The overwhelming success of a highly conservative slate not just on the federal but also the state means that we are going to see an increase in antichoice legislative and regulatory activity in the coming years. It’s something that has been slowly growing over the last decade, but now, the right thinks it has a sacred mandate, and one of the groups that will be lending a hand is Americans United for Life, an antichoice organisation you should know more about if the name doesn’t ring a bell.
It’s not just that they’re organised against bodily autonomy in the US, joining other groups in promoting antichoice propaganda in a variety of outlets. AUL has been active since 1971, fought vigorously against Roe v Wade, and has singlehandedly dedicated itself to dismantling freedom of choice in the Unite States ever since.
One of the ways it does that is through model legislation. If you’re not familiar with model legislation, it’s carefully crafted cookie cutter laws that can be easily swapped in and out across the country. Lots of lobbying groups (on both sides of the aisle) do this, making it easier to pursue a legislative agenda. State legislators who want to pass antichoice laws can take advantage of AUL’s legislative packages to quickly draw up some laws and push them through — and these are laws that have been carefully crafted and legally tested to stand the greatest chance of actually passing and withstanding legal scrutiny.
Knowing what’s on the AUL’s agenda can help you spot its influence in legislation or regulation, and that can provide some useful information for countering it. That’s particularly clear with the ‘Infants Protection Project,’ which is focused on outlawing abortion by making it functionally impossible to access, with eight separate legislative components. These include the Unborn Infants Dignity Act (targeting foetal tissue donation, requiring burial or cremation of foetal remains, and requiring states to issue birth and death certificates for pregnancy losses), along with bans on ‘partial birth’ and ‘genetic discrimination,’ and a host of other things. Individually, each of them is appalling. Together, they have a chilling effect on abortion access by making it extremely difficult for people to get abortion care, which is the goal.
The right has learned that a straight up ban isn’t going to fly, so it will do everything but; after all, you don’t need to ban abortion if no one is getting one because they are so technically difficult. (Of course, the truth is that people will continue to get abortions even in dire legal circumstances because they need them, only they’ll be going underground and endangering themselves, or they’ll be wealthy enough to get a nudge nudge wink wink procedure in a private pay practice willing to bend the rules for enough cash, as was the case pre-Roe and is growing to be the case now.)
The organisation has also launched a ‘Women’s Protection Project‘ in the form of a set of patronising briefs designed to talk down to patients and make it seem as though they need to be protected from themselves. It includes a lot of dangerous antichoice propaganda about the risks of abortion, repeating memes that have been repeatedly studied and disproved. (No, abortion does not cause breast cancer, nor does it have an effect on your future fertility, though not receiving treatment for miscarriages certainly can, and one result of antichoice laws has been a reduction in miscarriage services.)
It’s valuable to read through their legislative proposals and policy positions because it gives you a sense of what the enemy is thinking, but also of where the enemy is coming from. If you can’t figure out why a series of nearly identical laws on the same theme is sweeping the nation, the answer lies with model legislation like this, and if you’re already reading and familiar with the legislation, you’re a step ahead. When states fail to shove through legislation and try to accomplish something through rulemaking, like Texas did last year with its rules on the disposition of foetal remains, you can trace the origins of that, too. Groups that advocate on choice issues are certainly well acquainted with AUL from top to bottom, so that when they do try to sneak legislation past, they’re ready.
Being ready allows you to see long-term trends and subvert them. Reading outlets like Rewire News and keeping on top of activities at places like NARAL Pro-Choice America and Planned Parenthood and the Center for Reproductive Rights can offer you valuable insight into who is doing what and where. It can also mean that you’re primed to take action when something takes place in your own state. You’ve seen what worked and what didn’t with legal challenges to virtually identical legislation. You’ve seen who prevailed and how. If they’re going to use model legislation to try to crush abortion access in the United States, it seems only fair to use model responses to dig deep and throw it in their face when they arrive in our state houses, and on the national level.
Many of us have a tendency to think that groups advocating for policy agendas that repulse us are being carefully monitored by organisations we like, so we don’t need to worry about them. It’s certainly true that I’m not going to spot something at AUL before the staff attorneys at places like NARAL do, but I can’t rely on NARAL to be my bat signal. I need to know what’s going on because it applies not just nationally or statewide, but in my own life — when my local officials are debating abortion access, I need to know the origins of the ideas they’re endorsing, and I need to know how people have fought them. If that means gritting my teeth and spending an afternoon with AUL, so be it.
Image: March for Life 2015, American Life League, Flickr