Meet the group that's writing antiabortion legislation for lawmakers across the country

Think the spike in abortion restrictions is a homegrown effort? Think again. This is Americans United for Life

Published December 2, 2014 8:19PM (EST)

Rick Perry                                 (AP/Manuel Balce Ceneta)
Rick Perry (AP/Manuel Balce Ceneta)

Earlier this year, a Republican lawmaker in Oklahoma introduced a measure he said would protect women’s health and safety by further regulating abortion clinics in his state. (It would do no such thing.) That bill was copied, with the exception of 10 words, from a piece of legislation written by Americans United for Life (AUL), a national antiabortion organization based out of Washington, D.C.

This kind of cut-and-paste job might look a whole lot like plagiarism, but it’s not. In fact, it’s precisely what AUL wants state lawmakers to do with its model legislation -- adopt these bills wholesale without scrutiny or additional questions asked.

Which is precisely what Oklahoma state Rep. Randy Grau did back in April 2014. As Erica Hellersein reported Tuesday at ThinkProgress, Grau introduced the bill, in opposition to the Oklahoma State Medical Association and even some of his Republican colleagues, without making any significant changes from what had been scripted for him by Americans United for Life.

He’s not alone. According to an email obtained by ThinkProgress, AUL has claimed credit for one-third of the antiabortion laws that have passed since 2010. You probably know the names of some of these laws, including Texas’ notorious HB2, which was inspired by AUL’s legislation restricting providers through admitting privilege regulations and ambulatory surgical center standards. (Rick Perry is also a friend to the organization.)

“If you look at it, word for word, there are small differences but [the legislation] is nearly the same. You can put them side-by-side, and even where they put the parenthesis is nearly exact,” Hayley Smith, an advocacy and policy associate at the ACLU, told ThinkProgress. “When you see a bill introduced in one state, and then you see a bill introduced across the country, and the language looks nearly exactly the same, you realize: Oh, this is all coming from the same base.”

That base is AUL.

The TRAP law Grau introduced in 2014 wasn’t the first time he lifted legislation from AUL’s playbook. He’s been a co-sponsor on three other pieces of legislation modeled after AUL policies. And all the while, lawmakers present these bills as homegrown policy and specific to the public health needs within their states.

And the destructive consequences of the legislation are nearly as uniform as the laws themselves. Across the country, 27 states have TRAP laws on the books while 22 require that clinics meet the standards of ambulatory surgical centers and 14 require doctors to have admitting privileges at nearby hospitals. All have been incredibly effective at shuttering clinics and placing sometimes insurmountable time, cost and geographical burdens between women and basic medical care.

As a result, more women have found themselves in desperate situations, sometimes taking measures into their own hands. “We’re definitely seeing that women are attempting to self-induce abortions," said Daniel Grossman, a gynecologist and vice president of research at Ibis Reproductive Health who analyzed the impact of HB2 in Texas. "They’re using herbs, medications, injections sometimes they get in Mexico, as well as hitting themselves in the stomach and throwing themselves down the stairs."

But lawmakers like Grau want you to believe them when they tell you that these policies are good for women's health. Because that's the script they've been given by AUL.

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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