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US‘This is a Wave’: Inside the Network of Anti-Abortion Activists Winning Across the Country

01:00  19 may  2019
01:00  19 may  2019 Source:   nytimes.com

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U.S.|‘ This Is a Wave ’: Inside the Network of Anti - Abortion Activists Winning The anti - abortion movement, built over nearly five decades, is closer than it has ever been to its long-held dream of The most aggressive of the anti - abortion laws that have been passed have not taken effect and are

[Read: A look inside the network of anti - abortion activists winning across the country .] But Louisianans, Mr. Edwards argued recently, were “overwhelmingly pro-life,” and government records show that the number of abortions in the state has been declining. The State Department of Health

‘This is a Wave’: Inside the Network of Anti-Abortion Activists Winning Across the Country© From left: Maddie McGarvey for The New York Times, Nick Schnelle for The New York Times, Bob Miller ... From left, anti-abortion activists Mike Gonidakis, Sue Swayze Liebel and Eric Johnston. Their recent legislative victories reflect a sustained effort by disparate groups, each with their own strategy honed over decades of work.

State after state is passing sweeping abortion restrictions this year, from Alabama’s near total abortion ban, to Ohio’s ban after a fetal heartbeat is detected, to Utah’s ban after a pregnancy reaches 18 weeks. Already, eight states have passed laws that could challenge federal protections for abortion, with more on the way, prompting jubilation on the right and fear on the left.

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After wave of anti - abortion laws, US sees signs of women taking drastic measures. The first abortion Natalie assisted was her mother’s. During her freshman year in college, she wrote a report on the history of herbal Within months, the network had extended into every region of the country .

Marcie Crim is one of those activists who has been fighting the rising tide of anti - abortion laws. In Alabama, local groups that support women seeking abortions saw an outpouring of donations in the wake Georgia, which this year passed one of the most restrictive laws in the country , has earned

‘This is a Wave’: Inside the Network of Anti-Abortion Activists Winning Across the Country© Nick Schnelle for The New York Times “It’s not like there’s some master planner out there saying, ‘This state should do this and this state should do that,’” said Samuel Lee, a longtime lobbyist for anti-abortion legislation in Missouri.

The laws may appear to present a united front and a coordinated political campaign. Instead they reflect a sustained effort by a network of disparate activists, each with their own strategy honed over decades of work.

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“It’s not like there’s some master planner out there saying, ‘This state should do this and this state should do that,’” said Samuel Lee, a longtime lobbyist for anti-abortion legislation in Missouri. “But there are some creative people out there in different states trying different things.”

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[ Inside the network of anti - abortion activists winning across the country .] Abortion funds grew in tandem with these restrictions and with welfare cuts that unraveled their clients’ safety nets. N.N.A.F. formed in 1993, when 22 individual groups recognized a need to coordinate their efforts.

[ Inside the network of anti - abortion activists winning across the country .] So far, the court has held back. On Tuesday, it sidestepped part of a case that could have tested the constitutional right to abortion established in Roe v. Wade, turning down an appeal to reinstate a strict Indiana abortion law.

The anti-abortion movement, built over nearly five decades, is closer than it has ever been to its long-held dream of dismantling Roe v. Wade, the landmark ruling that legalized abortion nationwide.

Empowered by a president who pushes their priorities, by a Supreme Court now seemingly tipped in their favor and by sheer determination, anti-abortion activists and lawmakers across the country have pushed dozens of bills into law in the past few months.

The most aggressive of the anti-abortion laws that have been passed have not taken effect and are expected to face challenges in court — which in some cases was an aim of the anti-abortion activists to begin with.

Perhaps more than any coordinated strategy, activists across the country are tapping into the same energy and feeding on one another’s momentum.

‘This is a Wave’: Inside the Network of Anti-Abortion Activists Winning Across the Country© Kim Raff for The New York Times Mary Taylor, who leads ProLife Utah, at the Utah State Capitol in Salt Lake City yesterday.

“This is a wave that is rolling across our country in the pro-life states,” said Sue Swayze Liebel, who runs the National Pro-Life Women’s Caucus for Susan B. Anthony List. “Everybody just put the pedal down, let’s all go, everybody rushing to the finish line.”

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Anti - abortion activists protest outside the US supreme court in January. Rural areas were significantly more anti - abortion than cities. People who sympathise with Trump’s positions are often those The bill is part of a trend across the US in which Republican-controlled states are attempting

The raw cultural momentum of the anti - abortion movement has taken over, and it shows no signs of slowing. The laws may appear to present a coordinated political campaign, but they actually reflect a sustained effort by a network of disparate activists .

[How banning abortion in the early weeks of pregnancy became mainstream.]

Ms. Liebel spent the most momentous week in years for the anti-abortion movement on the road. She started with activists in Texas, to drum up support for a bill that would ban abortion on the basis of race, sex or disability.

By Wednesday, she was at the Missouri Statehouse to champion a bill that would ban abortions after the eighth week of pregnancy. By the end of the week, she was cheering friends like State Representative Mary Elizabeth Coleman of Missouri, an architect of the bill, as it passed the Legislature.

The movement’s grass-roots networks can be hard to define.

Activists are more likely to coordinate through their Catholic and evangelical churches than on mass political listservs or email chains. In some states the local Right to Life chapter may be the strongest activist hub. In others, it might be the Concerned Women for America chapter, or the regional Family Policy Council group.

‘This is a Wave’: Inside the Network of Anti-Abortion Activists Winning Across the Country© Nick Schnelle for The New York Times Representative Mary Elizabeth Coleman of Missouri, an architect of a bill that would ban abortions after the eighth week of pregnancy, celebrated when it passed.

The activists do not often agree on whether their priority should be to pass a six-week ban or a 20-week one. But together, their efforts have magnified the voices of millions of Americans who want abortion to be illegal, and they are prevailing over millions of other Americans who do not.

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If there is a legislative link, it is in the national anti-abortion groups, like Susan B. Anthony List or National Right to Life, who offer model legislation and research for lawmakers and activists. Firms like the Alliance Defending Freedom or Americans United for Life offer legal counsel as the laws take shape. But raw cultural momentum has taken over and shows no signs of slowing.

“The advice of lawyers is of less concern than it ever has been in the pro-life movement right now,” Mr. Lee said. “They don’t care. Social movements sometimes take on a life of their own.”

That is what happened in Alabama, which on Wednesday passed the nation’s most restrictive measure, effectively banning abortion unless a woman’s health is at “serious” risk. The president of the Alabama Pro-Life Coalition, Eric Johnston, who calls himself an abortion purist, felt the slew of anti-abortion legislation that has been approved by other states in recent months did not go far enough.

[Alabama passed one of the nation’s most restrictive abortion laws. Here’s what happens next.]

This included even the so-called fetal heartbeat bills, which outlaw abortion as early as six weeks into a pregnancy, when an ultrasound may be able to detect the pulsing of what will become the fetus’s heart. Even in cases of rape and incest the fetus must always be the primary concern, he said, but not if the mother’s life is in danger.

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Last summer, as the Senate prepared to confirm Justice Brett M. Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court, Mr. Johnston, 72, saw an opportunity. After years of pushing various abortion restrictions, he began to write a bill for his most restrictive one yet. His language became central to the final law.

The Supreme Court may decide not to take any abortion cases. But Mr. Johnston and other activists channeling the movement’s energy say this is the closest they have ever come to a perfect shot.

“All the stars were lining up,” he said. “I thought, This may be the best time to do it.”

Activists in Utah say that strategy never would have worked in their state, even though they applaud Alabama’s boldness. Mary Taylor, who leads ProLife Utah, said she felt “envious” watching other states pass anti-abortion bills. The Utah Legislature is a bit more cautious, she said, and so her coalition decided to push the 18-week ban instead of others that would go into effect around six weeks.

Still, the surge of proposals across the country have helped her brainstorm more of her own for the next legislative session. Sometimes she talks with friends she has met over the years, like Ms. Liebel. But a simple newspaper article about another state’s strategy is often enough to generate a new idea, and a phone call to a new ally about how to proceed.

“I’ll reach out and ask, ‘What were your strong points, what were the pitfalls?’ Things like that,” she said. “I’ve got one in the works right now.”

The success of the anti-abortion movement is far from sudden. In Ohio, Michael Gonidakis, president of Ohio Right to Life, said legislative successes in his state have come about through years of slow, careful and sometimes tedious work.

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Because Ohio was the first state to try, in 2011, to pass a ban on abortion after a fetal heartbeat is detected, Mr. Gonidakis said he had received calls from “state senators in almost every Midwestern state” asking about strategy. He also talked on the phone with policy staff for the State Senate in Kentucky, which later passed its own heartbeat bill.

[What are ‘heartbeat’ laws, and what do they mean for women?]

Activists have been buttressed by many of the nation’s conservative churches, which have increased their emphasis on abortion policy in recent years. A few decades ago, many Southern Baptist churches would preach far more frequently against divorce, fornication and premarital sex, said Wayne Flynt, one of Alabama’s most influential historians and an ordained Baptist minister. “There has been a huge shift,” he said, “and a narrowing of focus to abortion and same-sex marriage.”

This cultural movement is finding wins beyond the outright abortion bans. In Arkansas, where lawmakers recently banned most abortions after 18 weeks, Rose Mimms, who has led Arkansas Right to Life for 26 years, worked to pass additional priorities of the movement that have gotten much less public attention. While fellow activists pushed through things like the ban and a trigger law to outlaw most abortions if Roe is overturned, Ms. Mimms, 64, focused on under-the-radar bills, like one to amend the state’s safe haven law.

A couple of years ago, she heard an activist speak about a “Safe Haven Baby Boxes” project, to install and promote secure boxes at hospitals and fire stations for women to surrender their infants without the threat of criminal prosecution. The interaction prompted her to push for a new law, passed this February, to add fire stations as a drop-off location.

Republican control over state legislatures, built since the Tea Party wave in 2010, has made much of the anti-abortion movement’s success possible.

Another red state could soon pass an abortion ban. Only this time a Democrat will sign it into law.

Another red state could soon pass an abortion ban. Only this time a Democrat will sign it into law. As bans churn through statehouses across the country, antiabortion Democrats have found themselves the target of fierce criticism from fellow party members, their conflict exposing a scarcely discussed rift on the left.

A vision for the Missouri bill started to emerge when its Republican freshman legislators took a bus trip across the state in 2018. Ms. Coleman, 37, a newly elected senator and longtime anti-abortion activist, struck up conversation with two other colleagues about how to build a new legislative strategy.

Later, they combined forces with others and the legislation grew into what they called a “pro-life omnibus.” It included bans on abortions based on race, sex and Down syndrome diagnosis. It also included a tax credit for donations to pregnancy centers run by abortion opponents and a requirement that both parents be notified when a minor seeks an abortion. Currently, consent is required only from one.

One of the legislators’ goals was to try new legal arguments in the state, and to review circuit court opinions on past laws to anticipate future roadblocks, Ms. Coleman said between votes on Thursday.

Counterpunches from Democrats in blue states only cemented the movement’s resolve. Outrage among activists grew after New York passed a law protecting abortion in later stages of pregnancy, and Virginia’s governor used language that many Republicans saw as an endorsement of infanticide.

Ralph Northam, the Democratic governor, described a situation in which an infant would be delivered with severe deformities, and then a “discussion would ensue between the physicians and the mother.”

In Mississippi, anger over the remarks in Virginia led to a meeting between two of the state’s most powerful men, Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves and Senator Joey Fillingane, a leading critic of abortion in the Legislature. That impromptu conversation revived a bill, now signed into law, that would effectively ban abortions after the sixth week of pregnancy.

Abortion rights groups are planning to fight many of these laws in court. On Tuesday, at statehouses and courthouses nationwide, groups like Naral and Planned Parenthood are planning to protest the slew of new abortion bans.

“We must unite against this unprecedented attack on our fundamental rights and freedoms,” Dr. Leana Wen, president of the Planned Parenthood Action Fund, said in a statement. “We are in the fight of our lives.”

Opponents, for their part, feel the same about their fight.

“It doesn’t take any coordination,” said Mr. Reeves, who is running for governor of Mississippi. “Obviously, in anything in life, whether it’s a basketball game or my daughter’s 14-and-under travel softball team this weekend, momentum matters. As momentum grows, it gives others the ability and confidence that they can get this done.”

Timothy Williams and Richard Fausset contributed reporting.

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Another red state could soon pass an abortion ban. Only this time a Democrat will sign it into law..
As bans churn through statehouses across the country, antiabortion Democrats have found themselves the target of fierce criticism from fellow party members, their conflict exposing a scarcely discussed rift on the left.

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