Congratulations, Louisiana. You are the worst state in the country for reproductive freedom

Louisiana tops Americans United for Life's list of states that "protect life in law," followed by Texas and others

Published January 14, 2014 8:39PM (EST)

                                           (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson)
(AP Photo/Elaine Thompson)

Americans United for Life is the legal arm of the anti-choice movement and the group responsible for drafting the model abortion restrictions that states like Texas and North Dakota made infamous in 2013.

The organization released its "Life List" this week, celebrating the states that have done the most to "protect life in law," which is AUL's way of saying, "Here are the states that have done the most to erode women's constitutional rights and access to doctors and medical care. They did this by implementing legislation that we wrote for them."

Topping the list (for the fifth year in a row) is Louisiana, the state awarded the most "points" through the AUL's ranking system -- specific abortion restrictions get a state a certain number of points. The entire exercise is incredibly creepy and depressing, but definitely illuminating about the anti-choice movement's expansive strategy to criminalize abortion.

For example, cutting off state funding for Planned Parenthood gets a state one point; forced ultrasound laws are also worth one point. Requiring providers to meet the standards of an ambulatory surgical center gets a state a whopping five points. (You can read the rest here. As depressing as it is, it's actually a pretty comprehensive way to get acquainted with the kinds of restrictions that are advancing across the country.)

For a clear understanding of why access is so dire in Louisiana, here is a list of the restrictions women face when seeking an abortion, as compiled by the Guttmacher Institute:

  • Abortion would be banned if Roe v. Wade were to be overturned.
  • A woman must receive state-directed counseling that includes information designed to discourage her from having an abortion and then wait 24 hours before the procedure is provided. Counseling must be provided in person and must take place before the waiting period begins, thereby necessitating two separate trips to the facility.
  • Health plans that will be offered in the state’s health exchange that will be established under the federal health care reform law may not provide coverage of abortion.
  • The use of telemedicine for the performance of medication abortion is prohibited.
  • The parent of a minor must consent before an abortion is provided.
  • Public funding is available for abortion only in cases of life endangerment, rape or incest.
  • A woman must undergo an ultrasound before obtaining an abortion; the provider must show and describe the image to the woman.

Louisiana is closely followed on the list by Oklahoma, Arkansas, Arizona, Pennsylvania and Texas.

The "worst" state, according to the AUL, is Washington, also for the fifth year in a row. Washington, according to the press release, fails "to protect women from an unmonitored and under-regulated abortion industry."

For clarity on why the AUL thinks Washington is so bad, some context, also from Guttmacher:

  • Washington does not have any of the major types of abortion restrictions—such as waiting periods, mandated parental involvement or limitations on publicly funded abortions — often found in other states.


By Katie McDonough

Katie McDonough is Salon's politics writer, focusing on gender, sexuality and reproductive justice. Follow her on Twitter @kmcdonovgh or email her at

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