Americans United For Life: Texas Is Pleasingly Abortion-Unfriendly, But It Could Do Better

Americans United For Life, one of the nation's largest anti-abortion advocacy groups, has released its annual report, Defending Life 2012, complete with an enthusiastic blurb from Governor Rick Perry. On the whole, they seem very pleased with Texas and its "aggressive legislative action" to restrict abortion. Texas, they write, has become "one of the most protective states in the nation."

They should be pleased. They helped write the laws.

AUL, which is based in Washington, D.C., is dedicated to writing model legislation, suggesting ways that sympathetic-minded states, congressmen and senators can make abortion as close to illegal as possible, using a thicket of rules and restrictions. They oppose stem-cell research and assisted suicide too, but abortion remains their main concern.

Many pieces of legislation that AUL has pushed have ended up as part of Texas law, or at least tied up in our courts as they try to make their way there. Their newest report helpfully recaps a few of the many ways they've shaped the abortion fight in our state thus far, and lays out all the new laws they'd like to see passed in the next legislative session.

At a national level, the AUL backed the push for the feds to investigate Planned Parenthood. Florida Congressman Cliff Stearns has taken that up enthusiastically, if single-handedly, and the investigation provided the Komen Foundation a pretext when they tried to cut their funding to Planned Parenthood.

Parental notification and parental consent for abortion are both AUL-backed efforts, as well as the "Woman's Right To Know" booklets Texas women receive before they're allowed to proceed with an abortion (and which contain the thoroughly debunked information linking abortion to breast cancer).

The attempt to bar Planned Parenthood from the Women's Health Program also reflects the AUL's argument that state family planning funding is "fungible" and used to pay for abortions, although that's not you know, actually true. Even Abby Johnson, the Planned Parenthood manager turned pro-life activist who's suing her former employer for fraud , is a "senior adviser" with the AUL.

So given this organization's power in shaping abortion access in Texas, it's helpful to pay attention when they release their reports. Not only does this year's enthusiastically praise Texas, ranking it number seven on the list of "most protected" states, it includes new recommendations for what anti-abortion politicians here ought to do next.

So what does the group recommend? They have a whole laundry list of suggestions:

1. State legislators should back a "Personhood Preamble" stating that life begins at conception (something a few of them tend to do over and over without much prompting).

2. The Abortion Patients' Enhanced Safety Act , would restrict public hospitals and clinics from performing abortions. It would define stand-alone abortion clinics as "ambulatory surgical centers," then up both the rules for (and criminal penalties for violations at) ASCs.

3.The "Abortion Inducing Drugs Safety Act" would make sure women have to visit their doctor three separate times to obtain drugs with the chemical mifepristone in them. They mainly seem to mean RU-486, the "abortion pill," which could only be taken at the doctor's office (many of these restrictions disproportionately impact poor and rural woman who may not be able to travel to a clinic or miss work three separate times.) It also increases reporting requirements and civil and criminal penalties for doctors who prescribe the drug "inappropriately" or for "off-label" uses.

4. The "Abortion Subsidy Prohibition Act" again prohibits "public funds" from being used "directly or indirectly" to provide abortions. (They don't, except sometimes in cases of life endangerment, rape, or incest.) Public hospitals and clinics would be barred from performing abortions, and couldn't contract with "abortion providers." And school-based health clinics couldn't talk about abortion, refer women for abortions or dispense emergency contraception (which is not an abortion, and never has been.)

5. The Women's Health Defense Act would prohibit abortions after 20 weeks, except in strictly defined cases of serious, life-threatening medical emergencies (and for no other reason).

6. The Abortion Mandate Opt-Out Act would allow Texas to prohibit any health insurance plans that cover abortions from operating within the state, under the logic that taxpayers would thus be "subsidizing" abortion, therefore "Increas[ing] demand" for them.

Think of these recommendations as a crystal ball for Texas' future, as a few of its lawmakers continue in their quest to reign microscopically over all things uterine. Or, as Rick Perry puts it, "This information is ammunition in a fight that is far from over."

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Anna Merlan
Contact: Anna Merlan