Communications Department

States Move Forward with Protective Laws as Nation Observes Roe Anniversary

Jan 24, 2011 | 2011 Press Releases

WASHINGTON – With pro-lifers across the country gathering to somberly observe the 38th anniversary of Roe v. Wade, the Supreme Court decision that legalized abortion, attention is focusing on measures being proposed in state legislatures that would protect the best interests of mothers and their unborn children, including legislation, modeled after a Nebraska law enacted last year, that bans abortion on unborn children capable of feeling pain – which the best evidence indicates occurs at least by 20 weeks postfertilization (a point that may well occur earlier). 

“We have a tremendous opportunity this year to make a difference in the lives of mothers and their unborn children,” said Mary Spaulding Balch, J.D., an attorney who serves as NRLC director of state legislation.  “Given the overwhelming body of evidence showing that unborn children can feel pain by at least 20 weeks postfertilization, states have a compelling interest to step in and protect these children from the excruciating pain of abortion.  We fully expect that by the end of the spring state legislative session, more states will join Nebraska in prohibiting abortion after 20 weeks.”

Using the Nebraska law as a model, state legislatures in many states, working with NRLC and its state right-to-life affiliates are responding to the overwhelming annual number of abortions, by looking to enact the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act. 

A report released January 11, 2011, the Guttmacher Institute (formerly a special research affiliate of the Planned Parenthood Federation of America) found that in 2008, the annual number of abortions remained virtually unchanged from 2005 at just over 1.2 million.

In a November 18, 2010 release, NRLC noted that May 2010 briefing by the Guttmacher Institute, 1.5% of the estimated more than 1.2 million elective abortions performed annually in the United States are on unborn children at 21 weeks after the woman’s last menstrual period or “LMP”,  (19 weeks postfertilization) or older.  This translates to roughly 18,000 abortions annually – a substantial number of which probably occur at 22 weeks LMP (20 weeks postfertilization) or later. 

The Nebraska law became a first-of-its-kind in the United States to protect unborn children in the fifth and sixth month of pregnancy or later by prohibiting abortion after 20 weeks postfertilization (approximately 22 weeks LMP), except when the mother “has a condition which so complicates her medical condition as to necessitate the abortion of her pregnancy to avert death or to avert serious risk of substantial or irreversible physical impairment of a major bodily function or…it is necessary to preserve the life of an unborn child.”  (The Nebraska law took effect October 15, 2010.)

Scientific studies, dating back to 1987, confirming the existence of fetal pain at 20 weeks postfertilization (22 weeks LMP), can be found here: 

“For decades, the billion dollar abortion industry has claimed they want to make abortion ‘safe, legal and rare’,” said National Right to Life Committee (NRLC) President Wanda Franz, Ph.D. “Sadly, for America’s unborn children, abortion is legal, but it is certainly not safe and based on the most recent reports, we can plainly see that abortion most definitely is not rare.”

The National Right to Life Committee (NRLC), the federation of 50 state right-to-life organizations and more than 3,000 local chapters nationwide, is the nation’s largest pro-life group. National Right to Life works through legislation and education to protect those threatened by abortion, infanticide, euthanasia and assisted suicide.