This month, pro-lifers in Arizona received some good news when the state department of health announced that the number of abortions performed decreased by 7.3 percent this past year. What is particularly edifying about this decline is that it comes in the wake of the enactment of a package of pro-life laws. In 2011, the Arizona Court of Appeals upheld the Abortion Consent Act which was signed into law by Governor Jan Brewer in 2009. The Abortion Consent Act strengthens a parental-consent statute and contains an informed-consent law which mandates an ultrasound and includes a waiting period. This abortion decline in Arizona adds to a body of evidence that demonstrates the effectiveness of pro-life laws.
Arizona’s example provides two important lessons for pro-lifers. One is the power of persistence. Very often states enact pro-life laws, only to have them nullified, enjoined, or weakened by hostile judicial rulings. This has happened in a number of states including Georgia, Minnesota, Mississippi, South Dakota, and Tennessee. This is despite the fact that there are multiple Supreme Court precedents upholding the constitutionality of many incremental pro-life laws — including parental-involvement laws. However, state legislatures that have been willing to pass revised versions of pro-life laws have often succeeded in getting these laws into effect. Indeed, Arizona first passed a parental-involvement law in 1982 only to have it struck down by the courts in 1987. A subsequent law passed in 1987 was declared unconstitutional in 1989. In March 2003, a parental-involvement law took effect, which is strengthened by this piece of legislation.
The second lesson is the importance of designing pro-life laws correctly.There is a broad body of research documenting the effectiveness of pro-life legislation. However, their effectiveness is somewhat uneven because of the fact that many laws are not enforced as well as they should be. Arizona’s laws, however, are well designed. The parental-consent law requires that a parent provide a notarized signature before a minor can obtain an abortion. The informed-consent law requires the woman to receive in-person counseling from a physician 24 hours before the abortion. These provisions have been shown to improve the effectiveness of informed-consent laws. Women have more time to reflect on the information they are given and the extra trip to the clinic often raises the economic cost of the abortion. Overall, it is heartening to see that pro-lifers in Arizona are using lessons learned from other states.