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If Roe is reversed, abortion would still be legal in more than 40 states, group says

WASHINGTON (BP)–If and when the Roe v. Wade decision is overturned by the Supreme Court, abortion would still be legal in more than 40 states, according to a pro-life legal organization.

Americans United for Life, widely regarded as the pro-life movement’s No. 1 legal advocacy organization, assessed the status of state laws on abortion and other issues in its recently released guide, Defending Life 2006.

AUL reiterated the country’s high court still does not have the votes needed to reverse the 1973 Roe opinion, which struck down state prohibitions on abortion. Even with the addition to the court in recent months of two nominees by President Bush — Chief Justice John Roberts and Associate Justice Samuel Alito — there are still five justices who have voted to uphold Roe.

If an anti-Roe majority is achieved on the Supreme Court, there “is almost no chance they will create a national right to life,” AUL President Peter Samuelson said at a Washington, D.C., news conference upon the release of the guide. Instead, the court likely would reverse the decision and return the matter to the states, he said.

If so, abortion would still be legal in at least 43 states and the District of Columbia, based on current law, AUL reported. AUL’s guide provided the following breakdown by categories:

— In 8 states, there are enforceable abortion bans, but Rhode Island’s does not go into effect until the unborn child’s “quickening,” which normally is considered to occur at 16 weeks of gestation. Most abortions are performed before that time. Also, a federal judge previously ruled Louisiana’s ban has been “implicitly repealed,” according to AUL.

— In 26 states and the District of Columbia, there are no laws barring abortion before the unborn baby’s viability.

— In 16 states, there are state court rulings that have blocked current or future prohibitions on abortion.

Given the current makeup of the Supreme Court, AUL does not support legislative efforts in the states to ban abortion, such as occurred earlier this year in South Dakota. AUL, however, does desire for that law to survive an effort to rescind it through a ballot initiative, Samuelson said.

Instead of challenging Roe directly before a shift in the court’s makeup, AUL seeks to take issues that have public support -– such as informed consent for women considering abortion, parental notification for minors seeking abortion and clinic regulations –- and work for the passage of “incremental laws” in the states, Samuelson said.

Such laws have reduced the number of abortions, according to research, AUL reported. The experience of Mississippi also has provided evidence an incremental approach can reduce the number of both abortions and abortion clinics. Mississippi has passed 15 pro-life laws in the last 13 years, according to AUL. As a result, abortions have fallen by nearly 60 percent, and six of seven clinics have shut down, AUL reported.

AUL’s approach is seeking to “continue the public conversation that the Supreme Court cut off in 1973” with the Roe ruling, Samuelson said at the March 30 news conference.

As part of its guide, AUL ranked all 50 states from best to worst on their laws as of 2005 related to abortion, bioethics, end-of-life issues and rights of conscience for healthcare providers.

The 10 best states, according to AUL, are Michigan, Missouri, Louisiana, Texas, Pennsylvania, South Dakota, Kansas, Mississippi, Arkansas and Kentucky. The 10 worst are Vermont, New Jersey, Oregon, California, Connecticut, Hawaii, Alaska, New Hampshire, New Mexico and Montana.

In addition to the limited prohibitions in Louisiana and Rhode Island, the states with enforceable abortion bans are Arkansas, Michigan, Oklahoma, South Dakota, Texas and Wisconsin, AUL reported.

The 26 states that have no prohibitions on abortion before viability are Alabama, Colorado, Delaware, Georgia, Hawaii, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Maine, Maryland, Missouri, Nebraska, Nevada, New Hampshire, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Utah, Virginia, Washington and Wyoming.

The 16 states in which state courts have blocked bans are Alaska, Arizona, California, Connecticut, Florida, Idaho, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Mississippi, Montana, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Tennessee, Vermont and West Virginia.

Information on purchasing the 520-page AUL guide or downloading an online version is available at the organization’s website, www.aul.org.