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2019 State Legislative Sessions Report

Americans United for Life is pleased to release its 2019 State Legislative Sessions Report, an Annual Report on Government Affairs from America’s leader in life-affirming law and policy.

Executive Summary

In 2019, life has been front and center in the national dialogue. From New York to Alabama to the halls of Congress, lawmakers have been introducing and passing legislation on the issue, whether advancing protections for mothers and children or pursuing extreme bills that dehumanize children in the womb. While those sorts of dehumanizing bills may have received outsized media coverage, advocates for life are demonstrably winning. So far in 2019, 58 life- affirming laws passed and were signed into law across 22 states, representing a more than 25% increase from 2018.

The biggest victory for life in 2019 is that the national abortion rate continues its downward trend, and it is now the lowest rate since 1973, when Roe v. Wade legalized abortion. According to Dr. Michael New, professor of social research and political science at the Catholic University of America and associate scholar at the Charlotte Lozier Institute, there is a direct correlation between increasing the number of state pro-life laws and decreasing the number of abortions. In observing this trend across three decades, the life-saving effect of state laws, including parental involvement, informed consent, and other laws based on AUL model bills, is undeniable.

State legislators across the country continue to press forward to ensure that mothers are well informed about the risks of abortion, that the public has valuable statistics on the realities of abortion and its complications, and that public resources are no longer flowing to the abortion industry.

Pro-life legislation was introduced in 46 states, with lawmakers nationwide actively working to protect life from conception to natural death. AUL’s attorneys testified in person in 8 states and submitted written testimony in 18 states, providing critical legal expertise and assessing the constitutionality of these and other proposed bills.

In 2019, AUL honed in on defending existing protections for life by opposing and defeating anti-life measures. For example, AUL lawyers testified against 10 of the 18 suicide by physician bills introduced this year. Seven of the ten were defeated, and just two, Maine and New Jersey, passed. AUL publicly opposed all 18 bills and continues to educate legislators and the public on the harms of suicide by physician legislation.

After Virginia Governor Ralph Northam chillingly stated that an infant born alive after abortion “would be resuscitated if that’s what the mother and family desire,” a comment that seemed to endorse infanticide, legislators went to work. The federal government and lawmakers in a dozen states introduced legislation similar to AUL’s model Born Alive Infant Protection Act, and it passed in two, Arkansas and Texas. More legislators are considering introducing this bill or strengthening their existing laws to prevent infanticide in 2020.

In response to the extreme legislation passed in New York and optimistic about the addition of Justice Brett Kavanaugh to the U.S. Supreme Court, some states introduced legislation that would limit abortion to when a heartbeat is detected, by around 8 weeks. These laws are all being challenged in state and federal courts, prompting some states to look at constitutional amendments in 2020. Similarly, four states passed conditional laws that would limit abortion in the event that Roe v. Wade is overturned or federal law otherwise changes; these are Arkansas, Kentucky, Missouri, and Tennessee.

States are taking greater interest in the data underlying abortions, as well, and five states (Arkansas, Idaho, South Dakota, Tennessee, and Wyoming) passed laws that increase transparency in abortion reporting. To ensure mothers are able to make a fully informed decision, five states (Arkansas, Kentucky, Nebraska, North Dakota, and Oklahoma) passed bills that counsel women about abortion pill reversal as part of the informed consent process.

Additionally, states continue to provide protections for unborn children with Down syndrome and other genetic anomalies. Four states passed Prenatal Non-Discrimination Acts similar to AUL’s model bill (Arkansas, Kentucky, Missouri, and Utah).

At the same time, pro-abortion advocates are pressuring states to reverse protections for mothers and dehumanize children in the womb. These anti- life bills strip out vital protections like fetal homicide laws and informed consent and parental consent requirements. Supposed “Roe” Acts intend to codify Roe v. Wade into state law, enacting extreme abortion regimes that would permit abortion all the way up to birth.

AUL will continue working with legislators across the country to keep the momentum going. We hope to pass even more life-affirming laws in 2020.