In 1971, a year before the landmark Roe v. Wade ruling, Americans United for Life (AUL) was founded as the nation’s first pro-life organization. Since then, AUL has only grown, and continues to be a strong voice for the sanctity of human life at all stages, from conception to natural death.
Every year, AUL releases its “Life List,” which ranks every state in regards to how well it protects life. This year, Arkansas topped the Life List, and North Carolina came in at 28th. AUL’s President and CEO Catherine Glenn Foster joins Traci DeVette Griggs on this week’s Family Policy Matters radio show to discuss AUL’s Life List, in Part 1 of a 2-part show.
Foster points out what many of us already know to be true: the fight for life is taking place on the state level. “So much of the impact that we can have nationally for life,” she says, “it’s going to be taking place on the state level more than at the national level. Abortion rates are continuing to fall across country. In every state and in every community, more mothers and fathers and families, they’re choosing life […] Our abortion rate in America has dropped to the same point it was in 1972, the year before [Roe].”
So what has Arkansas done recently to earn the top spot on this year’s Life List? “Arkansas, they have taken a really holistic approach to protecting life,” says Foster. “They are looking at the full spectrum of life from fertilization and natural death.”
One law in particular has special significance for Foster, who herself got an abortion as a 19-year-old college student. “I made the appointment because I had no idea where to turn,” she says. “I asked to see the [ultrasound] image, but they said it was against policy to let women and girls see the ultrasound. So, I never got to see it, and I ended up going through with that abortion.”
“One of the most joyful things to me is when a state passes an ultrasound law,” continues Foster, “like Arkansas has done, and an informed consent law, because I know what impact that is going to have on the women who are struggling like I was, who are considering abortion like I was, who don’t believe they have anywhere else to turn. When women see ultrasounds, we know that that makes a difference. When women see ultrasounds, they make a choice for life.”
Tune in to Family Policy Matters this week to hear Catherine Glenn Foster share how AUL is uniting Americans from both sides of the aisle to stand for the sanctity of life, in Part 1 of a 2-part show.
TRACI GRIGGS: Thanks for joining us this week for Family Policy Matters. We hear a lot of talk about overturning Roe v. Wade, the U.S. Supreme Court ruling that forced every state in the nation to legalize abortion. But even if Roe v. Wade is overturned, it means regulation of abortion goes back to the states. However, even today, vital lifesaving laws and policies can be and are being enacted on the state level to protect the unborn. Every year, Americans United for Life ranks all 50 states on their efforts to protect the dignity of every human life. The 2021 AUL Life List ranked Arkansas as the most pro-life state. North Carolina ranked 28th.
Catherine Glenn Foster, President and CEO of Americans United for Life, is with us today to discuss the status of pro-life policy in the United States. Catherine Glenn Foster, welcome to Family Policy Matters.
CATHERINE GLENN FOSTER: A pleasure to be here.
TRACI GRIGGS: Americans United for Life has a long and storied history as the nation’s first pro-life organization. How have your efforts changed over the last 40-plus years?
CATHERINE GLENN FOSTER: Well, back in 1971, we came together as a group of passionate lawyers and activists, doctors, medical professionals, and we were united by a single issue: our belief in the human right to life. Now, since then a lot has changed. The most vulnerable among us have become more and more marginalized in some ways. Life has become more politicized. But we have remained dedicated to a cause that’s really bigger than any one person, any one ruling, and bigger than any one moment in history. And so we work together, striving for the day when every individual is welcomed throughout life, and protected in law. Our work is really rooted in our robust legal expertise, and we’re resolute in the pursuit of real change and tangible impact.
And we know that over the next few months, few years, so much of what we do will need to happen in the states. So much of the impact that we can have nationally for life, it’s going to be taking place on the state level more than at the national level. Abortion rates are continuing to fall across country. In every state and in every community, more mothers and fathers and families, they’re choosing life; they’re choosing love, to the point where now our abortion rate in America has dropped to the same point it was in 1972, the year before the Supreme Court wiped away protective laws in every state in America and nationally legalized abortion. The stat that really stands out to me is the stat on unexpected pregnancies. And we see that even when pregnancies were unexpected—maybe even unwanted—still more and more women are choosing life and choosing love. We’re also seeing that more and more of our neighbors are refusing to stay silent. They’re being empowered to share their stories, to expose inhumanity and uphold dignity.
And all of this is a direct result of the work that we do with legislators, allies, and advocates by protecting lives through legal action. Now we can’t do this work alone, but together, this is a fight that we can win. And it’s a fight that we will win, legally and culturally, locally and nationally, because we know that life has never been more vital. And as a community that recognizes the importance of every perspective and every person we are going to continue to make a vital impact.
TRACI GRIGGS: What a hopeful message. Thank you for starting us off with that. I did notice that you mentioned you’re a non-partisan organization, so how’s that working for you? Do you have advocates on both sides of the political aisle?
CATHERINE GLENN FOSTER: Absolutely, we have allies on both sides of the aisle. When you look at the national party platforms, unfortunately we do see that one party’s platform is not at all protective of life, at any point in the spectrum. And then we have another party with a platform that is extremely protective of life at all ends of the spectrum, from fertilization to natural death. It’s very hopeful that that is in one party platform. We continue to work with leading Democrats, however, to try to shift that aspect of their platform.
And I would say that also on the local level and the advocacy level, the state level, we are seeing more and more Democrats coming forward and standing for life. I’m thinking especially of Louisiana, with the case that we saw come down from the Supreme Court in 2020, June Medical Services. So that came out of Louisiana. It is based on a law—an emergency transfer agreement law—that protects women who sadly made a decision to pursue an abortion. Something went terribly wrong, as we know it all too often does in the course of an abortion, and she needed emergency medical care. What happens then? Is she able to be immediately admitted to the hospital and immediately get every chance at saving her life, her future fertility? Is she able to get the same treatment that she would, the same transfer that she would, if she were having any other kind of surgery? And what we saw is that that law was advanced by leading pro-life Democrats in Louisiana, and defended repeatedly. We have worked with Senator Katrina Jackson and others in Louisiana for years to get that law passed and defend it in court. And while ultimately that law in Louisiana was struck down by the U.S. Supreme Court, it was still a win for states across the nation. Because even in the process of deciding that that law would not be upheld, the Supreme Court—and in particular Chief Justice John Roberts in his controlling opinion—he said, this type of law is a type of law that other states may pursue. He opened the door to more and more states passing emergency transfer agreement laws to upholding more and more types of laws because he returned to a previous legal standard that really puts more faith in the lawmakers of our nation. It trusts our lawmakers to know what the women of their communities need, what protections, what the children of our communities need and particularly our children in the womb.
This entire case was instigated and led by strong pro-life Democratic women who were just, who are heroes! And so when I look to women like that, when we know that two thirds plus of even self-described pro-choice people, they still oppose at least late-term abortion. There are points of commonality where we can build bridges and start passing good protective laws, even when some of our party leaders may push back, may be more interested in listening to special interests and to lobbyists than to their constituents and the people of America who voted for them and who they were elected to serve.
So that’s why we are nonpartisan, because we are there for all Americans who support life. All Americans who believe in hope and possibility and holistic care; that’s who we at Americans United for Life represent. And we’ll work with the pro-life Democrats and the pro-life Republicans, and try to come together to stand for life.
TRACI GRIGGS: Let’s talk about this Life List. What are the criteria that you consider when ranking the states?
CATHERINE GLENN FOSTER: Yeah, we consider every policy that has to do with the defense of innocent human life. And that spans from the very beginning of life at fertilization, at conception, to the end of life when we may rely on those around us the most for care and love. We’re fighting against abortion that targets innocent children, but we’re also combating suicide-by-physician and euthanasia that often target the ill or elderly. And those are equally important to being truly pro-life and equally important in our rankings. We look at ethical research, and all of the different ways that innocent human life may be impacted by state law and policy. And so while the ranking system specifically is proprietary, that’s sort of a snapshot of what we look at every year, as we’re looking at every state, at the state laws and which states are standing for life.
TRACI GRIGGS: Right, so Arkansas was top of the list. What was so wonderful about what Arkansas is doing?
CATHERINE GLENN FOSTER: Yeah. Arkansas is number one this year because of the citizens of Arkansas. The pro-life leadership and legislation that we’ve seen out of Arkansas, it is a direct reflection of the pro-life convictions of ordinary Arkansans. Arkansas, they have taken a really holistic approach to protecting life. As we were just discussing, they are looking at the full spectrum of life from fertilization and natural death. And so they are doing everything that they can to oppose abortion, to protect children in the womb, to provide real holistic life-affirming care for mothers and families. But they also are taking a really hard look at what really does constitute ethical research, and how to protect elder adults and people with disabilities from euthanasia, from denial of medical care, from suicide by physicians. They’ve led on protecting our children by forbidding the violence of abortion based on Down syndrome or age. And The Natural State is also blazing the trail on protecting the rights of children while also defending patients from the predatory dangers of suicide-by-physician, by affirmatively making it clear that suicide is never medical and it should never be promoted by the doctors that we trust to heal us. They’re taking the lead on unconscienced rights.
And I would also say that there’s an informed consent law that Arkansas passed that has particular significance for me because I’m post-abortive myself. I got an abortion when I was a 19-year-old college student in small-town Georgia. I made the appointment because I had no idea where to turn. And so I went to the Internet and as I Googled, you know, what to do when you’re pregnant, the thing that popped up was abortion facilities.
And so I called one. I picked the second cheapest one that I saw thinking, “Okay, I don’t want to go bottom of the barrel, but I’m a student and I just don’t know what to do.” And I didn’t have a plan. I didn’t know if I was going to get an abortion, but I knew that I needed information and I knew that I needed answers. I needed help. And so I made that appointment and I walked in the door that Saturday, and I had already been bonding with my baby. And so one of the things that I really wanted while I was there was to see my baby on the ultrasound screen and get that information, and get that medical record, right? And so they performed the ultrasound as they do. They need to make sure that the pregnancy isn’t ectopic, and they need to know how far along you are so that they know what procedure to use and so that they know how much to charge you, because they charge you based on how far along you are. And so I’m lying on the table in there, they’re maneuvering the wand over my belly, and I asked to see the image. They said it was against policy to let women and girls see the ultrasound.
So, I never got to see it, and I ended up going through with that abortion. And every day I think back, I think what would have happened if I had been able to see it, because knowing now what I know as a mom, I know what my baby would’ve looked like then. And I just wish I’d been able to see it. And one of the most joyful things to me is when a state passes an ultrasound law, like Arkansas has done, and an informed consent law, because I know what impact that is going to have on the women who are struggling like I was, who are considering abortion like I was, who don’t believe they have anywhere else to turn. When women see ultrasounds, we know that that makes a difference. When women see ultrasounds, they make a choice for life. And I am just so grateful that more than half the states in our nation now have a law that protects our right to see our medical records, and thereby protects babies in the womb. I just love that.
And so Arkansas, they passed over a dozen life-affirming laws on both ends of the spectrum over the past few years. And it’s truly an impressive achievement. We are looking at their commitment to life, full spectrum, fertilization and natural death. And they are doing an outstanding job thanks to the people of Arkansas and the leaders that they’ve elected to office who are willing to stand up again against lobbyists and Planned Parenthood and the abortion industry, and really listen to the people of Arkansas.
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