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In the past three years, states passed 205 restrictions on abortion—more than what passed in the entire previous decade. But pro-life groups are split over whether some laws, especially new ones focused on fetal pain, cede too much ground.

The National Right to Life Committee (NRLC) jettisoned its 43-year Georgia affiliate after Georgia Right to Life (GRTL) encouraged federal legislators to vote against the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act. The national bill, which would ban abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy, was heavily backed by NRLC and passed the U.S. House 228–196 last June. It currently sits before the U.S. Senate.

GRTL opposed the bill because it includes exceptions allowing abortion in the cases of rape, incest, or danger to the mother's health. Cleveland Right to Life supported GRTL's policy, saying the group's only fault was being "too pro-life." (NRLC severed ties with the Cleveland chapter last year over its opposition to a NRLC-endorsed, pro-life senator who supported same-sex marriage.)

The national bill is similar to laws passed in about a dozen states so far. Several of them face legal challenges. Federal courts have blocked fetal pain laws in Georgia and Idaho, and in January the U.S. Supreme Court decided not to reconsider a ruling that struck down Arizona's version.

But the list of bans is growing: On July 1, Mississippi will be the latest state to ban most abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy. In early May, another fetal pain bill bounced around South Carolina's Senate, while West Virginia legislators attempted to override a governor's veto.

The bills are an attempt to humanize the abortion debate, said Mary Spaulding Balch, NRLC's ...

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June 2014

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