Mother Jones Examines Americans United for Life's Role in State Antiabortion Legislation

August 22, 2012 — The antiabortion-rights group Americans United for Life is "chipping away at abortion access at an ever-faster pace," claiming credit for 24 abortion restrictions passed nationwide last year, Kate Sheppard writes in Mother Jones.

According to Sheppard, AUL was founded in 1971 with a mission of ending abortion in the U.S. by overturning Roe v. Wade, but in the 1990s, it began prioritizing incrementally restricting reproductive rights at the state level. Lawyers for the group have written dozens of model bills, which are distributed to every state and to federal lawmakers. So far this year, states have enacted 17 laws promoted by AUL or based on its model legislation.

According to AUL's website, the model legislation allows lawmakers to "easily introduce bills without needing to research and write the bills themselves." Jordan Goldberg, a lawyer at the Center for Reproductive Rights, noted, "It's troubling when you see the same bill language introduced in 27 states that you know came [from AUL] instead of coming from the concerns of the sponsor or that particular state."

AUL aims to promote state laws that have the potential to challenge federal abortion law. The group's bills often cite the Supreme Court's finding in Planned Parenthood v. Casey that the government "has legitimate interests from the outset of pregnancy in protecting the health of the woman." This tactic allows the group to frame bills that reduce abortion access as regulations that protect women, according to Sheppard.

For example, AUL's Women's Ultrasound Right to Know Act -- a version of which was enacted in Virginia this spring -- "clearly aims to prevent women from terminating pregnancies," but the bill's language centers on the woman rather than the fetus, Sheppard writes (Sheppard, Mother Jones, 8/20).