The left-wing online publication Vox finds the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in the Hobby Lobby case to be part of a “deeper trend” in a nation that has made an “unprecedented” turn to a pro-life stance.
Writing at Vox, Sarah Kliff notes that, since 2010, “states have moved aggressively to restrict access to abortion and taken new steps to defund family planning programs. Advocates on both sides of the issue describe the wave of changes as unprecedented.”
Also affirming the success of the pro-life movement is Elizabeth Nash of the pro-choice Guttmacher Institute.
“Abortion access has changed dramatically,” said Nash, who referred to the current Supreme Court as “much more hostile.”
“The debate at the federal level affected what happened at the state level, and accessing abortion is much more difficult in 2014 than it was in 2009,” she said.
Kliff views the high court’s decision to strike down a Massachusetts law that created a 35-foot buffer zone around abortion clinics, and its ruling in the Hobby Lobby case, whereby individuals do not lose their religious freedom when they open a family business, as further evidence of pro-life victories.
“Ever since Roe v. Wade found a legal right to abortion in 1973, the United States has had a strong pro-life movement that has pursued more stringent abortion regulations,” writes Kliff. “In the 1980s and 1990s, states pioneered spousal notification laws and 24-hour waiting periods prior to abortions.”
Observing events that helped drive the pro-life movement, Kliff identifies the passage of the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare), which fired up a national debate about abortion and its coverage in health insurance plans, and, six months later, the 2010 mid-term elections, which gave Republicans control of the House and a majority of governorships, as pivotal.
Kliff notes the frustration pro-life organizations experienced with the so-called Obamacare “compromise” in which it was agreed health insurance plans would cover abortions but be prohibited from using taxpayer funds to pay for the procedures.
Charmaine Yoest, president of Americans United for Life, agrees Obamacare was the turning point.
“The frustration level with all the back-room dealing that lead to the Affordable Care Act’s passage was high,” Yoest said. “There was a real sense of betrayal and a sense that the system was broken, so I think that was rocket fuel for us.”
Acknowledging that Barack Obama was an ardent supporter of abortion, the pro-life movement took its message to the states and the courts.
Kliff observes that between 2011 and 2013 an unprecedented 205 abortion restrictions were passed in the states, “more than the entire 30 years prior.” According to national pro-life organization Operation Rescue, 87 facilities ceased performing surgical abortions in 2013 alone.
In addition, new state laws that require abortionists to have admitting privileges at local hospitals are seen by pro-choice advocates as “a backdoor way of driving clinics out of business if the local hospital refuses to provide the necessary admitting privilege,” writes Kliff.
“Over the last three years we’ve been involved in over 70 pieces of legislation that have come to passage,” Yoest said. “It’s really broad-based and, when you look at the clinic regulations and some other things, it doesn’t all come back to the Affordable Care Act.”
Kliff writes that the pro-life movement has also succeeded in “targeting birth control funding.”
“In 2011, New Hampshire cut its family planning budget by 57 percent and Texas reduced spending by two thirds,” she explains. “Montana killed funding for family planning altogether.”
Nevertheless, she states, “Even with the Hobby Lobby decision, Obamacare will still expand no-cost birth control to millions of women with health insurance coverage.”
Kliff notes that though states have not passed as much pro-life legislation this year, advocates for life are continuing their work following three years of success.
“We think [the Hobby Lobby decision] gives us a stronger legal foundation moving forward on defending conscience rights,” Yoest said. “This year was an off year at the state level, but there’s still a lot more room to go.”