It’s not just campaign season, it’s political meme season! I bet some of y’all have seen the meme suggesting the abortion rate drops more under Democratic presidential administrations:
So what’s going on here? The simple answer is: state laws make a big difference.
Right at the beginning of the Clinton Administration (Planned Parenthood v. Casey, 1992) and Obama Administration (Gonzales v. Carhart, 2007), there were two big Supreme Court cases that helped clarify the ability of state governments to pass abortion regulations. Even though these decisions unfortunately retained a “right to abortion,” both cases expanded the authority of the states to pass good laws, which state lawmakers did in spades.
I pulled some old copies of Defending Life off the shelf and the numbers show that state laws make a lifesaving difference. Between 2011-14, 220 life-affirming laws passed in the states. These include both abortion limitations and laws demonstrating the humanity of the child, like ultrasound and informed consent. We are proud that many of these laws are based on model bills from Americans United for Life.
This graphic shows the impact of state laws and policies, especially over the last 12 years. The more pro-lifers focused on state government (like when a Democrat held the White House), the more laws were enacted and lives were saved.
At the same time, pregnancy center ministries picked up steam in the early 1990s, providing women with the resources they need to choose life. Technology has improved and become more accessible, giving women the opportunity to see and hear their baby. Campus groups work to celebrate a culture of life, increasing the number of pro-life young people. Women harmed by the industry, those who are post-abortive or former employees, are fearlessly speaking up about their experiences. Dr. Michael New has researched these sociological trends extensively and published a great article supporting the impact of state laws.
The biggest victory for life 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. State lawmakers, emboldened by this summer’s June Medical decision, should press forward and pass life-affirming laws everywhere they can regardless of who’s running the show in Washington come January 21, 2021.