Despite a temporary setback at the Supreme Court on Thursday night, the anti-abortion movement nationwide is pursuing its best chance in years to aggressively curb abortion access, and with a bench it believes remains in its favor.
For years, anti-abortion activists have advanced a long-term and wide-ranging strategy to control state legislatures and governorships, in order to chip away at abortion rights. The Louisiana law, which was blocked by the court and would have limited access to abortion providers, is just one in a succession of measures that have passed in recent years in several states that could soon make their way to the nation’s highest court.
“The more you kick the can down the road, the more you are looking at a better court to make decisions,” said Marjorie Dannenfelser, the president of the Susan B. Anthony List, an anti-abortion group. “There are so many cases making their way to the court that this is not the last word. The law is being remade right now, and the courts are being remade, all at the same time.”
Several challenges to federal abortion law are pending before the Supreme Court and about a dozen are working their way up through federal circuit courts. Anti-abortion lawmakers and activists have targeted more than simply the restriction of abortion or its funding. They have worked to pass laws to control the range of issues that surround abortion, from burial of fetal tissue and custody of frozen embryos, to ultrasound requirements.
“It’s a continuation of a strategy that we’ve had for some time, which is to pass as many pro-life laws as we can at the state level with a strategy of bold incrementalism,” said Ralph Reed, founder of the Faith and Freedom Coalition, a social conservative political group.
“You start looking at where the holes in the Swiss cheese are, and what is allowable and what is not,” Mr. Reed said. “You continue to move the ball. We have done that now, let’s be honest, for the better part of the last 30-40 years.”
The social conservative strategy has accelerated since 2010, when Republicans made significant gains in state legislatures. States have enacted more than 400 restrictions on abortion since 2011, according to the Guttmacher Institute, a research group that supports abortion rights.
Conservatives in several key states are vying to have one of their states’ laws be the one to reach the Supreme Court first and upend national precedent.
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