By Susan Brinkmann, OCDS
While pro-lifers across the nation are focused on fighting a national “Freedom of Choice Act” (FOCA), similar bills are cropping up in state legislatures that are threatening to decimate abortion restrictions at the state level.
For instance, twenty-seven Democratic legislators in the state of Illinois are sponsoring the Reproductive Justice and Access Act (RJAA) or House Bill 2354. Much like the national version, this bill also declares abortion to be a “fundamental right” that extends from conception to birth, thereby striking down any regulations on abortion throughout pregnancy.
According to Clarke Forsythe, a pro-life attorney with Americans United for Life, RJAA would also repeal Illinois’ physician-only law.
“The Illinois FOCA would authorize a nurse, in any public school in the state, to do an abortion on a minor girl, at any time of pregnancy, without any parental knowledge,” he writes. “It would also eliminate the Illinois prohibition on partial-birth abortion and repeal other existing abortion regulations.”
Forsythe also says the bill would force Illinois taxpayers to fund abortions by prohibiting “discrimination” against women in any state funding.
In addition to trampling on conscience rights in section 35 of the bill, “It would also require public funding of abortion from conception to birth by requiring that abortion be treated equally with childbirth,” he said.
Joseph M. Scheidler, founder of the Pro-Life Action League in Chicago said the bill is “designed to make Illinois an abortion capitol for the Midwest if the Roe v. Wade decision should ever be overturned by the United States Supreme Court, and also to strike down all the protections, meager as they are, that we’ve been able to enact in Illinois for unborn children.”
Children in the public school system would also be at risk with passage of the bill, he said, because “It…contains language that would gut the abstinence-only education that has, until recently, been achieving great success in Illinois.”
Proponents of FOCA-style legislation say easing access leads to decreased abortion rates, but this has not been the case in states where unlimited abortion access is permitted.
According to Tom McCluskey, Vice President for Government Affairs at the Family Research Council, FOCA-style legislation has been on the books in Maryland since 1991.
“This has not led to a reduction of abortions in the state, but appears to actually have had the adverse effect of increasing the abortion rate in Maryland,” McCluskey writes.
In 1991, Maryland’s abortion rate was similar to the national average of 26.3 abortions per 1,000 women of reproductive age. However, thanks in part to the enactment of common sense abortion restrictions such as parental consent laws that have been proven to reduce abortion rates, by 2005, the national abortion rate had dropped to 19.4 abortions. This was not the case in Maryland, however. Since its enactment of FOCA-style legislation, the state’s abortion rate climbed to 31.5 per 1,000 women of reproductive age.
Forsythe says pro-life advocates need to be careful about abortion activists like NARAL and Planned Parenthood introducing FOCA-style bills in their states.
“Like the federal FOCA introduced in the 110th Congress, and state versions that have recently been introduced in other states such as New Mexico,” he said.
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