Roe at 40: States Thwart Agenda and Influence of 'Big Abortion'

As we mourned the 40th anniversary of Roe v. Wade, Americans United for Life (AUL) along with hundreds of legislators, pro-life groups, and everyday Americans – 80 percent of whom, according to one recent poll, support significant restrictions on abortion – are aggressively pushing back against the radical agenda and corrupting influence of "Big Abortion" and resoundingly rejecting the abortion industry's vision of unregulated, taxpayer-funded abortion-on-demand.

In contrast to the positions of Planned Parenthood, the nation's largest abortion chain, and its supporters in the Obama Administration, states have enacted more than 150 laws regulating or restricting abortion over the past two years. AUL helped enact almost 50 pro-life laws during this same time period. Many of the laws passed were based on our model legislation. While abortion advocates have tried to dismiss these life-affirming gains as part of a politically motivated "war on women," they are, in reality, the result of a decades-long effort to protect women from the negative impact of abortion, expose the truth about the abortion industry's profit-driven mistreatment of and profound disrespect for women, and eliminate the industry's taxpayer subsidies.

That the abortion industry's policies and practices have resulted in the reproductive "back alley" that abortion advocates warned us about is evident from just a brief look at the reality of "Big Abortion" in America today.

In July 2012, Tonya Reaves, a 24-year-old mother of a one-year old son, entered a Planned Parenthood clinic on Michigan Avenue in Chicago. She was 16 weeks pregnant and scheduled for an abortion at 11 am. At 11:20 pm, she was pronounced dead at Northwestern Memorial Hospital. An autopsy revealed that Ms. Reaves had suffered an incomplete abortion, a large perforation of her uterus, and the possible severing of her uterine artery. Tragically, over a five-hour period in the abortion clinic's recovery room, she had bled nearly 30 percent of her total blood volume into her abdomen.

Since 2010, abortion clinics and individual providers in Illinois and at least 14 other states have been investigated by state officials for providing substandard care – care that, in some cases, had resulted in women's deaths. These investigations have also fueled renewed efforts to ensure that the nation's abortion clinics are complying with medically appropriate standards of care.

In just the last two years, Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Virginia have enacted laws requiring abortion clinics to comply with the same medical standards as facilities providing other outpatient surgeries. Not surprisingly, these efforts have been met with strident resistance from an abortion industry concerned with maintaining its profit margins and nonsensical claims that abortion patients do not need the high standard of care mandated by these laws.

Further, the abortion industry's strategic plan calls for increased reliance on life-ending drugs such as RU-486 and less dependence on surgical abortion, which is generally safer for women, but more expensive to provide. The abortion industry claims this move will allow it to provide women with better access to "abortion services." However, as is so often the case, the abortion industry is advancing its own interests and not those of the women and girls it claims to serve.

The industry's preferred method of providing RU-486 is to deny a woman the opportunity to be examined by a physician before taking the dangerous drugs, allowing her instead only a brief physician consultation via a telecommunications system such as Skype.

Abortion providers also routinely ignore the mandated protocol, dispensing the drugs in a manner not approved by the FDA. The industry continues these unsafe practices despite a recent FDA report documenting more than 2,200 cases of "severe adverse events" including 14 deaths from the use of RU-486.

These prevalent practices may be more dangerous for women, but they are economically advantageous to the abortion industry that can employ fewer physicians and use the internet to pad its bottom-line. In the interests of profits, the industry is willing to cut corners and take chances with women's health.

Conversely, state legislators are working to protect women from this calculated exploitation. Nine states have enacted laws strictly regulating the provision of abortion-inducing drugs and prohibiting so-called "telemed abortions."

In response to these and other abuses, states have sought to deny taxpayer funding to Planned Parenthood and other abortion providers, and to ensure that they do not profit from the implementation of Obamacare. Fifteen states have enacted laws or taken administrative action to withhold taxpayer funds from abortion providers, while 18 states, many of which using AUL's model legislation, have opted-out of allowing companies to offer insurance coverage for abortion in the state health insurance exchanges required under the federal healthcare law.

As the 2013 legislative sessions convene, states are expanding their efforts to more effectively regulate abortion clinics, ensure that women are receiving complete and accurate information on abortion and its consequences, mandate the performance of an ultrasound prior to an abortion, eliminate taxpayer subsidies to "Big Abortion," and prohibit dangerous, but financially lucrative late-term abortions. The abortion industry cannot be counted on to police itself, so legislators and state officials must act.

Undoubtedly, four decades after Roe, the abortion industry and its supporters will continue to expose themselves as profit-driven ideologues, not the protectors and defenders of women they so publicly – and cynically – hold themselves out to be.

Denise Burke is Vice President of Legal Affairs for Americans United for Life. She directs all aspects of AUL's extensive legal program and serves as Editor-in-Chief of AUL's seminal publication, Defending Life, an annual compendium of legal and policy analyses on critical and emerging life issues.

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