Author archives: Chantel Hoyt

State Round-Up: Protecting Adoption Agencies and Foster/Adoptive Families

by Chantel Hoyt

July 20, 2021

Editor’s note: This is part of an ongoing series about key provisions that states have advanced in 2021 to defend the family and human dignity.

The U.S. Supreme Court’s recent decision in Fulton v. City of Philadelphia was a win for Catholic Social Services (CSS). It allows them to continue serving the neediest children without compromising their religious beliefs. However, the decision was not the strong affirmation of religious liberty for which many were hoping. As noted in FRC’s blog on the opinion:

The Supreme Court did the bare minimum to protect CSS and other faith adherents. It was only because Philadelphia had other exceptions, but not religious ones, that the Court found the city in violation of the First Amendment.

In his concurrence, Justice Alito warned that “[t]his decision might as well be written on the dissolving paper sold in magic shops.” Whether a city with no exceptions for secular agencies can force a religious agency to violate its religious beliefs is yet to be decided by the Court. Therefore, more needs to be done to protect and affirm the religious liberty of faith-based agencies. Fortunately, several states are taking steps to do just that.

Thus far, 10 states have Child Welfare Provider Inclusion Acts (CWPIAs), legislation that protects adoption and foster care providers from government discrimination based on protected beliefs about the nature of marriage and family. “Government discrimination” can come in many forms. Strong CWPIAs list as many of these forms as possible, with some of the most common being:

  • Denying a license, permit, or other authorization, or the renewal thereof, or revoking/suspending such license, permit, or other authorization.
  • Denying a grant, contract, or participation in a government program.
  • Denying the agency’s application for funding or refusing to renew the agency’s funding.

Ideally, the beliefs protected will also be clearly defined (i.e. the religious belief or moral conviction that marriage is between one man and one woman), although this has been less common in the CWPIAs introduced thus far. Many of these bills also include a strengthening provision—a civil cause of action for agencies whose rights have been violated by the government. Some bills also specifically protect child welfare agencies from being subject to civil fines or damages for acting in accordance with their beliefs.

Since 2010, 49 CWPIAs have been introduced in 19 states. Ten states have enacted these bills in some form—Alabama, Kansas, Michigan, Mississippi, North Dakota, Oklahoma, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, and Virginia. The first was introduced and enacted in Virginia in 2012, and the most recent was enacted in Tennessee in 2020.

In 2021, four CWPIAs have been introduced in four states—Iowa (HF 170), Kentucky (HB 524), South Carolina (HB 3878), and Massachusetts (H. 1536).

Iowa HF 170 is unique in that it clearly defines the protected beliefs child welfare agencies may hold. Among these are the beliefs that “Marriage is or should be recognized as the union of one man and one woman” and that “The terms ‘male’ and ‘female’ refer to distinct and immutable biological sexes that are determinable by anatomy and genetics by the time of birth.”

Oklahoma resolutions HJR 1059 (2016) and HJR 1023 (2017) read similarly to Iowa’s bill, as they specifically protect child welfare agency’s “beliefs or the lawful expression of those beliefs, including sincerely held religious beliefs regarding marriage, family, or sexuality.” 

Most CWPIAs specifically protect the right of adoption and foster agencies (many of which have a religious mission) to decline certain placements if doing so would violate a sincerely held religious belief or moral conviction. However, spelling out which beliefs warrant protection adds an extra layer of clarity for these agencies.

One important thing to note: Half of the bills introduced after 2010 have only protected agencies’ “written” beliefs contained in a policy or organizing document. Some bills even include a requirement that these beliefs be written and available to be viewed. This can exclude some agencies from protection if their sincerely held religious beliefs or moral convictions about marriage are not spelled out in a written policy or on the agency’s website. Therefore, CWPIAs are stronger when they don’t make this stipulation and instead protect all sincerely held religious beliefs to have protection. For example, South Carolina HB 3878 (2021) prohibits government discrimination against an agency for providing or declining to provide “any adoption or foster care service… based on or in a manner consistent with a sincerely-held religious belief or moral conviction.”

Contrary to what is often said by the media, CWPIAs do not stop same-sex couples from becoming adoptive or foster parents, nor do they limit the pool of potential foster and adoptive parents. The majority of child welfare agencies in the United States are willing to place children with same-sex couples. Most faith-based agencies, such as Catholic Social Services in Philadelphia, will help these couples find other agencies willing to assist them.

Forcing welfare agencies to either violate their beliefs, close their doors, or serve in a more limited capacity is detrimental to the children these agencies serve. Allowing faith-based agencies to operate alongside non-faith-based ones ensures that more children in need will receive care, not fewer. Recognizing this fact, 10 states have already enacted CWPIAs into law. Given the number of lawsuits seeking to force foster and adoption agencies to act in ways contrary to their beliefs, other states would be wise to get ahead of the problem and follow suit.

State Round-Up: Chemical Abortion Bans

by Chantel Hoyt

July 19, 2021

Editor’s note: This is part of an ongoing series about key provisions that states have advanced in 2021 to defend the family and human dignity.

While many states have enacted pro-life laws in recent years, the abortion industry has been searching for ways to circumvent such laws. The best way to do this, it has determined, is through risky, do-it-yourself chemical abortions, which leave mothers to endure the trauma of abortion alone in their bathrooms, with no support or medical follow-up.

Twenty years ago, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved mifepristone (Mifeprex®; also known as RU-486 or simply “the abortion pill”) to chemically induce abortions. Since then, the abortion industry has latched on to the abortion pill as a lower-cost alternative to surgical abortions—and one that can be carried out virtually anywhere. As a result, abortion pill usage has surged even as the overall number of abortions in the United States is in decline. According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), the use of early “medical abortions” (a euphemistic term for chemical abortions) increased 114 percent from 2006 to 2015. And according to statistics provided by the Guttmacher Institute, 39 percent of abortions in 2017 were chemical, a 25 percent increase since 2014.

Chemical abortion is praised by pro-abortion activists for expanding abortion availability, particularly for women who don’t live near an abortion business since they push mothers to self-administer the drugs at home. These activists choose to overlook chemical abortion’s higher rate of risk compared to surgical abortion and push for the removal of the FDA’s safety standards, arguing they are unnecessary and unduly limit “abortion access.” The abortion industry seems willing to gamble with women’s lives and health.

The good news is that many states are not. Since 2011, 74 bills to ban or place regulations on chemical abortion have been introduced in 29 states. Of these bills, 21 have been enacted in 14 states. These bills vary in approach. Some seek to ban chemical abortion outright, while others seek to regulate chemical abortions in an effort to mitigate its health-damaging and life-threatening risks to mothers. Bills typically include some combination of the following key provisions:

  • Require that the pre-abortion exam be performed, and the abortion pills be administered, in-person by a licensed physician. (These laws are often referred to as “Skype abortion” bans, since without them abortionists can abuse telehealth to dispense chemical abortion drugs without ever physically examining the mother.)
  • Require that physicians meet certain certification and qualification standards, including:
    • Being certified by an “Abortion Inducing Drug Certification Program” at the state board of pharmacy.
    • Being capable of performing an in-person exam to confirm the pregnancy, the absence of an ectopic pregnancy and determine the gestational age and intrauterine location of the unborn child, as well as document said information in the patient’s medical chart.
  • Require follow-up appointments (minimum of two).
  • Require patients to be informed of the “final printed label” (FPL) of each drug.
  • Require informed consent for mothers.
  • Require reporting of Adverse Event Complications and reporting to the state board of pharmacy.
  • Provide a penalty for noncompliance (criminal, civil, and/or professional).
  • Create a civil cause of action (i.e., abortion providers who violate the law can be sued).

In 2021 so far, a record-high 22 bills have been introduced and seven enacted in six states. Here is a rundown of the seven bills enacted so far this year:

  • Alabama HB 377 banned chemical abortions completely and imposed a criminal penalty for noncompliance. Specifically, it prohibits any person or entity from manufacturing, distributing, prescribing, dispensing, selling, or transferring the abortion pill or any substantially similar generic or non-generic abortifacient drug in the state. This is the strongest measure to be enacted this year.
  • Oklahoma SB 778 also requires the person administering the abortifacient drug to be a licensed physician, establishes informed consent and reporting requirements (i.e., number of chemical abortions), codifies criminal, professional, and civil penalties for noncompliance, and creates a civil cause of action for the mother, father, and maternal grandparents of the unborn child if these rules are not adhered to. This bill also prohibits the distribution of abortifacient drugs in schools or on other state grounds.
  • Oklahoma SB 779 additionally requires the person administering the abortifacient drug to be a licensed physician but adds that this physician must have admitting privileges at a local hospital. This bill also establishes the Oklahoma Abortion-Inducing Drug Certification Program, which requires manufacturers, distributors, and physicians to be certified to manufacture, distribute, or provide abortifacient drugs, and establishes requirements for certification. This bill also requires the physician to schedule a follow-up appointment, establishes informed consent requirements, creates a reporting system, establishes criminal penalties for noncompliance, and creates a civil cause of action for the mother of the unborn child. This bill, together with SB 778, puts strong regulations in place, ensuring proper safety precautions are taken and enforced.
  • Montana HB 171 requires that abortifacients be administered in-person by a “qualified medical practitioner” and prohibits the drug from being provided through a courier, delivery, or mail service, which targets the “mail-order abortion” model that the abortion industry is moving toward. It also requires the physician to perform an in-person exam of the mother prior to administering the drug to verify that a pregnancy exists, determine the mother’s blood type (since being Rh negative could cause complications), and establish the gestational age and intrauterine location of the unborn child. This bill also provides informed consent requirements, reporting requirements, civil and criminal penalties for noncompliance, a civil cause of action, and requires the physician to schedule a follow-up appointment. In addition, the bill also prohibits anyone from providing an abortifacient drug at a school or on school grounds.
  • Arkansas HB 1402 requires persons administering abortifacients to be licensed physicians, credentialed to manage abortion complications, or have an agreement with an associated physician who is credentialed to handle abortion complications. The bill also requires the physician to perform an in-person exam of the mother prior to administering the abortion pill in order to verify that an intrauterine pregnancy exists, determine the mother’s blood type, and establish the gestational age of the child. This bill additionally requires the physician to schedule a follow-up appointment (making all reasonable efforts to ensure that the mother returns) and prohibits the distribution of abortifacient drugs via a courier, delivery, or mail service. It did not establish any new penalties.
  • Ohio SB 260 requires physicians to be physically present when abortifacients are administered and requires the physician to perform an in-person exam prior to administering the drug. It also mandates a 24-hour waiting period before the administration of abortifacients and imposes criminal penalties for noncompliance.
  • Arizona SB 1457 places leaner regulations on chemical abortion. It requires that abortifacient drugs only be provided by a qualified physician (elsewhere defined in law) and prohibits a manufacturer, supplier, physician, or any other person from providing an abortifacient drug via a courier, delivery, or mail service. This bill doesn’t establish regulations as robust as the others, above. However, to the bill’s credit, it establishes strong abortion regulations in other areas not related to chemical abortion, such as prohibiting an abortion solely based on a diagnosis of a genetic abnormality of the unborn child.

No other year has seen so many bills to regulate or ban chemical abortion introduced, let alone enacted. State legislators are seeing the lack of restraint and regulation of chemical abortions and taking action to establish necessary safeguards. All Americans should agree that the abortion industry should not be allowed to operate at the expense of the health and safety of mothers. States are sending a clear message that they will not stand idly by and allow abortion businesses like Planned Parenthood to profit from the cheaper but riskier abortion pill regimen. Given the dramatic increase of chemical abortions over the past few years, more states are sure to respond with their own legislative efforts to reign in this growing sector of the abortion industry.

For more information on chemical abortions and why safety restrictions are necessary for the sake of women’s health, please refer to FRC’s issue analysis.

State Round-Up: Protecting Unborn Children from Discriminatory Abortions

by Chantel Hoyt

July 15, 2021

Editor’s note: This is part of an ongoing series about key provisions that states have advanced in 2021 to defend the family and human dignity.

Modern medical technology can detect genetic characteristics and diagnose many disabilities in the womb. Unfortunately, these scientific advancements have increased the potential for abortions that are motivated by bias against an unborn child’s race, sex, ethnicity, national origin, and/or disability.

Babies who are prenatally diagnosed with a disability may be the most common victims of discriminatory abortions. An international study found that 63 percent of babies prenatally diagnosed with spina bifida and 83 percent of babies prenatally diagnosed with anencephaly are aborted. Another study revealed that an estimated 67 percent of women in the United States who receive a prenatal diagnosis of Down syndrome choose abortion. In Denmark, more than 95 percent of mothers who receive a prenatal Down syndrome diagnosis choose to abort their child, and in 2019, 15 years after screening became universally available, only 18 babies with Down syndrome were born in the whole country.

State legislators across the country are becoming increasingly aware of this problem and are introducing prenatal nondiscrimination acts (PRENDAs) to protect children from discriminatory abortions. In 2019, they were emboldened when Justice Thomas penned a lengthy opinion in Box v. Planned Parenthood in which he cited abortion’s eugenic roots and its continued eugenic potential.

Much like other pro-life bills, support for PRENDAs has been growing over the past few years. From 2013 to 2020, an average of 10 state-level PRENDAs were introduced each year. In 2021, a record-high 31 were introduced. So far, two have been enacted, in Arizona (SB 1457) and South Dakota (HB 1110). Fourteen other states have enacted some version of these protections. In fact, the past three years have seen more PRENDAs enacted (seven) than in all the preceding years combined.

These bills typically have four key provisions:

  • Prohibit anyone from knowingly aborting the unborn child of a woman who sought the abortion solely on the basis of an inherent characteristic (e.g., sex, race, ethnicity, national origin) or disability of the child.
  • Provide a penalty for noncompliance (criminal, civil, and/or professional).
  • Indemnify the mother (i.e., absolve the mother of legal liability).
  • Create a civil cause of action (i.e., abortion businesses who violate the law can be sued).

In addition, some bills may mandate information be provided to the mother about perinatal palliative care if the unborn child has a life-threatening illness or abnormality. This year, four out of the 31 bills introduced do this (all four are from Texas).

Of the PRENDAs introduced this year, 16 protect unborn children from abortion on the basis of sex, 11 on the basis of race, 22 on the basis of a disability or genetic abnormality diagnosis, six on the basis of ethnicity, and one on the basis of national origin.

So far, Arizona’s SB 1457 and South Dakota’s HB 1110 have been enacted this year. Arizona’s law builds on existing PRENDA law, adding “genetic abnormality” to the list of characteristics protected against discriminatory abortions (in addition to sex and race). This bill weakens the penalty from a class three felony to a class six felony. Existing law in Arizona indemnifies the mother and creates a civil cause of action. South Dakota’s bill is strong, prohibiting abortions sought on the basis of a Down syndrome diagnosis and imposing the criminal penalty of a class six felony for noncompliance. Additionally, this bill indemnifies the mother and creates a civil cause of action.

Texas introduced four strong PRENDAs (HB 3218, SB 1647, HB 3760, SB 1173) that include each of the key provisions listed above as well as provisions for mothers to learn more about perinatal palliative care. Seven statesPennsylvania (HB 1500), Massachusetts (H 2409), Michigan (HB 4737), Texas (HB 4339), South Dakota (HB 1110), Washington (SB 5416), and Arkansas (SB 468)also introduced strong bills that include each key provision. Each of these bills prohibits abortions sought because of one or more of the following characteristics of the unborn child: diagnosis or potential diagnosis of Down syndrome, diagnosis of a disability, genetic abnormality, race, ethnicity, or sex.

Four states—Florida (CS/HB 1221, SB 1664), Texas (HB 1432), South Carolina (HB 3512), and Washington (HB 1008)—introduced moderate bills, missing one or two of the key provisions (a civil cause of action and/or indemnification of the mother). Florida, Washington, and South Carolina’s bills prohibit abortions based on a diagnosis of a disability or genetic abnormality of the unborn child (Washington’s is specific to Down syndrome). Texas’ bill prohibits abortions based on the ethnicity or national origin of the unborn child, and South Carolina’s bill additionally prohibits race and sex-selective abortions.

Seven states—North Carolina, Arizona, Arkansas, Illinois, Maryland, West Virginia, and Oregon—introduced relatively weak or limited PRENDAs missing more than two of the key provisions. Some of these bills included other limitations that made them especially weak. North Carolina’s bill (H 453) adds to an existing ban on sex-selective abortions by also prohibiting abortions on the basis of the unborn child’s race or Down syndrome. This bill contains no other provisions. Arizona’s bill (SB 1381) adds to existing PRENDA statutes by adding “disability” as a protected trait for which a child may not be aborted. This bill is weakened by the fact that “disability” is not defined. Arkansas’ bill (SB 519) amends a section of law prohibiting sex-selective abortions and requires the physician carrying out the abortion to attempt to obtain the woman’s medical records to determine if she has previously undergone an abortion due to the child’s sex. This bill does not contain any other provisions. However, to Arkansas’ credit, the state already does prohibit sex-selective abortions. Illinois’ bills (HB 3047, HB 1893, HB 3043, HB 3053, and HB 3046) prohibit abortions sought solely based on the sex of the unborn child. Besides containing no other PRENDA provisions, these bills include a weakening statement that allows abortions sought because of a genetic disorder linked to the child’s sex. This goes against the purpose of PRENDA laws, to protect unborn children from being aborted due to an immutable trait. Maryland and West Virginia’s bills (MD HB 846 and WV HB 3024) prohibit abortions based on a diagnosis of Down syndrome but include no other provisions. Oregon’s bill (SB 654) prohibits sex-selective abortions but limits this protection to the third trimester. This too goes against the purpose of PRENDA laws since the sex of babies can be determined as early as 14 weeks. In effect, this would prohibit few, if any, discriminatory abortions.

Discriminatory abortions are a grim reality in the United States and around the world, but they are not going unchallenged. Thus far, state legislators have introduced PRENDAs in over 35 states and successfully enacted them in 16. If the surge of state-level PRENDA bills in 2021 is any indication, these numbers are sure to rise in the coming years. There is cause for optimism that states’ laws will one day reflect American’s rightful opposition to discriminatory abortions, and eventually to the eugenic roots of abortion itself.

For more information on why PRENDAs are essential, please refer to FRC’s issue analysis.

State Round-Up: Protecting Access to Counseling

by Chantel Hoyt

July 8, 2021

Editor’s note: This is part of an ongoing series about key provisions that states have advanced in 2021 to defend the family and human dignity.

Most Americans would support passing laws that seek to protect minors from harm. However, the question of exactly how we should go about protecting minors and what we should be protecting them from is a bit more contentious.

This year, 21 states have introduced bills seeking to ban sexual orientation change efforts (SOCE) or what its detractors call “conversion therapy.” In actuality, what these bills ban is patient-directed counseling and talk therapy. Specifically, they prohibit licensed mental health care professionals from counseling individuals to help them cope with unwanted same-sex attraction or gender identity issues. Although eight states have introduced legislation to protect patients’ right to access the therapy of their choice, more needs to be done to stop the spread of counseling bans in the United States and protect the freedoms of counselors and their patients.

Counseling bans have almost always applied only to minors and typically define SOCE or “conversion therapy” as “any practice or treatment by a mental health professional that seeks to change an individual’s sexual orientation or gender identity…” Most often, they incur professional penalties for mental health care professionals who fail to comply. Some may contain exceptions for pastors or other religious clergy, but these exceptions do not extend to licensed professionals who are also pastors or people of faith. Some of these bills also prohibit expending public funds for “conversion therapy.”

The media’s portrayal of “conversion therapy” often evokes images of electroshock or other pain-inducing methods. However, there is no evidence that a single practitioner of SOCE is using these methods today. Counseling bans rarely, if ever, mention such methods but instead use expansive language that sweeps up mere talk therapy. (Indeed, the SOCE ban in Washington state was held up for years because Democrats there refused to agree to language outlawing these specific practices.)

Virtually every counseling ban today applies to both sexual orientation and gender identity. A counseling ban that includes gender identity is especially harmful, as it mandates that mental health care professionals use a “gender-affirming” model of care with their clients. This makes it unlawful for a therapist or psychiatrist to do anything other than affirm a minor’s gender identity, even if said identity does not align with the minor’s biological sex, and even if that’s the kind of counseling the patient wants.

These bills are harmful for three reasons:

  1. They place content and viewpoint-based restrictions on constitutionally protected speech,
  2. They undermine the autonomy of individuals and their parents to choose the therapy that is right for them, and
  3. They harm minors who are struggling with these issues by making the counseling they need unavailable.

Since 2011, 265 counseling ban bills have been introduced in 43 states. Twenty-four of these bills have been enacted in 18 states.

Currently, 20 states plus the District of Columbia have counseling bans in place. Counseling bans have been prevented from taking effect in Alabama, Georgia, and Florida due to court injunctions. Based on U.S. census data on the populations of these 20 states, it is estimated that about 41 percent of minors living in the United States today live in a state with a counseling ban in place.

From 2011 to 2019, the number of counseling bans introduced each year rose steadily, peaking in 2019 at 57. This number dropped to 28 in 2020 but has since risen again in 2021 (43 in 21 states). Fortunately, none have been enacted yet. Thirteen of the bills introduced this year applied not only to minors, but also to adults. Two bills introduced in North Carolina extended counseling bans to adults with disabilities, while Minnesota and Alaska introduced bills that applied to minors and “vulnerable adults.” Bills introduced in Kentucky and Texas apply the ban to individuals of all ages. This is somewhat of a recent development, as in years past, few of these bills applied to adults.

Six bills this year also prohibit advertising for “conversion therapy” (again, this is really talk therapy) or related goods and services. Florida’s bills even impose a criminal penalty (a felony of the third degree) for violating such prohibitions. Such dangerous penalties have become more prevalent in the past two or three years. This raises questions about what constitutes an “advertisement” and how this could affect churches and other faith-based institutions. If anything, counseling bans have gotten even more expansive this year, with more bills applying to more individuals and imposing new penalties.

Apart from simply opposing counseling bans and stopping them in their tracks, some states have taken a more proactive approach by introducing legislation to protect counseling. These bills vary widely in terms of specifics, but many include two key provisions:

  1. Prohibit the state from restricting the rights of mental health professionals to counsel patients with same-sex attraction or gender identity issues, as well as the right of patients or their parents to choose such counseling.
  2. Provide that individuals may give or receive counsel in accordance with their religious beliefs or moral convictions.

In addition to these two provisions, some bills may create a civil cause of action for practitioners or patients who feel that their freedom of speech was unjustly violated.

About half of the 21 Counseling Protection Acts introduced since 2015 take the general form described above. However, the following states have taken a different approach:

  • Massachusetts introduced a bill in 2021 that would amend a section of law banning SOGI “change efforts,” adding a section specifying that SOGI change efforts do not include practices that “utilize discussion alone.”
  • Wisconsin introduced two bills in 2021 that would prohibit state regulatory boards from promulgating rules that establish that employing or promoting a treatment that attempts to change a person’s sexual orientation or gender identity is unprofessional conduct.
  • North Dakota (2021), South Dakota (2020), and Kansas (2019) each introduced bills that would preempt the state government from endorsing or enforcing certain policies, including policies banning “conversion therapy,” on the novel theory that to do so would be to establish a state religion. (None of these bills has passed, so this reinterpretation of the Establishment Clause has not been tested.)
  • Virginia introduced two bills (one in 2019, one in 2020) that would have given state regulatory boards the right to ban electroshock therapy or “similar non-speech therapy” but specifically prohibited such entities from violating an individual’s “fundamental right” to engage in the talk therapy of their choice, including counsel to assist in “reducing or eliminating unwanted attractions or concerns about gender identity.”
  • Tennessee introduced two bills in 2016, both of which would have protected licensed counselors and therapists from being required to counsel or serve a client as to goals, outcomes, or behaviors that conflict with a sincerely held religious belief, provided that the counselor or therapist coordinates a referral to another professional willing to provide such counseling.
  • Oklahoma introduced a bill in 2015 that would have prohibited the government from restricting SOCE but specified that this protection would not extend to “aversion therapy” (electroshock, electroconvulsive therapy, vomit-induction therapy, etc.).

Since 2015, at least 20 Counseling Protection Acts have been introduced in at least 12 different states. 2021 has been the biggest year for these types of bills, with a total of eight being introduced. So far, only one Counseling Protection Act has been enacted in Tennessee in 2016. This bill protected counselors and therapists from being required to counsel or serve a client as to goals, outcomes, or behaviors that conflict with a sincerely held religious belief, provided that the counselor or therapist coordinates a referral of the client to another counselor or therapist willing to provide the counseling or therapy. This bill also provided that a refusal to provide the counseling/therapy described will not be the basis for a civil cause of action, criminal prosecution, or any other action by the state to penalize or withhold benefits.

This year, some states have recognized the importance of standing against counseling bans. But more still needs to be done. Twenty states currently have counseling bans in place for minors, meaning children and teens in those states cannot legally access therapy to address unwanted same-sex attraction or gender identity issues, even if they want to. Some states are trying to take this right away from consenting adults as well. More states need to step up and protect access to such counseling.

State Round-Up: Protecting Abortion Survivors

by Chantel Hoyt

June 23, 2021

Editor’s note: This is part of an ongoing series about key provisions that states have advanced in 2021 to defend the family and human dignity.

Protecting the lives of born children is basic human decency. Therefore, you’d expect that providing care for babies born alive following an attempted abortion would be a no-brainer. However, as common sense is becoming less common in D.C.(where House Democrats blocked 80 unanimous consent requests to bring even this modest level of protection to the House floor in 2019), state legislators have taken it upon themselves to codify common sense laws. Since 2019, support for state-level Born-Alive Protection Acts has skyrocketed. From 2015-2018, an average of five bills were introduced every year. This jumped to 28 in 2019, 33 in 2020, and 37 in 2021. Over a six-year period, the number of Born-Alive bills introduced in a single year rose by 700 percent. This year has already set the record for enacted bills with five (in Alabama, Montana, Wyoming, South Dakota, and Kentucky).

These state laws are the result of a growing awareness of abortion’s inhumanity. In 2015, the Center for Medical Progress began releasing undercover videos of abortionists and Planned Parenthood directors speaking matter-of-factly about the horrific acts that qualify as business as usual at their facilities. The infamous case of Philadelphia abortionist and convicted murderer Kermit Gosnell in 2013, as well as more recent reports from the CDC, prove infants are sometimes born alive as a result of failed abortions. These reports are most certainly underestimated, as only nine states report the number of infants born alive after attempted abortions. Currently, only 18 states have strong born-alive protections for infants who survive abortions.

Born-Alive Infant Protection Acts provide necessary protections for abortion survivors. The particulars of these bills vary, but the strongest versions include five key provisions:

  1. Practitioners must exercise professional skill, care, and diligence to preserve the life of infants who survive abortion;
  2. Infants who survive abortions have the same right to medical care as any other infant born alive;
  3. Hospitalization for the surviving infant and/or the presence of a second physician during the abortion;
  4. A penalty for noncompliance (criminal, civil, and/or professional); and
  5. A reporting requirement.

Family Research Council has created four interactive pro-life maps that rank each state based on its current pro-life laws. FRC’s born-alive map ranks states on a five-tiered scale—ranging from “Removed Protection” (i.e., the state previously had born-alive protections but repealed them) to “Best Protection”—based on how many of the above key provisions the state has in statute.

This year, 34 born-alive bills were introduced in state legislatures across 18 states.

  • Two of these bills, Ohio SB 157 and South Dakota HB 1051, would fill in gaps in existing statute, giving these states the best level of born-alive protections. Ohio’s bill would add reporting requirements to current statute, while South Dakota’s bill would add four key provisions that have been lacking (a “skill, care, and diligence” requirement, civil and professional penalties, hospitalization requirement, and reporting requirements).

19 bills introduced in eight states (North Carolina, Hawaii, Oregon, Rhode Island, New Hampshire, Wisconsin, Illinois, and New York) would bring their states up to “Strong Protection” on FRC’s map. Illinois’ bills would only apply these protections to “viable” infants. FRC supports bills that apply born-alive protections to infants regardless of gestational age. The “viable” qualifier makes the Illinois bills weaker, although they still contain enough protections to move Illinois up to “Strong” status.

Three bills introduced in three states (Illinois, Wyoming, and New York) this year would give their states “Weak Protections.”

  • New York’s bill (A 7437) is very weak, only applying its protections to infants up to 20 weeks gestation. However, the bill would still bring New York to a higher level of protection than it currently has (New York currently ranks as “Removed Protections”).
  • Likewise, Wyoming’s bill (SF 34) only applies its protections to “viable” infants but still provides these infants with more protections than before (Wyoming had “No Protections” before this bill).

Four born-alive bills have been enacted this year in four different states.

  • The most dramatic of these bills is South Dakota HB 1051 (mentioned previously), which included each of the key provisions that the state was previously missing (a “skill, care, and diligence” requirement, a health care requirement, civil and professional penalties, and a reporting requirement), bringing the state up from “Weak Protections” to the best possible born-alive protections.
  • Kentucky SB 9 included four out of five key provisions (a “skill, care, and diligence” requirement; a health care requirement; criminal, civil, and professional penalties; and a statement declaring the infant’s right to medical care), moving the state from “No Protections” to “Strong Protections.”
  • Montana HB 167 included three out of five key provisions (a “skill, care, and diligence” requirement, criminal penalties, and a statement declaring the infant’s right to medical care), which would move the state from “Weak Protection” to “Strong Protection” (the state already has criminal penalties for knowingly or negligently causing the death of a premature infant born alive). This bill creates a referendum, so voters will decide if it goes into effect in the state’s November 2022 election.
  • Lastly, Wyoming SF 34 (mentioned previously) was the weakest bill enacted this year. It included the “skill, care, and diligence” requirement but no other provisions. In addition, this bill only applied this protection to “viable” infants, moving the state from “No Protection” to “Weak Protection.”

From 2019 to 2020, 55 bills were introduced in 15 states. Of these, four were enacted: in West Virginia (HB 4007 in 2020), Texas (HB 16 in 2019), and Arkansas (SB 278 and SB 3 in 2019).

  • West Virginia’s bill moved the state from “No Protection” to “Strong Protection,” as it added every key provision to state law except for reporting requirements.
  • Texas’ bill moved the state from “Weak Protection” to “Best Protection,” building on a prior statement that had declared infants’ right to medical care and added reporting requirements to state law.
  • Arkansas’ bills established reporting requirements for infants who survive abortions, moving the state from “Strong Protection” to “Best Protection” (a 2017 bill established other born-alive protections).

Born-Alive Infant Protection Acts are an appropriate and urgent response to a harsh reality: babies born alive following failed abortions do not enjoy the full legal protections they are due apart from such laws and are frequently left to die. Abortion survivors deserve the same level of care as any other infant. This should be non-controversial. If the last three years are any indication, states are sure to continue introducing and enacting strong protections for born children in the coming years, perhaps one day making such protections the norm, rather than the exception.

State Round-Up: Defunding the Abortion Industry

by Chantel Hoyt

June 9, 2021

Editor’s note: This is part of an ongoing series about key provisions that states have advanced in 2021.

States have been working for years to protect taxpayers from having to subsidize the abortion industry, and the momentum continues this year.

As I’ve written elsewhere,

Ever since Roe v. Wade, Congress and most states have taken bipartisan efforts to stop taxpayer funds from going to pay for abortions and, later, to flow to the abortion industry. These efforts greatly intensified in 2015 when the release of several undercover videos by the Center for Medical Progress showed Planned Parenthood officials laughing and joking about the transfer and sale of fetal tissue. These videos shocked the American people and shined a light on an unsavory profit center for the abortion industry, the gruesome harvesting of body parts of the aborted unborn (sometimes even, apparently, before fetal death).

Most Americans support defunding Planned Parenthood. An annual Knights of Columbus/Marist poll shows a majority of Americans oppose the use of taxpayer dollars to pay for abortion; in January it found that 60 percent of Americans, including 35 percent of Democrats, oppose public funding of abortions. A 2016 Harvard poll and a 2018 PRRI poll found that over half (58 percent and 51 percent, respectively) of Americans believe that Medicaid should not pay for abortions. Not surprisingly, 33 states have introduced legislation to restrict government funding of the abortion industry in recent years.  These bills largely address the three main streams of abortion funding – Medicaid (a joint federal-state health coverage program), Title X (a federal family planning grant program) and state appropriations.

Abortion funding restrictions have shifted from merely banning direct funding of abortion procedures to also cutting off abortion businesses. This distinction is important because even if taxpayer funds are not used for performing an abortion, they still support abortion centers by helping them offset their other costs. This frees up their budget to pay for abortions and other abortion-related expenses. After watching the undercover videos, federal and state policymakers realized it is time to defund abortion businesses.

Since 2015, states have consistently introduced bills that have attempted to defund both abortions and abortion centers. At least 131 bills have been introduced in 33 states in the past 6 years. Of these, 26 bills sought to defund Planned Parenthood in Medicaid, 43 bills in Title X, and 90 bills in state appropriations (About twelve of these 131 bills were specific in only prohibiting the funding of abortion procedures.  Thirteen of these bills sought to simply expand or strengthen existing defund laws. 22 of the 131 bills were temporary budget bills, in which states inserted a ‘rider’ restricting abortion funding into their yearly appropriations bill going into effect for the upcoming fiscal year.) 29 of the total 131 bills have been enacted in 19 different states. 

In addition to addressing the three streams of funding mentioned above, some states have gotten creative. For example, Iowa’s HF 422 (2015), rather than prohibiting funds from going to entities that supply abortions, sought to prohibit abortions from being done by entities that receive public funds (this bill was not enacted). A few states have sought to limit health insurance coverage of abortions.  Kentucky’s HB 484 (2020), for example, prohibited abortions from being covered under state-sponsored health insurance programs (this bill was enacted). In 2017, Wisconsin introduced a bill (SB 154) that would have prohibited publicly-funded universities from utilizing state funds to perform, assist, or train others to perform abortions.

Texas currently has the strongest defunding laws in place, as the state successfully defunded abortion businesses in Title X and state appropriations. First, Governor Greg Abbott issued a letter defunding Planned Parenthood from the state Medicaid program in 2015. While this action was enjoined, Texas was subsequently granted a Medicaid waiver allowing the state to redirect federal funds away from abortion businesses. This was the first (and so far, only) waiver of its kind to be granted.  Six other states – Arizona, Louisiana, Arkansas, Mississippi, Florida, and Indiana – have similarly enacted very strong legislation defunding the abortion industry, as they have attempted to defund abortion businesses in Medicaid and successfully defunded abortion businesses in Title X and state appropriations. However, none received a federal waiver for Medicaid; this is typically a multi-year process, which seems unlikely under the current administration, so pro-life state policymakers should begin thinking now about the waiver requests they’ll want the next time we get a pro-life administration.

In a like manner, a plethora of states have attempted to permanently defund abortion businesses in one or two streams of funding. While a state attempting to defund abortion businesses in a particular area doesn’t carry as much weight as a successful defund, it is still notable and shows the public’s support for defunding the abortion industry in that state. The following 15 states fall into this category:

  • Alabama, Utah, South Carolina – Attempted to defund abortion businesses in Medicaid
  • Kansas, Tennessee – Attempted to defund abortion businesses in Medicaid; deprioritized abortion businesses in Title X (i.e. when distributing federal grants, the state prefers non-abortion health care providers ahead of any entities that supply abortions)
  • Missouri, Idaho – Attempted to defund abortion businesses in Medicaid; defunded abortion businesses in state appropriations
  • Wisconsin, Kentucky, Ohio – Defunded abortion businesses in state appropriations; defunded or deprioritized abortion businesses in Title X
  • Michigan, Oklahoma – Defunded or deprioritized abortion businesses in Title X
  • Nebraska, Iowa, North Carolina – Defunded abortion businesses in state appropriations

Though lacking the strength of abortion industry funding bans, other states have taken action to defund abortion procedures. The 13 states that have done this are:

  • Colorado, Wyoming, South Dakota – Defunded procedures in Medicaid and state appropriations
  • Nevada, North Dakota, Georgia, Virginia, West Virginia, Delaware, Rhode Island – Defunded procedures in Medicaid
  • Pennsylvania – Defunded procedures in Medicaid; attempted to defund procedures in state appropriations
  • Minnesota – Attempted to defund procedures in Medicaid and state appropriations
  • Montana – Attempted to defund procedures in Medicaid

Lastly, several states have been successful in temporarily defunding abortions and/or the abortion industry. These states have passed yearly appropriations bills that include a pro-life ‘rider’ specifying that certain funds shall not be used for abortions and/or abortion businesses for the duration of the upcoming fiscal year. The following six states have done this:

  • Iowa – Temporarily defunded procedures in Medicaid and abortion businesses in state appropriations and Title X (2019-2020); temporarily defunded procedures in Medicaid (2015-2016)
  • Nebraska – Temporarily defunded abortion businesses in Title X (2018-2019)
  • New Hampshire – Temporarily defunds abortion businesses in state appropriations (since at least 2019)
  • Missouri – Temporarily defunds abortion businesses in state appropriations (since at least 2018)
  • Pennsylvania – Temporarily defunded abortion businesses in state appropriations (2018-2019)
  • Michigan – Temporarily defunded abortion businesses in state appropriations (2017-2018)

As I wrote,

It is clear the majority of states want to prevent taxpayer funds from going to the abortion industry. These efforts have become normative since the release of the undercover Planned Parenthood videos in 2015. This effort has not slowed, with 19 bills being introduced this year in 14 different states; four having been enacted to date.

States believe that taxpayers should not fund the abortion industry, and states will continue passing laws that reflect the principle that abortion is not health care. After all, no other type of health care has as its main purpose and goal extinguishing an already-existing human life. As a recent FRC publication proves, abortion is not the type of health care for which health care professionals should advocate. Because of these and other reasons, abortion is far from deserving of taxpayer funds and states are sure to continue passing laws that recognize this fact.

State Round-Up: A Growing Number of States Are Protecting Minors from Transgenderism

by Chantel Hoyt

May 19, 2021

Editor’s note: This is the first in an ongoing series about key issues that states have advanced in 2021.

The cultural phenomenon of transgenderism is growing at an astonishing rate. The number of gender reassignment clinics in the United States has increased from one in 2007 to 50 today. In her book, Irreversible Damage, Abigail Shrier reports that most Western countries have seen a 1,000-5,000 percent increase in teenage females seeking treatment from gender clinics and psychologists—many of whom recommend that these girls socially and physically transition through hormones and sometimes surgery. This is aimed at treating what is known as gender dysphoria, defined by the American Psychological Association as “psychological distress that results from incongruence between one’s sex assigned at birth and one’s gender identity.”

One’s sex is never “assigned at birth”; it is always objective and observable by the time of birth. Propagating an ideology of fluid sexuality undermines a scientific understanding of human anatomy and damages children’s lives. The staggering growth of transgender ideology increasingly pressures children to undergo life-altering procedures with puberty-blocking drugs, cross-sex hormones, and irreversible surgeries. These unscientific, destructive gender transition procedures should not be allowed to interrupt the development of children and irreversibly alter their bodies.

States have been taking bold steps to protect vulnerable minors from being harmed by the unscientific idea that people can be “born in the wrong body.” To date, a total of 20 states have introduced gender transition bans in 2021. On April 6, Arkansas became the first state in the nation to ban the use of puberty blockers, cross-sex hormones, and gender reassignment surgeries for the purpose of gender transition on individuals under 18 when the legislature enacted House Bill 1570, the Save Adolescents from Experimentation (SAFE) Act, over the governor’s veto.

The Arkansas SAFE Act can be considered the “gold standard” for gender transition procedure bans. Arkansas HB 1570 has four key provisions:

  1. It protects minors from puberty blockers, cross-sex hormones, and gender transition surgeries (with a professional penalty).
  2. It bans the use of public funds and/or insurance coverage mandates for such procedures on minors.
  3. It includes an exception for the treatment of minors with a diagnosis of a physiological intersex disorder.
  4. It provides legal remedies for minors who have been permanently disfigured and/or sterilized by such procedures.

In addition to Arkansas, four states introduced fairly strong bills this year: Kentucky (HB 336), Mississippi (SB 2171), Iowa (HF 193), and North Carolina (S 514). Each of these bills contains a prohibition and professional penalty (Iowa’s bill includes a civil penalty as well), an exception for minors with a physiological intersex disorder, and legal remedies for minors harmed by such procedures. However, they do not prohibit medical insurance from covering such procedures for minors or put any restrictions on public funds being used for such purposes.

Two other states, Georgia (HB 401) and Indiana (HB 1505, SB 224), also introduced bills with all but the insurance/public funding ban. Yet, these bills impose criminal as opposed to professional penalties, which may make them more difficult to pass. Tennessee’s bills (SB 657 and HB 578), which also contain criminal penalties, are diluted because they allow minors who have entered puberty to be subjected to such procedures, provided they have parental consent and the written consent of two doctors and a psychiatrist. Family Research Council does not support allowing for medical experimentation on minors before they are old enough to make adult decisions.

Twelve states this year have introduced protections for minors that contain criminal penalties but lack legal remedies and/or exceptions for children with physiological intersex disorders (in addition to lacking provisions addressing insurance and public funds). They are:

  • Alabama (SB 10, HB 1, no private right of action)
  • Arizona (SB 1511, lacks key definitions, no private right of action)
  • Florida (HB 935, no private right of action)
  • Kansas (SB 214, HB 2210, no private right of action)
  • Louisiana (HB 575, no private right of action)
  • Missouri (SB 442, lacks key definitions, no exception for intersex disorders, no private right of action)
  • Montana (HB 113, lacks key definitions, no exception for intersex disorders)
  • Oklahoma (SB 583, SB 676, no private right of action, no exception for intersex disorders)
  • South Carolina (HB 4047, no private right of action)
  • Texas (HB 2693, HB 1399, SB 1311, lacks key definitions, no private right of action)
  • Utah (HB 92, no private right of action)
  • West Virginia (HB 2171, no private right of action)

Bills like these have been the most common for gender transition bans since 2017. They would need to add a prohibition on insurance coverage and/or public funding, an exception for minors with intersex disorders, and stronger legal remedies, in addition to trading their criminal penalties for professional penalties.

Two states, Missouri and Montana, introduced very weak bills in 2021. Missouri HB 33 includes a prohibition and professional penalty but no other provisions. Montana HB 427, despite including each key provision besides one addressing insurance and public funds, only prohibits gender reassignment surgery, not the use of cross-sex hormones or puberty blockers. Since the latter is what is most often used on minors, this makes the bill much weaker.

Eight additional states introduced bills from 2017 to 2020. The strongest of these was Minnesota HF 4694, which included each of the key provisions, including a ban on insurance coverage. However, it imposed a civil penalty instead of a professional penalty, had slightly weaker definitions, and lacked findings, among other drawbacks. The next strongest of these bills was Ohio HB 513, which lacked an insurance coverage/public funding ban and imposed criminal penalties. Four of these states—Illinois (HB 3515, 2019), Idaho (H 465, 2019), South Carolina (4716, 2020), and South Dakota (HB 1057, 2020)—lacked most key provisions. Additionally, Idaho’s bill contained criminal penalties and South Dakota’s bill contained a civil penalty, as opposed to a professional penalty. New Hampshire’s bill (HB 1532, 2018) was especially weak, prohibiting gender reassignment surgery for minors but containing no other provisions.

Over the past four years, one thing has been made clear—states want to protect their minors from life-altering procedures such as puberty-blocking drugs, cross-sex hormones, and irreversible surgeries. They have come to grips with the reality that “gender transition” is an experiment. No intervention can change a person’s genetic composition, and the best studies have demonstrated no reduction in the number of completed suicides among those who have transitioned. We have also seen states proposing stronger, more successful bills each year. Arkansas’ SAFE Act made it the first state to pass potent protections for minors. Arkansas HB 1570 is a watermark and standard that states are sure to follow, making a safer United States for future generations.

Arkansas Moves to Protect Children from Gender Transition Procedures

by Chantel Hoyt

March 25, 2021

The Arkansas Senate is currently considering HB 1570, the Save Adolescents from Experimentation (SAFE) Act. This bill aims to protect children from invasive and untested procedures associated with “gender transition,” as these types of procedures pose serious health risks and cannot be fully reversed. Such drugs and procedures are based on the unscientific theory that some individuals can be born in the “wrong” body. Eighteen states have introduced similar legislation so far in 2021.

The Arkansas SAFE Act prohibits health care professionals from performing gender reassignment surgeries or providing puberty-blocking drugs and cross-sex hormones for the purpose of gender transition to individuals under the age of 18. Health care professionals found to be in violation of this policy would have their medical licenses revoked. The bill also prohibits medical insurance from covering such treatments for minors. The bill is sponsored by Rep. Robin Lundstrum of Arkansas’ 87th district (Benton and Washington counties) and recently passed the House floor with a vote of 70-22. It is currently awaiting action in the Senate. 

The liberal news media has decried this legislation’s so-called “assault” on transgender rights.  Back in January 2020, when only six states had introduced such legislation, CNN quoted Ryan Thoreson, a Yale law school lecturer and LGBT rights researcher, as saying, “There are alarming signals that this could pass in conservative states.” Thoreson also referred to these bills as part of a series of “attacks on transgender youths” by lawmakers and said that the proposed laws would restrict young people’s access to “basic health care.” The CNN article also insisted that bills like these could “prove devastating to transgender children” and suggested that children who cannot obtain such procedures are more likely to commit suicide.

You don’t have to be a physician to know that describing gender reassignment surgery and hormone therapy as “basic health care” is ludicrous. In what other instance would the suppression of natural bodily development and removal of healthy or non-diseased body parts from children (or anyone for, that matter) be considered permissible, let alone essential health care? 

Transgender activists typically argue that securing access to gender transition procedures is really about the child’s mental health, theorizing that these procedures are the only thing that will cure their gender dysphoria and reduce their distress. This idea might be more compelling if it had any scientific evidence to back it up. We currently have no good evidence that these procedures even accomplish their stated purpose—improving children’s mental health. FRC argues that such evidence would be “absolutely necessary to justify such radical and unnatural physical intervention.”

This lack of evidence, combined with the fact that most children with gender dysphoria will outgrow their condition and not identify as transgender adults, makes the legality of performing gender transition procedures on children and activists’ advocacy for said procedures even more troubling. For most kids with gender incongruity, puberty is the cure, not the disease.

The number of proposed bills aimed at protecting minors from the harmful effects of gender transition procedures has seen a sharp rise in the past two years. This trend, combined with conservative wins in state legislatures in the most recent election, is cause for optimism. Hopefully, states will be able to pass common-sense legislation that protects children from such harmful practices, nurturing them rather than sacrificing their health and well-being on the altar of unscientific transgender ideology. 

Based on its recent success, the Arkansas SAFE Act could very well be the first bill of its kind to pass a state legislature, but it needs your help! If you (or your family and friends) live in Arkansas, please speak up now and ask your elected officials to protect minors from the growing pressure to treat puberty like a disease.

Elected Leaders Are Moving to Protect Children and Religious Freedom

by Chantel Hoyt

March 22, 2021

In recent weeks, congressional Republicans introduced legislation that would allow faith-based child welfare agencies to operate in line with their convictions and protect their religious freedom. The Senate version of the bill was sponsored by Senators John Kennedy (R-La.) and Tim Scott (R-S.C.) while Representative Mike Kelly (R-Pa.) introduced a companion bill in the House. Speaking about the bill, Scott said, “At a time where religious freedoms are under assault, the Child Welfare Provider Inclusion Act [CWPIA] is a necessary protection for those who are living according to their convictions.”

Several states have also recognized the need for such legislation. In recent weeks, Massachusetts, South Carolina, and Kentucky have all introduced legislation that aims to provide the same protections to faith-based child welfare agencies. Specifically, this includes the freedom to place children in homes consistent with their beliefs on biblical family life and sexuality.

While it is the first time this type of legislation has been introduced in these three states, their introduction, as well as the introduction of the federal CWPIA, signals broader concern around the country about the Biden administration’s focus on LGBT issues and how it will impact religious liberty. With President Biden’s support for the Equality Act—a bill that would negatively impact these faith-based agencies (and many other groups)—the future of faith-based child welfare agencies is uncertain. But those committed to preserving religious freedom aren’t likely to go down without a fight.

Legislatures in eight different states have felt the need to pass legislation to protect foster and adoption care agencies, beginning in 2012 (Virginia) and most recently in 2020 (Tennessee). Such legislation allows these agencies to operate in a way consistent with their religious beliefs, without suffering from license revocation, contract termination, or other adverse action from the state. This growing threat has already been seen in Michigan, South Carolina, Illinois, and Massachusetts as well as cities like San Francisco and Philadelphia. In many of these instances, faith-based foster and adoption care agencies have been forced to forego their religious beliefs, serve in a severely limited capacity, and even close their doors because they were not willing to compromise on their principles regarding marriage and sexuality.

Although such discriminatory actions harm the children these agencies serve, opponents of faith-based organizations tend to only focus on LGBT couples who are ‘turned away,’ supposedly limiting the pool of parents willing to help children in need. However, this logic makes two false assumptions.

The first is that faith-based child welfare agencies are LGBT couples’ only option to become parents. This is simply not the case. The majority of agencies in the country are more than willing to work with same-sex couples. Only about 25 percent of agencies are faith-based and have narrow criteria potential parents must meet. For example, in Philadelphia in 2018, only two out of the nearly 30 child welfare agencies were faith-based. The city terminated these agencies’ contracts anyway. The lawsuit filed against the city by foster parents who worked with Catholic Social Services has shown that the agency had not denied service or turned away anyone because of their LGBT status. Further, it showed that should they be unable to partner with a couple that approaches them, they would help that couple connect with one of the other 29 agencies in the city. This is not enough for the activists. Clearly, they were sued because of their religious belief. The picture of a same-sex couple being turned away from a faith-based agency and having nowhere else to turn is simply inaccurate.  

The second false assumption is that more children will receive homes and much needed care if faith-based agencies are forced to make the choice between their beliefs and continuing to help those in need. The reality, though, is that fewer children will receive the care they need because some of the highest performing and longest serving agencies will be shut down or sidelined simply because they’re faith-based. Illinois’ foster and adoption system, for example, seems to still be suffering after the closure of Catholic Charities in 2011. Sadly, Illinois has seen a 14 percent decrease in the number of non-relative foster care beds or homes from 2012 to 2017, and the state lost 1,547 foster homes during that same time period—homes that could have been available to serve foster children in need. It should go without saying that this will harm children in the foster care and adoption systems.

Protecting the ability of faith-based child welfare agencies to continue operating in accordance with their religious beliefs is good for everyone. It helps more children receive care by increasing the number of agencies able to serve them. Allowing religious organizations of any kind to operate alongside non-religious ones is crucial to preserve freedom of religion in our society and to ensure that we are able to serve as many children in need as possible.

We are thankful for the many states and those in Congress who are taking steps to protect this crucial area of religious freedom.

Alabama Seeks to Protect Minors from Gender Transition Drugs and Surgeries

by Chantel Hoyt

February 18, 2021

Alabama lawmakers are currently considering two bills that would prohibit doctors from prescribing gender transition drugs, hormones, and surgeries to minors. Known as the “Vulnerable Child Compassion and Protection Acts,” these bills are designed to protect minors who are struggling with gender confusion from harmful procedures that cannot be fully reversed later and that they may likely come to regret.

These bills also prohibit nurses, counselors, and school personnel from withholding information about a child’s gender confusion from the child’s parents. Senate Bill 10, introduced by Representative Shay Shelnutt of the state’s 17th district, passed the Senate Healthcare Committee in a vote of 11 to 2 last Wednesday, while House Bill 1 is still awaiting a vote after being the subject of a public hearing by the House Judiciary Committee on the same day. Under both bills, doctors who violate such laws would face criminal charges.

The Alabama House version of the bill was introduced by Republican Wes Allen last year. “When I learned that this was going on in our state of Alabama, I was really shocked that puberty blockers and cross-sex hormones were being given to minors,” he said on Washington Watch recently. When asked about his motivation behind the bill, Allen replied that it is simply about protecting children. “The most important thing we can be doing as legislators is taking care and protecting children, so that’s really the motivation behind it.” 

Rep. Allen also spoke briefly about how children lack the proper ability to make life-altering decisions, as well as studies that suggest that 85-90 percent of children with gender dysphoria will eventually outgrow such issues and “grow to accept how God made them and grow to accept their bodies.” Allen was hopeful about the success of House Bill 1: “We’ve got to make sure we protect our kids, and we’re looking forward to advocating for this bill in the weeks to come.”

Chantel Hoyt is a Research Assistant with State & Local Affairs at Family Research Council.

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