Communications Department

Understanding Why Pro-Lifers Were So Successful at the State Level in 2011

Jul 27, 2011 | 06/07-June/July 2011 NRL News

NRL News
Page 1
June-July 2011
Volume 38
Issue 6-7


An Interview with Mary Spaulding Balch
Understanding Why Pro-Lifers Were So Successful
at the State Level in 2011

By Dave Andrusko

A conversation with Mary Spaulding Balch, director of National Right to Life’s Department of State Legislation, is always equal parts enthusiasm, education, and inside information. Add to the mix the excitement generated by the NRL Convention in Florida—which was only eight days away when we talked—and I knew NRL News readers were in for a treat.

The 2011 legislative session was very productive, Balch explained. Before we went through the high points, I asked her what explains the undeniable progress.

The country is becoming more pro-life,” Balch said. “And that is reflected in elections; a great many pro-lifers were added last November, which changed the substance and the chemistry in many state legislatures.”

I asked for specifics. “It’s not just opinion polls, which are trending our way,” she said. “And it’s not just that young people, in general, are pro-life, which they clearly are.”

What you see, Balch explained, “is a shift across the culture, which is reflected in more and more people going to the polls and voting for pro-life candidates.”

These newcomers are “smart, savvy, and understand how the legislative process works,” Balch said. “Working with veteran pro-life legislators, they brought additional energy, creativity, and sophistication to help move pro-life legislation around hurdles.”

And what a year! Four states—Oklahoma, Kansas, Idaho, and (literally at the 11th hour) Alabama—passed the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act.

As drafted by National Right to Life’s Department of State Legislation, the model Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act protects from abortion unborn children who are capable of feeling pain 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.”

It is the kind of legislative initiative that can be a “game-changer,” Balch said. “It’s impossible to miss that pro-abortionists did not challenge the first Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act, which Nebraska enacted in 2010. They are worried the Supreme Court will uphold the law.”

Eight states passed “opt-out” laws, Balch said. The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act—ObamaCare—has a provision that allows states to opt out of requiring abortion coverage in the health insurance plans that would be offered by 2014. These states include Florida, Idaho, Indiana, Kansas, Nebraska, Oklahoma, Utah, and Virginia.

Ultrasound bills passed in two states, Arizona and Texas. As this is being written there is an ultrasound bill on the desk of the governor of Florida and a woman’s right to know bill containing an ultrasound component on the governor’s desk in North Carolina.

Ultrasounds (also called sonograms) give abortion-vulnerable women a chance to make an informed decision. The details vary, but the package includes offering women the opportunity to see their unborn child, hear details of the child’s development to that stage, and/or hear a heartbeat. The length of the waiting periods varies between the time this information is made available to her and the earliest she can have an abortion. You can tell how important these laws are by the hysterical opposition generated by pro-abortion groups.

Four states passed legislation to deny state-directed funding for businesses and organizations that perform abortions: Arizona, Kansas, Indiana, and North Carolina. The Obama Administration intervened in Indiana to try to coerce the state into changing its mind, but as of this writing, Indiana has remained steadfast. (See story, page 14.)

Five states passed laws regulating abortion clinics: Arkansas, Arizona, Kansas, Utah, and Virginia. (In Pennsylvania, both houses have passed such a bill.) For far too long, abortion facilities have been allowed to operate without oversight, which is what made abortionist Kermit Gosnell possible.

And there have been other successes in 2011: laws requiring parental consent before a minor can obtain an abortion; making it a separate crime to kill or harm an unborn child as a result of a violent attack on the child’s mother; and passing (or improving existing) “women’s right to know” laws.

But Balch emphasized that focusing on “wins,” while hugely important, is not the only gauge by which to measure pro-life progress.

For some states another important index is getting a bill even heard!” she said. “There are states that have been rock-solid pro-abortion for many years, where pro-life initiatives never saw the light of day. That is changing.”

Why? “For the reasons I mentioned, and because these new pro-lifers coming into the state legislatures are already making their mark,” Balch said. “Not only are they introducing bills, and getting hearings, and occasionally passing one house of the legislature, they are demonstrating a long-term commitment to eventually passing bills, no matter how long it takes.”

These are the vital first steps—the foundation—for victory over time, Balch said. She concluded our conversation with an illustration.

Oklahoma was not always such a pro-life state,” Balch said. “Now it is passing pro-life legislation every session, sometimes multiple bills.”

Oklahoma “was ahead of the curve,” she said. “Its successes are a model to other states and demonstrate what hard work can yield over time.”