States have enacted a record number of pro-life bills in 2021 as the Supreme Court prepares to issue its verdict on the constitutionality of abortion restrictions.
Ninety abortion restrictions have been enacted in 2021, already surpassing the previous year-long record of 89 in 2011, according to the pro-abortion Guttmacher Institute. The flurry of legislation has emerged at a time when the Supreme Court is reevaluating a three-decade precedent that prohibited many abortion regulations. Idaho Republican state representative Steven Harris championed the state's heartbeat bill, which prohibits most abortions past the first weeks of pregnancy. He said he was encouraged when the justices agreed in May to take up Mississippi’s 15-week abortion ban. If the Mississippi ban is upheld, it could set a new standard for abortion laws around the country.
"The Supreme Court precedent is what’s driving everything. I don’t see the Court overturning Roe v. Wade completely, but I see them possibly chipping away at it," Harris said. "We believe life begins at conception, but we believe the state has a compelling interest once there’s a heartbeat."
Arkansas and Oklahoma banned abortions in all cases except when the mother’s life is in danger. Four states passed "heartbeat bills"—which ban abortion after six weeks of pregnancy: Idaho, Oklahoma, South Carolina, and Texas. Montana banned abortion after 20 weeks of pregnancy. Other pro-life actions around the country included banning abortions of those born-alive, banning abortions of those diagnosed with Down syndrome or birth defects, and placing more regulatory safeguards on abortion providers. The initiatives have grown bolder as lawmakers look to a Court widely seen as more receptive to the pro-life position after former president Donald Trump appointed three justices during his term.
Pro-life activists say it is more than just judicial optimism that drives the movement. Voters at the state level have elected growing majorities of pro-life lawmakers and Republicans even as the GOP has lost power in Congress. Mallory Quigley, spokeswoman at the pro-life Susan B. Anthony List, said the momentum of the pro-life movement could soon reach the federal level.
"As Americans increasingly become aware of the shocking reality that our abortion laws are in line with those of China and North Korea, they are rejecting that status quo," Quigley told the Washington Free Beacon. "The groundswell at the grassroots and state level builds momentum for pro-life law and policy in Washington and gives us hope that someday soon the Supreme Court will let stand laws that reflect the values of the people."
Jeanne Mancini, president of the March for Life, said the increasing number of pro-life bills reflects the views of the public, which often contradict extreme pro-choice policies. A June poll from the Associated Press found that more than 60 percent of Americans oppose legalized abortion after the first trimester.
"As the Biden-Harris administration continues to force its extreme abortion agenda on the public, Americans have turned increasingly to the local level to have their voices heard," Mancini told the Free Beacon. "The fact that states are enacting a record number of pro-life laws in 2021 is an indicator of where most Americans stand on the issue of abortion today."
Robin Lundstrum, a Republican state representative in Arkansas, said that even with her state passing the strictest ban on abortion in the country, the work of pro-life legislators does not stop.
"There’s always something—a new twist coming out," Lundstrum said. "Planned Parenthood will never rest. And neither should we. We will never grow weary of protecting life."