STREET VALUE: Members of the Dominican Order protest the “contraceptive mandate.”
Rusty Constanza/The Times-Picayune/AP
STREET VALUE: Members of the Dominican Order protest the “contraceptive mandate.”

News from the front

Roe v. Wade | The top 10 pro-life stories of 2012

Issue: "Roe v. Wade turns 40," Jan. 26, 2013

1. Conscience fight 

Dozens of Catholic and Protestant organizations and businesses became allies in 2012 while battling a common enemy: the Affordable Care Act’s “contraceptive mandate,” perhaps the largest threat to religious liberty in U.S. history. Along with eight states, the groups filed 41 lawsuits last year challenging the mandate, adding to two filed in 2011. Under the rules of the healthcare overhaul, employers must provide health insurance plans that cover sterilization, contraceptives, and some abortion-inducing drugs (like Plan B and Ella), or pay heavy fines. A religious exemption to the mandate applies to churches but currently is too narrow to include businesses or many charities.

In February the president announced a “compromise” that would shift the cost of the controversial services onto insurance companies. Religious employers recognized it as budgetary sleight of hand: Insurance companies would ultimately pass the cost back to employers in premium hikes.

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Some for-profit businesses objecting to the contraceptive mandate threw their full weight into the fight. According to the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, by year-end nine companies suing the federal government over the insurance rules had obtained injunctions temporarily blocking the mandate. The Greens, the evangelical owners of craft store chain Hobby Lobby, didn’t. Denied a request for injunction Dec. 26, they chose to risk fines of up to $1.3 million per day beginning Jan. 1 rather than pay for abortifacient coverage.

2. Legalizing life 

Nineteen states enacted 43 restrictions on abortion services last year, making 2012 the second most successful year for pro-life legislative efforts since Roe. (In 2011, states enacted 92 restrictions.) According to the pro-abortion Guttmacher Institute, no legislature last year improved access to abortion.

Some states tightened regulation of abortion facilities, placed restrictions on drug-induced abortions, and required women seeking an abortion to listen to the heartbeats of their unborn children. Continuing a national trend begun in 2010, Louisiana, Arizona, and Georgia outlawed abortion at 18 or 20 weeks post-fertilization based on the fetal pain argument, although bans in the latter two states are tied up in court challenges. (See "Lately dead" in this issue.)

The legislative victories led to this complaint on the Jan. 14 cover of Time: “40 years ago, abortion rights activists won an epic victory with Roe v. Wade. They’ve been losing ever since.” (See "Forty years in the wilderness" in this issue.)

3. Forty abortion workers quit 

Former Planned Parenthood director Abby Johnson is surprised so many abortion industry employees want to follow her out the door. Johnson left her Planned Parenthood center of Bryan, Texas, in 2009 after witnessing on ultrasound the abortion of a 13-week baby. She went on to write the memoir Unplanned about her conversion to the pro-life perspective. Last June, after abortion workers had begun contacting her for help in leaving their own jobs, Johnson started an organization to support them called And Then There Were None (ATTWN).

By the end of the year, ATTWN had helped 40 workers make their exits. Johnson’s ministry provides legal assistance, spiritual counsel, and moral and financial support for workers leaving the industry, and helps them hunt for new jobs. In some cases, a worker leaving an abortion operation has a ripple effect on other employees: Six workers left a facility in Georgia, and five left one in Houston. At that rate of departure, Johnson hopes many of the nation’s 660 abortion centers will be forced to close their doors.

Her hopes appear to be coming true already—with some help from local fire codes. In December the fire marshal in Muskegon, Mich., shut down an abortion center while investigating a suspected break-in, citing unsafe conditions. The facility, Women’s Medical Services, was the former employer of an abortion worker ATTWN had assisted.

(Read more about Johnson’s organization at worldmag.com/2012/12/how_to_quit.)

4. Kill rate decline

In November the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced the number and rate of abortions had fallen 5 percent in 2009, the largest drop in at least a decade. That was good news for the unborn, but the picture was complicated. The CDC’s data included only 43 states, and it was unclear which factors besides the sour economy had the greatest influence on the abortion decline.

The factors included the expanding use of emergency contraceptives and long-lasting birth control (like the abortifacient Plan B and intrauterine devices), the growth of the pro-life movement, and shifting attitudes toward unborn children. Last May Gallup found only two out of five Americans describing themselves as “pro-choice” on abortion—the lowest figure since the polling group began asking the question in 1995.

— with reporting by Rachel Lynn Aldrich & Jim Edsall


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