The country’s oldest, largest anti-abortion group has unveiled absolutely chilling model legislation that proposes not only near-total state bans on abortion—even for a pregnant person who’s suicidal—but would criminalize sharing information about abortion pills online or by phone. It previews a worsening hell of criminalization, state surveillance, and maternal deaths.
Abortion rights advocate and Alabama clinic worker Robin Marty highlighted the model legislation on Monday on Twitter. It’s essentially a boilerplate bill that would help Republican lawmakers propose pre-written legislation in their respective state legislatures—which they undoubtedly will.
In a press release dated June 15, the National Right to Life Committee said that if the Supreme Court overturns Roe v. Wade—as it looks likely to do by the end of June—states should pass its model law that would ban abortion unless it’s immediately necessary to prevent the death of the pregnant woman, or if “a delay will create serious risk of substantial and irreversible physical impairment of a major bodily function.” Literally anything short of those scenarios? Sorry, no abortion. (It doesn’t count, the organization says, if a pregnant woman is openly suicidal.) If a pregnant person somehow qualifies for an abortion, the bill says the abortion should be “performed in the manner which provided the best opportunity for the unborn child to survive.”
“With this model law, we a[re] laying out a roadmap for the right-to-life movement so that, in a post-Roe society, we can protect many mothers and their children from the tragedy of abortion,” Carol Tobias, president of NRLC said in a statement on Wednesday. The NRLC release claims “the model law ensures that no criminal or civil penalty will be imposed on a pregnant woman,” nevermind that more than 1,300 people have faced criminalization for their pregnancy outcomes between 2006 and 2020.
The model legislation would also criminalize anyone who aids or abets an illegal abortion, including telling someone how to use abortion pills or hosting a site that explains where people can get said pills. From the text:
Aiding or abetting an illegal abortion should include, but not be limited to: (1) giving instructions over the telephone, the internet, or any other medium of communication regarding self-administered abortions or means to obtain an illegal abortion; (3) hosting or maintaining a website, or providing internet service, that encourages or facilitates efforts to obtain an illegal abortion; (4) offering or providing illegal “abortion doula” services; and (5) providing referrals to an illegal abortion provider.
If banning the discussion of abortion sounds familiar to you, that’s because it already happened in the U.S.: The Comstock Law of 1873 made it illegal to disseminate information about birth control and abortifacients.
When lawmakers claim that overturning Roe won’t ban abortion—that it would simply send the decision back to the states—they’re not only ignoring the existence of trigger laws, but also the existence of national lobbying organizations that are prepared to make it as easy as possible for states to ban abortion and criminalize speech.
Republicans claim to be the party of freedom. This is apparently what freedom looks like to them.