With Roe in Jeopardy, Abortion Supporters Move for Expansion in ‘Friendly’ States

Pro-lifers will face a difficult challenge in ‘sanctuaries.’

The pro-life community rallies outside the Supreme Court.
The pro-life community rallies outside the Supreme Court. (photo: Rena Schild / Shutterstock)

As pro-life states move to prohibit or restrict abortion in anticipation of a favorable U.S. Supreme Court ruling this month, abortion-friendly states are moving to make abortions easier to get.

The playbook for abortion advocates includes getting rid of lingering pro-life statutes, increasing public funding for abortion, and allowing non-physicians to perform abortions, said Connor Semelsberger, director of federal affairs for life and human dignity at the Family Research Council, a conservative pro-life advocacy organization.

“These pro-abortion states are getting very creative,” Semelsberger said in a telephone interview with the Register.

Sixteen states currently pay the full cost of an abortion for poor women through their Medicaid programs. But abortion supporters in some states want more.

In Massachusetts, where the state government has paid for abortions for poor women since a court decision in 1981, state legislators are moving to give public money to private funds that pay for abortions for women whose incomes aren’t low enough to qualify for Medicaid.

The proposed state budget in the Massachusetts House of Representatives for the coming fiscal year calls for $500,000 to go to three private abortion funds. The state Senate disagrees — senators want to appropriate $2 million for that purpose.

If approved, the new appropriation would be in addition to the approximately $2 million a year the state government currently spends for abortions for poor women through Medicaid.

Some see abortion-friendly states as potential abortion sanctuaries for women who live in pro-life states. In February, state legislators in Oregon approved $15 million for nonprofit organizations that pay for abortion-related expenses — including travel expenses for women from out of state seeking abortions in Oregon.

“They want abortions to continue, and if women can’t get them in Texas and Alabama, they are opening their arms wide for you to come to their state to get an abortion,” Semelsberger said.

In California, Gov. Gavin Newsom’s proposed “Reproductive Health Package” announced last month includes $40 million in grants for abortion providers to pay for abortions for women who have “low and moderate income” but whose incomes aren’t low enough to qualify for Medicaid and who don’t have abortion coverage in their health-insurance plans. It also includes $20 million in “scholarships and loan repayments to health care providers that commit to providing reproductive health care services.”

In March, Newsom signed into law a bill that makes it illegal for health-insurance plans to charge a copayment or any other cost for abortion to policy holders.


State Constitutional Amendments

Vermont already has no restrictions on abortion in state law. But voters in November 2022 are set to decide whether to add “a right to personal reproductive autonomy” as an amendment to the Vermont Constitution, something abortion opponents say would make it hard to ever pass any sort of restriction on abortion in the future.

While Vermont’s proposed amendment doesn’t mention the word “abortion,” a measure moving quickly through the California Legislature does. Voters there will likely see on the November 2022 state election ballot a proposed amendment to the California Constitution declaring a “fundamental right to choose to have an abortion.”

In Michigan, abortion supporters are collecting signatures to try to get a pro-abortion constitutional amendment on the state ballot in November 2022. The deadline is July 11.

In Nevada, voters are set to decide on a proposed Equal Rights Amendment to the Nevada Constitution that would spell out 10 protected classes for what it calls “equality of rights,” including “sex, sexual orientation, gender identity or expression.” The language doesn’t mention abortion, but opponents of the amendment foresee expansionist judges interpreting it to cover a right to abortion.


Eliminating Rights 

Eliminating wiggle room for rights between fertilization of a human egg and birth is a goal for abortion supporters in certain states.

Colorado, for instance, enacted in April a “Reproductive Health Equity Act” that declares, among other things, that “a fertilized egg, embryo or fetus does not have independent or derivative rights under the laws of the state.”

“And it prohibits any protection of unborn children whatsoever,” said Ingrid Duran, director of state legislation for the National Right to Life Committee.

Maryland and Washington are among states moving to expand the number of health care workers who can perform an abortion. 

On July 1, Maryland’s new Abortion Care Clinical Training Program Fund begins, funded with $3.5 million of state money. When describing performing an abortion, the new statute replaces “physician” with “qualified provider,” which can include physician’s assistants and midwives. In Washington state, a bill enacted in March adds a physician’s assistant and a nurse practitioner as among those health care workers who can perform an abortion.

Illinois earlier this year eliminated a law that required parents to be notified if their minor daughter has an abortion. The previous state law did not require parental consent; the new one does not require that they be informed.


Abortion as Lure?

In California and New Jersey, the governors have recently touted abortion-friendly policies as a possible draw for businesses away from states that are moving to limit or stop abortions.

Some are calling California’s pitch “abortion tourism,” referring to what the governor’s office calls preparation “for an influx of people seeking abortion care.”

Gov. Newsom, a Democrat, announced last month a proposal to include among California’s tax incentives for businesses “additional consideration for companies leaving states that have enacted restrictions on reproductive rights and anti-LGBTQ+ laws.”

New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy, a Democrat, said in mid-June that he recently sent a letter to nearly 60 out-of-state businesses touting the state’s pro-abortion policies as a reason to move there. He told National Public Radio that the state’s tax-incentive package is one part of his pitch.

“But also increasingly, to those CEOs, they’ve got to take into account values — not just value — but values,” Murphy said, referring to legal and publicly supported abortion.


What Pro-Lifers Are Doing 

Abortion opponents say their options are limited in abortion-friendly states where they don’t have the votes to stop pro-abortion initiatives.

In some cases, they have focused on what they consider extreme elements of proposals.

Vermont pro-lifers, for instance, have suggested that enshrining a right to “reproductive autonomy” in the state constitution may end up preventing effective opposition to gender transitioning for children.

In California, pro-lifers seized on language in an early version of a pro-abortion measure that would have made it illegal to put criminal or civil penalties on “perinatal death.”

The word “perinatal” means literally “around birth” — and it can refer to the time either before birth or after birth.  While supporters of the bill said the term in the bill means stillbirths and abortions, pro-lifers suggested the phrase might include deaths brought about after birth — meaning infanticide.

The bill was subsequently amended to say “perinatal death due to a pregnancy-related cause.” Some pro-lifers are still suspicious of the wording.

Regardless, they know they’re unlikely to stop the measure. 

That’s also the case in other abortion-friendly states where abortion supporters are motivated, engaged and in power.

So what are pro-lifers in those places doing?

Duran said, “I keep telling them, ‘Don’t give up. You never know who you’re going to reach.’ And I believe education is key.”