New state-level laws show time is running out for Roe, pro-lifers say

shutterstock 1177812817 Doctor reading test results of pregnant woman by ultrasound. | Rattiya Thongdumhyu_Shutterstock

Efforts are underway across several states to codify and expand abortion rights in state law. Pro-life advocates told CNA the moves signal a growing acceptance by abortion advocates that the Supreme Court decision Roe v. Wade could be either overturned or revised.

Several states, including New York, New Mexico, Rhode Island, and Massachusetts, have either passed new laws expanding abortion access or are moving towards removing old laws from the statute books that would criminalize or limit abortion in the event of a change at the federal level.

"Advocates of abortion seem finally to recognize that Roe is destined to be overturned on the federal level, and so are shifting their fight to create rights to abortion on the state level," Steven H. Aden, chief legal officer and general counsel of Americans United for Life told CNA.

Aden said that he believes the shift to state-level politics shows that abortion advocates "implicitly acknowledge what advocates for life have pointed out since Roe--that there is no constitutional right to abortion."

"While the expansion of abortion in states like New York is extreme, unscientific, and lamentable, the state level is, at least, the correct level at which abortion issues should be decided and the level which allows Americans to directly impact the culture of their state," Aden added.

New York recently passed one of the most expansive abortion laws in the country, the Reproductive Health Act. This law permits abortion for any reason through the first 24 weeks of pregnancy and afterwards if a medical professional deems it necessary to protect the health of the mother.

Jeanne Mancini, president of the March for Life, said that the pro-life movement has made "significant strides," particularly in the confirmation of pro-life judges onto federal courts.

"The growing effort by states to codify Roe v. Wade into law signals that the pro-abortion forces are panicking," Mancini told CNA. "Many states already have laws on the books that protect both mother and child in the case that Roe v. Wade is overturned."

Mancini also pointed to recent polling that shows that most Americans are in favor of states deciding their own abortion policies if the Supreme Court were to overturn the decision. She said that is "clear" that states attempting to expand abortion access are "working against the American consensus."

A January poll conducted by Marist and the Knights of Columbus showed that nearly two-thirds of those surveyed would like the Supreme Court to either outlaw abortion entirely, or allow states to make individual regulations. Prior to the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision, individual states regulated abortion independently.  

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