Abortion Health

Anti-Abortion Group Urges States To Pass Sweeping Criminalization Laws Post Roe

Model state legislation proposed by a leading anti-choice group would impose felony charges for a broad new set of activities related to abortion.
Gayatri Malhotra/Unsplash

By Elizabeth Weill-Greenberg / The Appeal

As the nation awaits the release of a Supreme Court decision that is expected to overturn the constitutional right to an abortion, a national anti-choice group has published model state legislation that would vastly expand the criminalization of abortion. If passed, the laws would allow prosecutors to file felony charges against anyone who provides information, support, or transportation to a person seeking an abortion.

In a memo published last week, National Right to Life Committee (NRLC) urges states to adopt a sweeping anti-abortion law that includes both civil, licensing, and criminal penalties. The group writes that the measures are necessary to ensure that people in states with abortion bans cannot access the procedure, including by traveling to bluer counties that may become “sanctuaries for abortion-on-demand.”

Under the group’s model statute, abortion would only be permitted to prevent the death of the pregnant person. However, if a state chooses to also make exceptions for rape or incest, NRLC’s proposed law would require the victim to provide documentation to the attending physician that the crime was reported to law enforcement.

NRLC’s draft legislation offers a frightening window into the new forms of criminalization that could be pursued in a post-Roe future, said Robin Marty, director of operations at West Alabama Women’s Center.

“Any person who so much as even talks about how to obtain an abortion is going to be thrown in jail,” said Marty of the proposed law.

The group’s draft legislation includes a sweeping definition of “aiding or abetting” an abortion that would include, among others, people and groups that provide “instructions over the telephone, the internet, or any other medium of communication regarding self-administered abortions or means to obtain an illegal abortion.” Under the law, people would face felony prosecution for hosting or maintaining a website, providing access to a website, or providing an internet service to a website that contains information on “how to obtain an illegal abortion” that is “purposefully directed at pregnant women” in the state.

Since Politico published a leaked draft of the Supreme Court opinion in May, a growing number of prosecutors have pledged not to enforce their state abortion bans. To address this issue, NRLC’s model legislation contains a provision that would allow the state attorney general to initiate prosecutions if a local prosecutor refuses. The memo describes the measure as a response to “radical Democrat prosecutors” who “regularly refuse to enforce laws that do not meet their social-justice agenda.”

NRLC’s proposed law would expand racketeering statutes to allow for the prosecution of abortion providers, which the group likens to a criminal enterprise that engages in a “pattern of illegal abortion activity.” Due to the ambiguity of racketeering laws, such a measure could allow for the felony prosecution of people who have no direct involvement in providing abortions—but who may be determined to be “associated” with such entities.

The group also recommends a new slate of abortion “trafficking” charges, which seem intended, in part, to prevent minors from leaving the state to obtain an abortion. The proposed statutory language states that “regardless of where an illegal abortion occurs,” a person who transports “a pregnant minor who is a resident of this state, with the intent to deprive the pregnant minor’s parent of knowledge of, and to procure, an illegal abortion or to obtain an abortifacient” is guilty of a felony—promotion of illegal abortion trafficking of a minor.

If adopted, NRLC’s proposed legislation would create a vast enforcement and criminalization framework that will cut off “every piece of information or assistance” to pregnant people, said Marty.

“Every time you’re like, okay, this is the bottom and then it’s like, no, actually, we’re going to put you in jail if you post information on a website,” said Marty. “How much lower can we go?”

Elizabeth Weill-Greenberg
Elizabeth Weill-Greenberg

Elizabeth Weill-Greenberg is a New Jersey-based reporter for The Appeal. She writes on prison and jail conditions, wrongful convictions, and the criminalization of disabilities.

4 comments

  1. Anyone who cares about others, who has compassion, who may want to comfort – will be targeted and imprisoned, it this trajectory is complete. Fascism wants living creatures to be fearful and ultimately to worship power and whoever represents that most fully. Now we can see how power demands serfdom from the masses. It may start out being humble then demanding then vicious.

  2. The prosecution of women for miscarriage alone testifies to a handmaiden status fit for fascism. And of course that’s where the powers that shouldn’t be want to take us. There’s a remarkable consistency amid the confusion and conflicts of the present. Human autonomy. From state power over women’s bodies, and minds, to unknown, experimental injections for human lab rats, from basic freedoms of speech, movement, living to whole populations under the direct control of AI, ‘we the people’, we citizens of the world, are under assault. And we need to resist with whatever humanity we still have.

  3. Absolutely chilling. The term Pro-Life is really a misnomer, given the moral inconsistencies that are so common
    among adherents. One can’t, for example, claim to be apposed to the taking of life AND be supportive of war or the death penalty; but the latter is nearly a given among conservatives. The lack of concern about a prescious life once one is out of the womb is also curious – at least if the child is non-white, other than Christian, or simply in a poor community. For Pro- Life to have any meaning it would necessarily include active concerns about poor women and children living in dangerous environments swarming with hostile, trigger- happy police. There would be concerns about racism, declining quality of life, lack of sufficient child care, dangerous schools, absence of opportunities and quality education, and a police and criminal justice system designed to incarcerate as many black men as possible. But this is not the case because Pro-Life is really a political movement that seeks to codify patriarchal control of women’s bodies. As always, it will be the poor and non-white who will suffer the most – the wealthy will still be able to get abortions.

  4. This could get even worse. If the pigs on the Supreme Court ever rule that a fetus is a person, abortion would be murder in the entire country.

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