Study: Pro-life laws reduce number of abortions

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (BP)--Parental involvement laws, bans on taxpayer-funded abortions, informed consent laws and partial-birth abortion bans reduce the number of abortions performed within the jurisdiction of such laws, according to a new study by a post-doctoral fellow at the Harvard-MIT Data Center.

"Those states that adopted pro-life legislation during the 1990s experienced larger reductions in abortion rates and ratios than those states that did not adopt such legislation," the study said, according to LifeNews.com.

The study, published by the Heritage Foundation, said pro-life legislation passed by state legislatures led to the decline in the number of abortions by 17.4 percent during the 1990s.

Laws prohibiting taxpayer-funded abortions with the use of Medicaid dollars reduced the abortion rate by about 30 percent, the study showed. States that passed Right to Know laws informing women of the consequences of an abortion saw the abortion rate drop by 22 percent.

"In spite of Roe v. Wade, in spite of activist judges, in spite of often-biased media, the pro-life community is helping thousands of women choose life," Clarke Forsythe, president of Americans United for Life, said on LifeNews.com. "Working together, AUL, other national and state pro-life groups, and crisis pregnancy centers have never given up showing women that their lives are lived better by choosing life for their unborn children."

In an assessment of state efforts to protect women and unborn children, Americans United for Life, a bioethics law firm devoted to changing laws to protect human life, released its inaugural State Report Cards in mid-January.

Louisiana, Texas, Pennsylvania, Michigan and Arkansas topped the list of states credited for initiatives designed to protect women, their health and their unborn children. Vermont, Oregon, Hawaii, New Hampshire and Alaska ranked worst in their efforts to curb abortion.

AUL examined state laws in three primary areas to determine the rankings: laws related to abortion, laws that protect unborn victims of violence and laws that protect the rights of conscience of healthcare workers. Researchers also evaluated the impact each state governor and attorney general has on the laws that are passed as well as recent decisions by state supreme courts.

Top-rated Louisiana's score of 36 out of a possible 42 indicates that elected officials in each state can still do more to safeguard women and the unborn, AUL said.

A letter grade reflecting the productivity of each state's 2003 legislative session also was listed, with states that passed two or more protective laws receiving an A. Nine states -- Arkansas, Colorado, Illinois, Louisiana, Michigan, Missouri, Tennessee, Texas and Virginia -- received the top letter grade for their accomplishments.

"While 2003 was a strong session for legislation that protects women and unborn children in states like Texas, Missouri and Minnesota, the sad reality is that 32 states scored below 25, failing to adopt and enforce many basic, common-sense legal protections for women and unborn children," Denise Burke, AUL staff counsel and project coordinator, said. "Too often, judges thwart the will of the people, invalidating laws such as informed consent and parental notice laws, which have significant and widespread public support. Governors and attorneys general have to be prepared to vigorously defend these laws against the legal challenges that will inevitably be filed by many abortion advocacy groups."

Louisiana received high marks because in 2003 the state legislature appropriated $1.5 million in federal funds for services related to abortion alternatives for needy families. Also in Louisiana, a physician may not perform an abortion until at least 24 hours after a woman has been provided with information about the proposed procedure, the alternatives to abortion, the probable gestational age of the unborn child, the risks associated with abortion, and more.

Taxpayers in Louisiana are not required to fund abortions except when the procedure is necessary to preserve the woman's health or the pregnancy is the result of rape or incest. Additionally, Louisiana is one of only 12 states that define nonfatal assaults on an unborn child as a crime, the report card said.

Vermont received low marks because the Vermont constitution has been construed to provide a broader right to abortion than the U.S. Constitution. Vermont does not provide even rudimentary protection for women considering abortions, the report said, and the state does not have an informed consent law, parental involvement law for minors seeking abortions, abortion clinic regulations, ultrasound requirements or a prohibition on anyone other than a physician performing an abortion.

Taxpayers in Vermont fund most abortions for women receiving public assistance, and Vermont is one of only four states with no protection for the rights of conscience of healthcare workers.

The Chicago-based AUL plans to issue the report cards on an annual basis and later this year plans to expand their coverage to include a review of the 2004 state legislative sessions and state laws related to human cloning, destructive embryo research, fetal tissue harvesting and research and other biotechnology issues.

From the other end of the spectrum, NARAL Pro-Choice America released a report card of its own to comment on access to abortion services in the United States. The nation's overall grade for women's access to abortion dropped to a D, the report card said.

Louisiana, North Dakota, Kentucky, Missouri and Ohio were ranked as the least cooperative states in which to have an abortion while Connecticut, Washington, Vermont, Oregon and California made the top of NARAL Pro-Choice America's list for easy access to abortions.

The advocacy group reported that during 2003, seven states' grades dropped and no state's grade rose.

"The nationwide grade [of D] reflects not only the significant increase in state restrictions on the right to choose, but also the first-ever federal criminal ban on safe abortion procedures signed into law in 2003 by President Bush," the NARAL Pro-Choice America report said.


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