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Life after Carhart

"Life after Carhart" Continued...

Issue: "The plots thicken," Jan. 12, 2008

The potential impact of Carhart was not lost on pro-abortion groups. In May 2007, the Washington, D.C.-based National Women's Law Center called Carhart "an open invitation" to pro-life state lawmakers to "open the floodgates for anti-choice attempts to restrict access to abortion further," including attempts to pass outright abortion bans.

In response, a smattering of Democrat-controlled legislatures considered bills that would enshrine access to abortion in state law. New York introduced the "Freedom of Choice Act," a measure that would guarantee abortion-on-demand within its borders, and also erase all incremental protections, including those for unborn victims of violence and health-care providers who refuse to participate in abortions. Rhode Island considered a similar bill, while New Jersey amended its State Health Benefits plan to require coverage "for obstetrical services including . . . abortion."

Still, several states in 2007-including Mississippi, North Dakota, South Dakota, Utah, Virginia, and West Virginia-introduced "trigger laws," which would ban abortion should Roe v. Wade be overturned. A total of 20 states considered abortion bans in 2007, a number Burke expects to climb this year.

"Carhart doesn't necessarily give the green light to that, and we've been encouraging people to put the brakes on," Burke said. Still, she expects to see "a lot of states" debating human life amendments and near-complete bans on abortion with exceptions only for the life of the mother.

Pro-life hot sheet

Stories to watch in 2008

In the coming year, a number of pivotal life issues hang in the balance: Will the morning-after pill be the undoing of religious rights-of-conscience? Will the Democratic candidate for president convince voters that the very "right to choose" is at stake in November? Here are five front-burner stories to watch:

Target: CPCs

"Whereas . . . 'crisis pregnancy centers' misinform and mislead women to deter or to delay them from having abortions . . ." With bill language like that, who needs a state investigation? Yet that is exactly what the Oregon legislature authorized in 2007 when it considered passage of a bill attacking Senate Bill 776 which, though containing the foregone conclusions above, requires the state department of health to investigate crisis pregnancy centers. Sparked by a 2006 report by pro-abortion congressman Henry Waxman (D-Calif.), SB 776 is just one among several bills nationwide that target CPCs in an effort to brand them officially as "fake clinics" and, in some states, to cut off public funding.

The abortion card

Heading into the primary season, Democratic presidential candidates are jockeying among themselves to stake out appealing positions on the economy and the war. But once the primaries are over, watch for the Democratic nominee to play the abortion card. "Whoever it is will stridently warn that the Supreme Court is 'only one vote away' from overturning Roe v. Wade," said Douglas Johnson, legislative director of the National Right to Life Committee, "and will vow to appoint only committed pro-Roe jurists to the multiple vacancies that are anticipated during the next four years."

The end of rights-of-conscience?

Washington State Sen. Karen Keiser in December introduced a bill that would require all pharmacies in the state to dispense all legal medications-including Plan B, the morning-after pill. The measure is a direct shot at pharmacists' rights-of-conscience and is part of pro-abortion activists' widening battle to force druggists to dispense "emergency contraception" over their own religious objections.

Defining human life

In Colorado, a young law student has succeeded in her efforts to place a human life amendment on the state ballot in November. The measure, spearheaded by Kristi Burton, 20, would define fertilized eggs as human beings and afford them state constitutional protections. The Colorado measure is one of a number of "human life amendments" in play around the country as state pro-life activists attempt to neutralize Roe v. Wade. Some national groups, such as the National Right to Life Committee, say human life amendments are lawsuit magnets that divert resources from passing other, more enforceable laws aimed at reducing abortion. Others, such as the Michigan-based Thomas More Law Center, say state human life amendments could force a Supreme Court reckoning on Roe v. Wade.

Tiller to trial?

A Sedgwick County, Kan., grand jury is set to investigate abortionist George Tiller, who is suspected of performing hundreds of late-term abortions in violation of state law. Pro-life groups collected thousands of petition signatures, triggering a state law that allows a grand jury probe when officials refuse to investigate. The Kansas Supreme Court rejected Tiller's request to halt the investigation. The grand jury is set to convene on Jan. 8 and can meet for up to 90 days, although that can be extended by a district court judge.

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