
  • Virginia introduced two bills (one in 2019, one in 2020) that would have given state regulatory boards the right to ban electroshock therapy or “similar non-speech therapy” but specifically prohibited such entities from violating an individual’s “fundamental right” to engage in the talk therapy of their choice, including counsel to assist in “reducing or eliminating unwanted attractions or concerns about gender identity.”
  • Tennessee introduced two bills in 2016, both of which would have protected licensed counselors and therapists from being required to counsel or serve a client as to goals, outcomes, or behaviors that conflict with a sincerely held religious belief, provided that the counselor or therapist coordinates a referral to another professional willing to provide such counseling.
  • Oklahoma introduced a bill in 2015 that would have prohibited the government from restricting SOCE but specified that this protection would not extend to “aversion therapy” (electroshock, electroconvulsive therapy, vomit-induction therapy, etc.).

Since 2015, at least 20 Counseling Protection Acts have been introduced in at least 12 different states. 2021 has been the biggest year for these types of bills, with a total of eight being introduced. So far, only one Counseling Protection Act has been enacted in Tennessee in 2016. This bill protected counselors and therapists from being required to counsel or serve a client as to goals, outcomes, or behaviors that conflict with a sincerely held religious belief, provided that the counselor or therapist coordinates a referral of the client to another counselor or therapist willing to provide the counseling or therapy. This bill also provided that a refusal to provide the counseling/therapy described will not be the basis for a civil cause of action, criminal prosecution, or any other action by the state to penalize or withhold benefits.

This year, some states have recognized the importance of standing against counseling bans. But more still needs to be done. Twenty states currently have counseling bans in place for minors, meaning children and teens in those states cannot legally access therapy to address unwanted same-sex attraction or gender identity issues, even if they want to. Some states are trying to take this right away from consenting adults as well. More states need to step up and protect access to such counseling.

State Round-Up: Protecting Abortion Survivors

by Chantel Hoyt

June 23, 2021

Editor’s note: This is part of an ongoing series about key provisions that states have advanced in 2021 to defend the family and human dignity.

Protecting the lives of born children is basic human decency. Therefore, you’d expect that providing care for babies born alive following an attempted abortion would be a no-brainer. However, as common sense is becoming less common in D.C.(where House Democrats blocked 80 unanimous consent requests to bring even this modest level of protection to the House floor in 2019), state legislators have taken it upon themselves to codify common sense laws. Since 2019, support for state-level Born-Alive Protection Acts has skyrocketed. From 2015-2018, an average of five bills were introduced every year. This jumped to 28 in 2019, 33 in 2020, and 37 in 2021. Over a six-year period, the number of Born-Alive bills introduced in a single year rose by 700 percent. This year has already set the record for enacted bills with five (in Alabama, Montana, Wyoming, South Dakota, and Kentucky).

These state laws are the result of a growing awareness of abortion’s inhumanity. In 2015, the Center for Medical Progress began releasing undercover videos of abortionists and Planned Parenthood directors speaking matter-of-factly about the horrific acts that qualify as business as usual at their facilities. The infamous case of Philadelphia abortionist and convicted murderer Kermit Gosnell in 2013, as well as more recent reports from the CDC, prove infants are sometimes born alive as a result of failed abortions. These reports are most certainly underestimated, as only nine states report the number of infants born alive after attempted abortions. Currently, only 18 states have strong born-alive protections for infants who survive abortions.

Born-Alive Infant Protection Acts provide necessary protections for abortion survivors. The particulars of these bills vary, but the strongest versions include five key provisions:

  1. Practitioners must exercise professional skill, care, and diligence to preserve the life of infants who survive abortion;
  2. Infants who survive abortions have the same right to medical care as any other infant born alive;
  3. Hospitalization for the surviving infant and/or the presence of a second physician during the abortion;
  4. A penalty for noncompliance (criminal, civil, and/or professional); and
  5. A reporting requirement.

Family Research Council has created four interactive pro-life maps that rank each state based on its current pro-life laws. FRC’s born-alive map ranks states on a five-tiered scale—ranging from “Removed Protection” (i.e., the state previously had born-alive protections but repealed them) to “Best Protection”—based on how many of the above key provisions the state has in statute.

This year, 34 born-alive bills were introduced in state legislatures across 18 states.

  • Two of these bills, Ohio SB 157 and South Dakota HB 1051, would fill in gaps in existing statute, giving these states the best level of born-alive protections. Ohio’s bill would add reporting requirements to current statute, while South Dakota’s bill would add four key provisions that have been lacking (a “skill, care, and diligence” requirement, civil and professional penalties, hospitalization requirement, and reporting requirements).

19 bills introduced in eight states (North Carolina, Hawaii, Oregon, Rhode Island, New Hampshire, Wisconsin, Illinois, and New York) would bring their states up to “Strong Protection” on FRC’s map. Illinois’ bills would only apply these protections to “viable” infants. FRC supports bills that apply born-alive protections to infants regardless of gestational age. The “viable” qualifier makes the Illinois bills weaker, although they still contain enough protections to move Illinois up to “Strong” status.

Three bills introduced in three states (Illinois, Wyoming, and New York) this year would give their states “Weak Protections.”

  • New York’s bill (A 7437) is very weak, only applying its protections to infants up to 20 weeks gestation. However, the bill would still bring New York to a higher level of protection than it currently has (New York currently ranks as “Removed Protections”).
  • Likewise, Wyoming’s bill (SF 34) only applies its protections to “viable” infants but still provides these infants with more protections than before (Wyoming had “No Protections” before this bill).

Four born-alive bills have been enacted this year in four different states.

  • The most dramatic of these bills is South Dakota HB 1051 (mentioned previously), which included each of the key provisions that the state was previously missing (a “skill, care, and diligence” requirement, a health care requirement, civil and professional penalties, and a reporting requirement), bringing the state up from “Weak Protections” to the best possible born-alive protections.
  • Kentucky SB 9 included four out of five key provisions (a “skill, care, and diligence” requirement; a health care requirement; criminal, civil, and professional penalties; and a statement declaring the infant’s right to medical care), moving the state from “No Protections” to “Strong Protections.”
  • Montana HB 167 included three out of five key provisions (a “skill, care, and diligence” requirement, criminal penalties, and a statement declaring the infant’s right to medical care), which would move the state from “Weak Protection” to “Strong Protection” (the state already has criminal penalties for knowingly or negligently causing the death of a premature infant born alive). This bill creates a referendum, so voters will decide if it goes into effect in the state’s November 2022 election.
  • Lastly, Wyoming SF 34 (mentioned previously) was the weakest bill enacted this year. It included the “skill, care, and diligence” requirement but no other provisions. In addition, this bill only applied this protection to “viable” infants, moving the state from “No Protection” to “Weak Protection.”

From 2019 to 2020, 55 bills were introduced in 15 states. Of these, four were enacted: in West Virginia (HB 4007 in 2020), Texas (HB 16 in 2019), and Arkansas (SB 278 and SB 3 in 2019).

  • West Virginia’s bill moved the state from “No Protection” to “Strong Protection,” as it added every key provision to state law except for reporting requirements.
  • Texas’ bill moved the state from “Weak Protection” to “Best Protection,” building on a prior statement that had declared infants’ right to medical care and added reporting requirements to state law.
  • Arkansas’ bills established reporting requirements for infants who survive abortions, moving the state from “Strong Protection” to “Best Protection” (a 2017 bill established other born-alive protections).

Born-Alive Infant Protection Acts are an appropriate and urgent response to a harsh reality: babies born alive following failed abortions do not enjoy the full legal protections they are due apart from such laws and are frequently left to die. Abortion survivors deserve the same level of care as any other infant. This should be non-controversial. If the last three years are any indication, states are sure to continue introducing and enacting strong protections for born children in the coming years, perhaps one day making such protections the norm, rather than the exception.

State Round-Up: Defunding the Abortion Industry

by Chantel Hoyt

June 9, 2021

Editor’s note: This is part of an ongoing series about key provisions that states have advanced in 2021.

States have been working for years to protect taxpayers from having to subsidize the abortion industry, and the momentum continues this year.

As I’ve written elsewhere,

Ever since Roe v. Wade, Congress and most states have taken bipartisan efforts to stop taxpayer funds from going to pay for abortions and, later, to flow to the abortion industry. These efforts greatly intensified in 2015 when the release of several undercover videos by the Center for Medical Progress showed Planned Parenthood officials laughing and joking about the transfer and sale of fetal tissue. These videos shocked the American people and shined a light on an unsavory profit center for the abortion industry, the gruesome harvesting of body parts of the aborted unborn (sometimes even, apparently, before fetal death).

Most Americans support defunding Planned Parenthood. An annual Knights of Columbus/Marist poll shows a majority of Americans oppose the use of taxpayer dollars to pay for abortion; in January it found that 60 percent of Americans, including 35 percent of Democrats, oppose public funding of abortions. A 2016 Harvard poll and a 2018 PRRI poll found that over half (58 percent and 51 percent, respectively) of Americans believe that Medicaid should not pay for abortions. Not surprisingly, 33 states have introduced legislation to restrict government funding of the abortion industry in recent years.  These bills largely address the three main streams of abortion funding – Medicaid (a joint federal-state health coverage program), Title X (a federal family planning grant program) and state appropriations.

Abortion funding restrictions have shifted from merely banning direct funding of abortion procedures to also cutting off abortion businesses. This distinction is important because even if taxpayer funds are not used for performing an abortion, they still support abortion centers by helping them offset their other costs. This frees up their budget to pay for abortions and other abortion-related expenses. After watching the undercover videos, federal and state policymakers realized it is time to defund abortion businesses.

Since 2015, states have consistently introduced bills that have attempted to defund both abortions and abortion centers. At least 131 bills have been introduced in 33 states in the past 6 years. Of these, 26 bills sought to defund Planned Parenthood in Medicaid, 43 bills in Title X, and 90 bills in state appropriations (About twelve of these 131 bills were specific in only prohibiting the funding of abortion procedures.  Thirteen of these bills sought to simply expand or strengthen existing defund laws. 22 of the 131 bills were temporary budget bills, in which states inserted a ‘rider’ restricting abortion funding into their yearly appropriations bill going into effect for the upcoming fiscal year.) 29 of the total 131 bills have been enacted in 19 different states. 

In addition to addressing the three streams of funding mentioned above, some states have gotten creative. For example, Iowa’s HF 422 (2015), rather than prohibiting funds from going to entities that supply abortions, sought to prohibit abortions from being done by entities that receive public funds (this bill was not enacted). A few states have sought to limit health insurance coverage of abortions.  Kentucky’s HB 484 (2020), for example, prohibited abortions from being covered under state-sponsored health insurance programs (this bill was enacted). In 2017, Wisconsin introduced a bill (SB 154) that would have prohibited publicly-funded universities from utilizing state funds to perform, assist, or train others to perform abortions.

Texas currently has the strongest defunding laws in place, as the state successfully defunded abortion businesses in Title X and state appropriations. First, Governor Greg Abbott issued a letter defunding Planned Parenthood from the state Medicaid program in 2015. While this action was enjoined, Texas was subsequently granted a Medicaid waiver allowing the state to redirect federal funds away from abortion businesses. This was the first (and so far, only) waiver of its kind to be granted.  Six other states – Arizona, Louisiana, Arkansas, Mississippi, Florida, and Indiana – have similarly enacted very strong legislation defunding the abortion industry, as they have attempted to defund abortion businesses in Medicaid and successfully defunded abortion businesses in Title X and state appropriations. However, none received a federal waiver for Medicaid; this is typically a multi-year process, which seems unlikely under the current administration, so pro-life state policymakers should begin thinking now about the waiver requests they’ll want the next time we get a pro-life administration.

In a like manner, a plethora of states have attempted to permanently defund abortion businesses in one or two streams of funding. While a state attempting to defund abortion businesses in a particular area doesn’t carry as much weight as a successful defund, it is still notable and shows the public’s support for defunding the abortion industry in that state. The following 15 states fall into this category:

  • Alabama, Utah, South Carolina – Attempted to defund abortion businesses in Medicaid
  • Kansas, Tennessee – Attempted to defund abortion businesses in Medicaid; deprioritized abortion businesses in Title X (i.e. when distributing federal grants, the state prefers non-abortion health care providers ahead of any entities that supply abortions)
  • Missouri, Idaho – Attempted to defund abortion businesses in Medicaid; defunded abortion businesses in state appropriations
  • Wisconsin, Kentucky, Ohio – Defunded abortion businesses in state appropriations; defunded or deprioritized abortion businesses in Title X
  • Michigan, Oklahoma – Defunded or deprioritized abortion businesses in Title X
  • Nebraska, Iowa, North Carolina – Defunded abortion businesses in state appropriations

Though lacking the strength of abortion industry funding bans, other states have taken action to defund abortion procedures. The 13 states that have done this are:

  • Colorado, Wyoming, South Dakota – Defunded procedures in Medicaid and state appropriations
  • Nevada, North Dakota, Georgia, Virginia, West Virginia, Delaware, Rhode Island – Defunded procedures in Medicaid
  • Pennsylvania – Defunded procedures in Medicaid; attempted to defund procedures in state appropriations
  • Minnesota – Attempted to defund procedures in Medicaid and state appropriations
  • Montana – Attempted to defund procedures in Medicaid

Lastly, several states have been successful in temporarily defunding abortions and/or the abortion industry. These states have passed yearly appropriations bills that include a pro-life ‘rider’ specifying that certain funds shall not be used for abortions and/or abortion businesses for the duration of the upcoming fiscal year. The following six states have done this:

  • Iowa – Temporarily defunded procedures in Medicaid and abortion businesses in state appropriations and Title X (2019-2020); temporarily defunded procedures in Medicaid (2015-2016)
  • Nebraska – Temporarily defunded abortion businesses in Title X (2018-2019)
  • New Hampshire – Temporarily defunds abortion businesses in state appropriations (since at least 2019)
  • Missouri – Temporarily defunds abortion businesses in state appropriations (since at least 2018)
  • Pennsylvania – Temporarily defunded abortion businesses in state appropriations (2018-2019)
  • Michigan – Temporarily defunded abortion businesses in state appropriations (2017-2018)

As I wrote,

It is clear the majority of states want to prevent taxpayer funds from going to the abortion industry. These efforts have become normative since the release of the undercover Planned Parenthood videos in 2015. This effort has not slowed, with 19 bills being introduced this year in 14 different states; four having been enacted to date.

States believe that taxpayers should not fund the abortion industry, and states will continue passing laws that reflect the principle that abortion is not health care. After all, no other type of health care has as its main purpose and goal extinguishing an already-existing human life. As a recent FRC publication proves, abortion is not the type of health care for which health care professionals should advocate. Because of these and other reasons, abortion is far from deserving of taxpayer funds and states are sure to continue passing laws that recognize this fact.

  • Page 1 of 2
  • 1
  • 2
Archives