Washington -- The National Abortion and Reproductive Rights Action League (NARAL) released a widely-reported document last week detailing how state legislatures around the country are becoming increasingly pro-life.
State lawmakers passed 62 laws in 1998 that protect the right to life the National Abortion and Reproductive Rights Action League says. The Washington, D.C.-based pro-abortion group counted 55 such laws in 1997 and 14 in 1996.
Included in the tally are pro-life laws that call for women to see information on fetal development or for minors to get parental consent before an abortion. The pro-abortion group also counted laws attempting to ban partial-birth abortions and one state law in South Dakota that allows pharmacists a conscience clause to refuse to dispense drugs that may cause chemical abortions.
Pro-life supporters agree that they've made some head-way in statehouses in recent years, due partly to a 1992 U.S. Supreme Court ruling that allowed broader regulation of abortion.
The changes have prevented some abortions, says Mary Spaulding Balch of the National Right to Life Committee in Washington as the abortion rates and numbers of abortions have declined in recent years.
"But it's not easy to pass pro-life legislation," she says. "It's a fight every year, and we still have a long way to go."
Washington state, the report says, is the most pro-abortion. Four other states earned strongly pro-abortion rankings: California, Connecticut, Oregon and Vermont.
Kenneth VanDerhoef, past president of Human Life of Washington, said Washington is a hotbed for pro-abortion activists. "It's tragic that we are there, but we have been that way since Day One," he said.
Washington in 1970 became the first state to legalize abortion through a vote of the people. Voters have reaffirmed abortion in three ballot measures since then.
At the other end of the spectrum is Louisiana, which ranked first as the most pro-life state. Pro-life protections in that state range from a waiting period, spousal consent for married minors, a ban on partial-birth abortions, a good informed consent law and many others.
Teresa Wagner, an analyst with the Family Research Council, said increasing restrictions on abortion are good news, not bad.
"What takes place in state legislatures obviously is far more reflective of American sentiment than what takes place in the federal judiciary," she wrote in a recent essay. Thus, she says, the increase in state laws only proves that America is more opposed to abortion than abortion activists want to admit.
"When the people speak through their political channels," Wagner says, "their voice is clearly pro-life."