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Antiabortion-Rights Group's 'Incrementalist' Strategy Helps Propel Recent 'Wave' of Antiabortion-Rights Laws

July 16, 2015 — Implementing a strategy built on "tiny maneuvers," Americans United for Life "is almost single-handedly responsible for the wave of [antiabortion-rights] legislation that state legislatures have passed in recent years," The Atlantic reports.

During interviews with The Atlantic, AUL President Charmaine Yoest and other staff members of the group discussed how their primary goal "is to make the states as [antiabortion-rights] as possible."

AUL's 'Incrementalist' Strategy

Unlike other antiabortion-rights groups, AUL has shied away from "splashy guerrilla tactics" in favor of a "quiet legislative strategy that, though it garners less attention, might be far more effective at actually limiting abortions," The Atlantic reports. Specifically, AUL has broken away from antiabortion-rights groups that seek "to end abortion entirely" and instead has deployed "a more pragmatic 'incrementalist' strategy, in which [abortion opponents] chip away at the total number of abortions by helping to enact new constraints."

For example, according to The Atlantic, many of the 282 abortion restrictions passed since 2010 -- including the 51 passed just this year -- "originated in Defending Life, a compendium of about 50 pieces of legislation written by AUL and its nine staff lawyers." These laws include statutes in Arizona (SB 1318) and Arkansas (Act 1086) that require physicians to share medically unproven information with women seeking medication abortion, as well as admitting privileges requirements in several states.

According to The Atlantic, AUL pursues this strategy by working closely with state legislators. Specifically, the group "employs six dedicated state-level advocates," mails out copies of Defending Life each year to state lawmakers, displays promotional materials at politically conservative conferences and ranks states based on their antiabortion-rights legislation. In addition, the group ties its antiabortion-rights initiatives to "women's rights and other of-the-moment social issues," such as an unrelated social justice movement called #BlackLivesMatter.

Although AUL staff during the interviews did not specify "whether the group is actively trying to make it harder to get abortions, or whether that's just a side effect of their ... activities," they ultimately indicated they would "be okay with a state opting to ban abortion entirely" if Roe v. Wade ever was overturned (Khazan, The Atlantic, 7/16).