Department of State Legislation

State Legislation

Creating new legislative firewalls for life

The Department of State Legislation, established by National Right to Life in 1989, assists our state affiliates in passing protective legislation and defeating anti-life legislation. The Department assists NRLC-affiliated state legislative directors and lobbyists in achieving their pro-life legislative goals, including writing legal memoranda, drafting model legislation, and publishing fact sheets for state affiliates and the public at large, which provide factual information about pro-life protective legislation.

National Right to Life’s state affiliates have succeeded in helping to enact several types of pro-life protective legislation. Areas where there has been success include parental involvement, requiring either the notification or consent of a parent prior to a minor daughter’s abortion; informed consent, ensuring women have a right to know the risks associated with abortion as well as information on the developing unborn child and alternatives to abortion; protecting unborn children from abortion by heinous abortion procedures such as the partial-birth abortion and dismemberment abortion; and protecting taxpayers from funding the abortion industry.

A landmark piece of legislation, the “Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act,” was drafted by National Right to Life’s Department of State Legislation. This law, which protects from abortion unborn children who are capable of feeling pain, was first enacted by the state of Nebraska in 2010, ultimately leading to the overturn of Roe v. Wade.

Enacting pro-life legislation has proven to have a positive effect on the whole society: the number of abortions has been shown to decrease, hope and help are offered to mothers, and lives are saved.

Laws Protecting Unborn Children in Early Pregnancy

Prior to the Dobbs decision, states had various responses to protecting unborn children. Before Roe v. Wade, some states had pre-Roe laws that protected the unborn by making abortion illegal. After Roe was decided, some states enacted trigger laws which would protect the unborn throughout gestation once Roe was reversed. State legislatures across the country also enacted laws protecting unborn children either throughout gestation (total protection laws), or at various stages from fertilization, or from other developmental markers such as detection of the presence of a heartbeat or the unborn child’s ability to feel pain.

Related Factsheets / Special Reports

Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act and Gestational Age Protections

Prior to the June 2022 U.S. Supreme Court decision in Dobbs v. Jackson, some state legislatures enacted laws to protect the unborn child at various stages of gestational development. The model Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act, drafted by NRLC’s Department of State Legislation and first enacted by the state of Nebraska in 2010, is legislation which protects, from abortion, unborn children who are capable of feeling pain, certainly by 20 weeks after fertilization according to substantial medical evidence.

Regulating Chemical Abortions

State laws regulating chemical (medication) abortions: some laws require abortion providers to be physically present in the same room when administering, prescribing, or dispensing chemical abortion pills. Some laws require that the chemical abortion pills only be provided by qualified physicians; some prohibit the providing of the chemical abortion pills through the mail, or via delivery service or courier.  Conversely, there is a small group of states that have extreme abortion-on-demand laws that require the distribution of these deadly chemicals. Those states are listed after this table.

Related Factsheets / Special Reports

Abortion Pill Reversal

A chemical abortion involves taking a drug called “Mifepristone,” followed by a drug called “Misoprostol.” It is possible to reverse an abortion prior to taking the second drug, but that action typically must occur within 24 hours of taking the first drug. An informed consent law requires abortion facilities to inform a woman prior to, or soon after, taking the first drug that it may be possible to reverse the effects of the abortion. Currently, 15 states have enacted laws requiring this information to be provided.

Are you urgently looking for a way to reverse the outcome of taking the abortion pill? Learn more here or call 1.877.558.0333.

Related Factsheets / Special Reports

Born Alive Infant Protection Laws

Born Alive Infants Protection laws require healthcare providers to render medical aid to an infant surviving an abortion attempt. These laws vary by state. Some may only define what the term “born alive” means; some require that health care practitioners, when a baby is born alive following an abortion, must exercise the same degree of professional skill and care that would be offered to any other child born alive at the same gestational age. Some laws require that health care workers, following appropriate care, must transport the child immediately to a hospital and report any violations. Currently, 36 states have enacted laws to protect babies born alive during an abortion.

Related Factsheets / Special Reports

Dismemberment Abortion Bans

Dismemberment abortion is a brutal type of abortion with the purpose of causing the death of an unborn child through extraction, one piece at a time, from the uterus. The use of clamps, grasping forceps, tongs, scissors or similar instruments, through the convergence of two rigid levers, slice, crush, and/or grasp a portion of the unborn child’s body to cut or rip it off.

The Unborn Child Protection from Dismemberment Abortion Act protects unborn children from the brutality of being torn apart limb by limb.

In his dissent to the U.S. Supreme Court’s 2000 Stenberg v. Carhart decision, Justice Kennedy observed that in D&E dismemberment abortions, “The fetus, in many cases, dies just as a human adult or child would: It bleeds to death as it is torn limb from limb. The fetus can be alive at the beginning of the dismemberment process and can survive for a time while its limbs are being torn off.” Justice Kennedy added in the Court’s 2007 opinion in Gonzales v. Carhart that D&E abortions are “laden with the power to devalue human life …”

Partial-Birth Abortion Bans

Partial-birth abortion is a horrific method of abortion that kills babies before they are pulled feet-first from the womb and stabbed through the back of the skull. View accurate illustrations here depicting a partial-birth abortion being performed on a baby at 24 weeks gestational age. Often these abortions are performed on very developed babies in the fifth and six or later months of pregnancy when these babies can feel excruciating pain. Congress passed the federal Partial-Birth Abortion Ban Act.

Related Factsheets / Special Reports

Telemedicine Abortion Bans

These are chemical abortions facilitated via a video conferencing system where the abortionist is in one location and talks with a woman, who is in another location, over a computer video screen. The abortionist never sees the woman in person because they are never actually in the same room.

Related Factsheets / Special Reports

Anti-Discrimination Abortion Laws

Anti-discrimination abortion bans are laws protecting unborn children from discrimination based on their sex, race and/or disability.

Related Factsheets / Special Reports

Parental Involvement Laws

Most parental involvement laws require that abortionists either notify or obtain consent or both notify and obtain consent of a parent or guardian before a minor girl has an abortion. Studies continue to show the positive impacts these laws have in significantly reducing the rates of abortion, birth and pregnancy among minors.

Related Factsheets / Special Reports

Woman’s Right to Know: Ultrasound Laws

Since 1992, states have increasingly passed protective laws called Informed Consent/Woman’s Right to Know Laws. Ultrasound Right to View laws primarily require abortion facilities to offer a pregnant mother the opportunity to view an ultrasound of her unborn child before an abortion is performed. Four states now require that the ultrasound screen be displayed within her line of sight so she may view it. This is different from other state laws that require that the mother be offered a chance to see the ultrasound image; this view may be contained in a stack of papers, in small-type print, that is given to the mother just prior to consenting to the abortion. The screen is usually positioned behind her.

Related Factsheets / Special Reports

Woman’s Right to Know: Waiting Periods

Waiting periods before an abortion are critical for saving the lives of innocent children and ensuring that women are given the right to know and weigh all the facts prior to an abortion. Twenty-nine states have established laws ensuring that mothers are given time to consider all options and receive counseling to make informed decisions. Waiting periods range from 18 to 72 hours and often include the opportunity for consultation and advice regarding the decision.

Related Factsheets / Special Reports

Unborn Victims of Violence

Unborn Victims of Violence laws recognize that when a criminal attacks a pregnant woman and injures or kills both her and her unborn child, they have claimed two human victims.

Related Factsheets / Special Reports

Prohibiting Tax-Funded Abortion

The new federal health care law, known as the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, allows states to opt out of abortion coverage in the state‐based insurance “exchanges” it creates. Some states have enacted laws allowing for this exclusion. Other states prohibit abortion coverage in plans outside the Exchange and policies for public employees. Some laws provide coverage for elective abortions by the purchase of a premium known as an optional separate supplemental rider.

Related Factsheets / Special Reports

Defunding Abortion Giants

Several states have passed laws that attempt to defund abortion giants; two techniques are employed to revoke Title X funding from big abortion facilities and their legal status. Title X allocates for Medicaid funds to be distributed to the states by the federal government for the purpose of supplementing family planning programs. The states contract with public and private entities to provide family planning services.

Related Factsheets / Special Reports