INDIANAPOLIS—More states are passing laws involving abortion than ever before. Many of these laws severely restrict the practice while others seek to make it legal right up to birth. It appears there's a full-on sprint underway, heading right to the US Supreme Court.
It's a strange dichotomy. Some states are building high walls around the practice to protect abortion. At the same time, other states, like Indiana, are passing more and more measures to limit abortion.
"From 1983 to 2010, states were only passing an average of 15 pro-life laws," researcher Michael New of Catholic University told CBN News. "Since 2010 that number has gone up to 57. So that's quite a substantial increase."
Best Chance in Decades at Overturning Roe v Wade?
Mike Fichter, the head of Indiana's Right to Life, says much of this legislating is aimed at trying to reach the Supreme Court.
"At this point with Justice Kavanaugh sitting on the Court, any abortion-related bill that percolates up before the full Court could be a vehicle to overturn Roe v Wade," Fichter stated.
Indiana lawmakers don't like to see their bills judged as unconstitutional, but if that means a Supreme Court hearing, it could be worth it.
"We do think a lot of these protective pro-life laws will receive a more sympathetic hearing with today's Court than they received previously," New said.
Kenneth Falk of the ACLU of Indiana said, "Clearly there's a legislative strategy to push as many challenges to Roe and as many abortion restrictions as possible."
Could the Justices be Swayed by a Nation Turning More Pro-Life?
New suggested the time could be right as the percentage of Americans turning pro-life has gone up both in opinion and practice.
He pointed out, "Since 1980, the US abortion rate has declined by 50 percent. That's a pretty substantial change in a relatively short amount of time."
That could affect the Supreme Court justices.
"Popular opinion does have some impact on the way they rule. They don't want to reach consistently unpopular decisions nobody likes because they would lose legitimacy," New explained. "So public opinion is something I do think many judges consider, and I think that does bode well for the pro-life movement."
'Sooner or Later, It's Going to Topple'
Fichter added, "Both sides of the abortion debate are realizing Roe v Wade is going to topple. Sooner or later, it's going to topple."
Some states seem in a panic that the Supreme Court might rule any abortions illegal.
Fichter mentioned, "You have states like New York that are trying to get ahead of the curve to say 'we don't care what happens with Roe v Wade. We're going to keep abortion fully legal in this state'."
New added of such states, "The Democratic Party has moved pretty aggressively to the Left on the sanctity of life issues."
'Building into This Huge Crescendo'
And New pointed out on the other side, "We see a surge in activism, especially in conservative states."
"It's all just building into this huge crescendo that's bringing this issue front and center," Fichter concluded.
Constitutional law attorney Jenna Ellis told CBN News Roe v Wade and the related case Planned Parenthood v Casey didn't actually grant a right to abortion, but a right to make one's own healthcare choices.
Court Didn't Mean to Make All Abortions in All Circumstances Legal
"And that right to privacy covers some abortions in some circumstances," Ellis explained.
These new contested state laws deal with all sorts of different issues surrounding abortions. For instance, can a baby be killed after its heartbeat can be detected?
New said of those, "We've seen several states pass these heartbeat bills that would protect unborn children after fetal heartbeat's detected."
Other bills deal with questions like:
- When can the unborn feel pain?
- Is an embryo a person with the right to life that any other human enjoys?
- Can a baby be aborted simply because of its gender, race or disability?
Ellis pointed out these laws pose "questions that deal with what types and circumstances of pregnancies can a woman choose to get an abortion."
'It Certainly is a Threat'
The ACLU's Falk told CBN News for pro-choice advocates, the Court approving any restriction from these pro-life states like Indiana is a clear threat.
He said, "If you allow the state to say 'no, we have an important reason to stop an abortion,' then states can always articulate what they deem to be important reasons."
Falk concluded, "It certainly is a threat to the existing rights to abortion that exist in America today."
About a third of the states are fighting to restrict the practice in various stages while another group is against any restrictions, even for babies who survive an attempted abortion.
A Serious Rift in the Culture
"I think it's exposing how serious there is of a rift in the culture on this issue," Indiana's Fichter suggested. "We even have to debate, 'Should we give medical treatment to a baby fully born alive?' And to see the United States Senate unable to even advance that legislation is really shocking."
At the extremes, some state legislatures have already passed laws that would immediately ban abortions if the Court reverses Roe v Wade. While several others are doing the exact opposite.
"This huge groundswell is happening across the nation right now," Fichter stated. "I believe the Supreme Court is seeing this. They're realizing they've got to deal with this issue."
So could it be that the day is near? The day that pro-choice types have feared and pro-life forces have hoped and prayed for: a crescendo to the national debate over abortion? It may well be.