The Duggar Family on How to Prepare for Courtship and Marriage


“Helpmeet” is such an odd-sounding word to modern ears! But it resonates well in the lingo of the King James Bible. Girls born to Quiverfull families begin their training for the life’s calling as a Helpmeet [aka wife and homemaker] almost at birth.

This article is reprinted with permission from the site NoLongerQuivering, which is run and edited by Vyckie Garrison, who, in her own words, is “a former Christian homeschooling mother of seven who finally walked away from fundamentalism after our radical extremism drove my oldest daughter to attempt suicide.” NoLongerQuviering provides a voice and outlet for women within fundamentalist religious movements to challenge those movements on their terms.  Vyckie has generously agreed to allow RH Reality Check to cross-post articles from NLQ from time to time.

“Helpmeet” is such an odd-sounding word to modern ears. But it resonates well in the lingo of the King James Bible. Girls born to Quiverfull families begin their training for the life’s calling as a Helpmeet [aka wife and homemaker] almost at birth.

Girls are born for one and only one reason: to serve a husband. In that capacity, as his helpmeet, she will bear and raise his children, feed as many children as God sends on whatever income he earns, may raise a garden and animals or run a home-based business [with his approval], may home birth and will certainly homeschool all of her children.

Becoming a successful, multi-tasking helpmeet is not something you just “do.” Something that important cannot be left to chance. The training starts almost at birth with “child training.” Moms have a number of helpful “ministries” to turn to for child training guidance. For infants and toddlers two of the best known are Ezzo and the Pearls—both of whom are very controversial to the secular world. We’ll briefly look at each.

Like This Story?

Your $10 tax-deductible contribution helps support our research, reporting, and analysis.

Donate Now

Gary and Anne Marie Ezzo developed the popular and often criticized programs “Babywise” and “Growing Kids God’s Way.” As with any program there IS some good and helpful information as well as a lot that many people find abhorrent. “Babywise” teaches new parents to adhere to rigid schedules and rules for bedtime, breast-feeding on a parent-friendly schedule and bedtime rigidly enforced with few, if any, interactions with parents after “lights out” no matter the tone of the child’s cry.

“Growing Kids God’s Way” is a huge undertaking for parents. Both parents must attend each session and both must complete weekly homework. This program met tremendous success in conservative churches and megachurches during the late nineties and on. (They also do offer a single-parent version now.) Parents are taught to take back their lives by having a parent-centered, rather than child-centered home. (For the gist of the controversies see, but please note this IS a biased site.)

Michael and Debi Pearl of “No Greater Joy Ministries” are some of the most controversial child training advocates in the world today.  Several deaths have occurred in homes following the Pearls advice. (NOTE: I am NOT saying in any way that the Pearls are responsible for the deaths, just that the parents were known to follow their methods.)

Their book, To Train Up a Child, advocates corporal punishment to a degree seldom seen today. The idea is to compel instant, willing and cheerful obedience at all times from even the youngest children. Failure to comply results in physical punishment. Parents are taught that children are born with a sinful nature and that they must begin early to “train” the child in the “way he should go” as is taught in Proverbs 22:6. Therefore, it is appropriate to even “chastise” babies with a switch—even one made of plumbing supply line.  Parents are told “training does not necessarily require that the trainee be capable of reason….”

With this background in mind we can now try to piece together the “training” of a future helpmeet. In her infancy the girl we will call “Jerusha Faith” may be enticed with a toy and swatted for reaching for it. She may be fed only when Mama says and not when her tummy says she is truly empty and hungry. She may be left in the throes of colicky insomnia to cry it out alone for hours on end. In short, she is learning, like a Nun, to deny her “self.” Of course, all families are different, not all may use these practices and some may even agree with the critics of these methods.

This denying of self is reinforced in seemly innocuous phrases like the one the Duggar family, stars of TLC’s 19 Kids and Counting, uses, summed up by the acronym JOY — Jesus first, others second, yourself last. Even in infancy little Jerusha Faith is learning that she is not important as herself. She is merely important when she is doing the will of her authority figures—in this stage her parents.

As she grows older, should she dare to be “wayward” in any way she can expect to be chastised with the rod or, in more humane families, may be “tomato-staked” meaning she is expected to stay right with Mama and do only what she is told to do for a set period of time.

The next stage of training begins at about school age. It can be summed up as “the cult of character.”  For Quiverfull families, like the Duggars, who belong to Bill Gothard’s Advanced Training Institute homeschooling program, “Character” will be the focus of education throughout the school years. Jerusha Faith and her siblings will likely take 3 complete trips thru the famous “Wisdom Booklets” which teach each of the Gothard-defined character qualities. So much focus is placed on these qualities that other educational subjects are often severely neglected.  Some mothers are more creative in this training than others and one book they may use to enhance creativity is Marilyn Boyer’s Fun Projects for Hands-On Character Building.

For girls one character quality receives even greater emphasis begining just before puberty: Virtue or Purity. Beginning with books such as The Princess and the Kiss by Jennie Bishop:

“On the day she came into the world, the royal couple gave their daughter a very special gift from God—her first kiss” (Bishop, 1999, p. 2).

From that moment on she will be surrounded with an odd mixture of encouragement and suspicion all aimed at keeping her not only technically a virgin, but totally untouched by any man’s hands or lips until her wedding day.

Some families may have their Jerusha Faith and her Father participate in a Purity Ball. Her father will accept her promise to remain pure and give her a “purity ring” as a reminder of her promise. Her mother may do a study with her (and possibly other like-minded mothers and daughters) of Stacy McDonald’s book Raising Maidens of Virtue. McDonald cautions parents that “certain yearnings [can be] awakened too early [and] can cause all kinds of temptations and trouble” (McDonald, pp. 161-162). This study teaches girls the importance of her “purity:”

Part of your [parents’] responsibility to God and TO YOU is to guard your purity and insure you are faithful to your future husband even now…. Emotional purity involves saving your romantic feelings for your husband…You will be able to offer him your whole heart on your wedding day — not just bits and pieces that are left (McDonald, p. 162).

McDonald also cautions girls not to read romance novels which may lure them into fantasizing about a “perfect husband” (McDonald, p. 162), citing Hebrews 13:5 which reads in part “and be content with such things as ye have….”

On her own, or with a sister or mother, Jerusha Faith may read Beautiful Girlhood—a classic for Christian girls. Her parents may, however, remove or censor some material in Karen Adreola’s revision of this book since it advocates completing your education and being able to support yourself and a family if the need should arise later in life as well as the chapter about boys.

A little later in her teens, just before courtship “season,” Jerusha Faith may be found reading Before You Meet Your Prince Charming — a book recommended to elementary school children by one of the Duggar girls (19 Kids and Counting, TLC, “School Daze” episode). Her parents may allow her to read specially written “courtship stories,” such as those written by the Castleberry family, which emphasize parental approval, waiting on God and trusting the Lord and your father.   Mostly, this pre-courtship and courtship phase will be spent as a daughter “at home” serving her own father in any way she can. (See: Return of the Daughters and So Much More by the Botkin Sisters.)

With her character trained, her mind directed to thoughts of others and her purity guarded what’s left for Jerusha Faith to do?  Plenty! While still in diapers, she will begin learning to help with simple household chores. She will definitely have chores to do almost from the moment she learns to walk. Like Mrs. Duggar, her mother may use the Managers of Her Home or Managers of Her School to schedule her day and may pin a Chore Pack on her children to remind them to be diligent in doing their chores!

Naturally, all of these chores can be “supplemented” with corrective chastisement as necessary. Jerusha Faith will need to model cheerful, willing, and immediate obedience to her siblings—some of whom she may be assigned to help with their own chores or with other tasks like getting dressed. By early elementary school she will be very experienced in the care of infants and toddlers thanks to her mother’s need for help and the consistent arrival of new siblings.

About the time she is in her “tween” years Jerusha Faith will be expected to begin formally learning the housekeeping tasks, social skills and other practical knowledge she will need as her future husband’s helpmeet and mother of his children.

While it is important to remember that all families are different, one popular “program” for training girls and teens in these skills centers on Ann Ward’s huge Training Our Daughters to Be Keepers At Home. Ward, who styles herself “Mrs. Craig (Ann) Ward,” on the title page offers a Ph.d. in housekeeping, practical nursing, child care, practical handcrafts and much more.

Each of the seven years of this program has a very strong spiritual development component—usually featuring a classic Christian book. (For supplemental materials see the Unofficial Training Our Daughters web site.) Should Jerusha Faith marry a missionary to the poorer parts of the world or a backwoods homesteader, once she graduates from Ward’s program she is good to go — even free birthing her own child if necessary. This book uses the “holy grail” of cookbooks — the Sue Gregg whole grain books which fueled the “grind your own wheat” to bake your own bread movement among right-wing Christian families.

Jerusha Faith is now ready for the next stage in life—the ultimate stage—marriage and motherhood. She and her parents will be reviewing McDonald’s advice to be sure she is “ready:”

… be well prepared for your groom when he comes. He will find you well-equipped to your position has his honored helpmate with your lantern filled, radiating purity. You will ease into motherhood with confidence, grace and an eager desire to serve. And, if you continue in your diligence serving here at home, you will be a much more organized and prepared homemaker….” (McDonald, p. 163)

During her years as a daughter at home, Jerusha Faith will be a sort-of “helpmeet in training” for her father. Non-quiverful, non-Patriarchal families often find this very odd—after all Dad has a wife. She will run errands, provide child care, do chores, plan and cook meals, help on the farm or in her father’s business if appropriate. If her father approves she may even start a home-based business. Basically she is to “serve” her family in any way she can—Jesus First, Others Second, Yourself forgotten by this time in her life. (See the Botkin Sisters, above, or blogs such as Firmly Fixed on the Father or  Aspiring Homemaker.)

Finally the day Jerusha Faith and her parents have been praying for: God has sent the man who wants to marry her! With her father’s blessing, the courtship can begin. It will likely be long and –rarely, if ever, will the couple be alone. One of the foundational books of the movement, A Full Quiver by Rick and Jan Hess sets the tone of what Dad will be looking for in a future son-in-law:

Strive to build Christian discipline and habits before marriage…. Another thing, especially for men, finish your education and training as as much as God allows, get established in your law firm, assembly line or home business, then get hitched to your sweetie (Hess & Hess, 1990, p. 137).

A Godly man who is able to fully support not only a wife but a rapidly growing family are the only men who need apply for Jerusha Faith’s hand. Whether she likes the man or not, or has even met him, is not always very important—she is to trust God and her father in this matter. She will spend time in prayer as will her parents who have been praying about this man since her birth. It may be at this time, too, that she fully learns the “facts of life” and what will be expected of her in marriage.

Let’s leave Jerusha Faith for now and see what went on in a real Quiverfull Courtship—that of Joshua Duggar and his wife, Anna. The Duggars, as a Quiverfull and Patriarchal family, view their family in terms of a chain of command with God at the top and the father of the family as the “head” of the family. Bill Gothard’s ATI & IBLP teaches this as the father’s “umbrella of authority” over his family:

The use of an umbrella to symbolize protection is commonly understood and accepted. In the insurance industry, an overall coverage of protection is referred to as an “umbrella policy.” In the Bible, similar symbols teach the concepts of provision, protection, headship, and leadership.

The use of this symbol in relation to the family is to give special encouragement to fathers to protect, instruct, lead, and provide for their wives, sons, and daughters.

When Joshua Duggar met Anna Keller in a concession stand line at an ATI-homeschool event, he felt sure that she was “the one” God had chosen for him. He “knew” because he had been taught since childhood to be on the lookout the future wife God hand-picked for him:

I was taught to wait for God’s best in my life partner. But as time went along and I grew older it was harder to keep my heart only for the one that God had for my life partner. 

Josh spoke to his father about courting and was first counseled to pray, to listen carefully to God to be sure he was hearing God’s message correctly.  After a visit by the Keller family to the Duggar home, Anna’s father asked her if there was any one man God was leading her to. Was she called to be someone’s wife? When she said she thought it was Josh, her father agreed.  After the visit, Josh too, told his father he was sure. This resulted in a “virtual” courtship—supervised phone calls or Skype calls etc. Anna remembers her parents’ teachings on courtship:

Like Joshua I was raised in a Christian home, and my parents encouraged me to save my whole heart & purity for the one that God had for me. As a young girl, my parents told me that it was normal to have desires & thoughts, but that it was my responsibility to commit my future to the Lord and trust God to lead me in His timing.

On their show, and in their book, Jim-Bob and Michelle and their children return time and again to the discussion of not giving “pieces of your heart” away by dating. Choosing a spouse is the single most important thing after accepting the Salvation of Jesus Christ.

The Duggars teach their children to “guard their heart” in many ways. Courtship, not dating is one such way. Another is being very careful of the images and words the put into their brain. Limiting TV and Internet, and parental approval of reading material and music are another way the children are taught to “guard their hearts.”

Not being alone with a member of the opposite sex and only very limited touch is a very visible way of keeping pure. The Duggar children were also encouraged not to think “wrong thoughts,” which Joshua confesses was as hard for him as for any other young man. (Josh and Anna Duggar blog.) As parents Jim-Bob and Michelle take time to help their children deal with such thoughts and encourage them with Scripture and prayer.

Like most Quiverfull couples, Josh and Anna had a longer courtship than their engagement, the thinking being that courtship is “getting to know you” and engagement is “all but married” so “temptations” come into play and must be fought off.  During this time Josh focused on becoming a provider. On TV we were shown how they re-did an old rental house to live in and how Josh was developing a used car sales lot to support them.  Another difference between the Duggar courtship and other even more Conservative families was when Josh proposed to Anna he was allowed to slip the engagement ring onto Anna’s hand himself. This is not always the case. Since the ring symbolizes the coming “transfer of authority” over the young woman from her father to her husband-to-be (and is only final at the wedding) the father sometimes places the ring on the woman’s finger (see the blog Kristina’s Keepsakes.

Analysis Human Rights

El Salvador Bill Would Put Those Found Guilty of Abortion Behind Bars for 30 to 50 Years

Kathy Bougher

Under El Salvador’s current law, when women are accused of abortion, prosecutors can—but do not always—increase the charges to aggravated homicide, thereby increasing their prison sentence. This new bill, advocates say, would heighten the likelihood that those charged with abortion will spend decades behind bars.

Abortion has been illegal under all circumstances in El Salvador since 1997, with a penalty of two to eight years in prison. Now, the right-wing ARENA Party has introduced a bill that would increase that penalty to a prison sentence of 30 to 50 years—the same as aggravated homicide.

The bill also lengthens the prison time for physicians who perform abortions to 30 to 50 years and establishes jail terms—of one to three years and six months to two years, respectively—for persons who sell or publicize abortion-causing substances.

The bill’s major sponsor, Rep. Ricardo Andrés Velásquez Parker, explained in a television interview on July 11 that this was simply an administrative matter and “shouldn’t need any further discussion.”

Since the Salvadoran Constitution recognizes “the human being from the moment of conception,” he said, it “is necessary to align the Criminal Code with this principle, and substitute the current penalty for abortion, which is two to eight years in prison, with that of aggravated homicide.”

Like This Story?

Your $10 tax-deductible contribution helps support our research, reporting, and analysis.

Donate Now

The bill has yet to be discussed in the Salvadoran legislature; if it were to pass, it would still have to go to the president for his signature. It could also be referred to committee, and potentially left to die.

Under El Salvador’s current law, when women are accused of abortion, prosecutors can—but do not always—increase the charges to aggravated homicide, thereby increasing their prison sentence. This new bill, advocates say, would worsen the criminalization of women, continue to take away options, and heighten the likelihood that those charged with abortion will spend decades behind bars.

In recent years, local feminist groups have drawn attention to “Las 17 and More,” a group of Salvadoran women who have been incarcerated with prison terms of up to 40 years after obstetrical emergencies. In 2014, the Agrupación Ciudadana por la Despenalización del Aborto (Citizen Group for the Decriminalization of Abortion) submitted requests for pardons for 17 of the women. Each case wound its way through the legislature and other branches of government; in the end, only one woman received a pardon. Earlier this year, however, a May 2016 court decision overturned the conviction of another one of the women, Maria Teresa Rivera, vacating her 40-year sentence.

Velásquez Parker noted in his July 11 interview that he had not reviewed any of those cases. To do so was not “within his purview” and those cases have been “subjective and philosophical,” he claimed. “I am dealing with Salvadoran constitutional law.”

During a protest outside of the legislature last Thursday, Morena Herrera, president of the Agrupación, addressed Velásquez Parker directly, saying that his bill demonstrated an ignorance of the realities faced by women and girls in El Salvador and demanding its revocation.

“How is it possible that you do not know that last week the United Nations presented a report that shows that in our country a girl or an adolescent gives birth every 20 minutes? You should be obligated to know this. You get paid to know about this,” Herrera told him. Herrera was referring to the United Nations Population Fund and the Salvadoran Ministry of Health’s report, “Map of Pregnancies Among Girls and Adolescents in El Salvador 2015,” which also revealed that 30 percent of all births in the country were by girls ages 10 to 19.

“You say that you know nothing about women unjustly incarcerated, yet we presented to this legislature a group of requests for pardons. With what you earn, you as legislators were obligated to read and know about those,” Herrera continued, speaking about Las 17. “We are not going to discuss this proposal that you have. It is undiscussable. We demand that the ARENA party withdraw this proposed legislation.”

As part of its campaign of resistance to the proposed law, the Agrupación produced and distributed numerous videos with messages such as “They Don’t Represent Me,” which shows the names and faces of the 21 legislators who signed on to the ARENA proposal. Another video, subtitled in English, asks, “30 to 50 Years in Prison?

International groups have also joined in resisting the bill. In a pronouncement shared with legislators, the Agrupación, and the public, the Latin American and Caribbean Committee for the Defense of the Rights of Women (CLADEM) reminded the Salvadoran government of it international commitments and obligations:

[The] United Nations has recognized on repeated occasions that the total criminalization of abortion is a form of torture, that abortion is a human right when carried out with certain assumptions, and it also recommends completely decriminalizing abortion in our region.

The United Nations Committee on Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights reiterated to the Salvadoran government its concern about the persistence of the total prohibition on abortion … [and] expressly requested that it revise its legislation.

The Committee established in March 2016 that the criminalization of abortion and any obstacles to access to abortion are discriminatory and constitute violations of women’s right to health. Given that El Salvador has ratified [the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights], the country has an obligation to comply with its provisions.

Amnesty International, meanwhile, described the proposal as “scandalous.” Erika Guevara-Rosas, Amnesty International’s Americas director, emphasized in a statement on the organization’s website, “Parliamentarians in El Salvador are playing a very dangerous game with the lives of millions of women. Banning life-saving abortions in all circumstances is atrocious but seeking to raise jail terms for women who seek an abortion or those who provide support is simply despicable.”

“Instead of continuing to criminalize women, authorities in El Salvador must repeal the outdated anti-abortion law once and for all,” Guevara-Rosas continued.

In the United States, Rep. Norma J. Torres (D-CA) and Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-FL) issued a press release on July 19 condemning the proposal in El Salvador. Rep. Torres wrote, “It is terrifying to consider that, if this law passed, a Salvadoran woman who has a miscarriage could go to prison for decades or a woman who is raped and decides to undergo an abortion could be jailed for longer than the man who raped her.”

ARENA’s bill follows a campaign from May orchestrated by the right-wing Fundación Sí a la Vida (Right to Life Foundation) of El Salvador, “El Derecho a la Vida No Se Debate,” or “The Right to Life Is Not Up for Debate,” featuring misleading photos of fetuses and promoting adoption as an alternative to abortion.

The Agrupacion countered with a series of ads and vignettes that have also been applied to the fight against the bill, “The Health and Life of Women Are Well Worth a Debate.”

bien vale un debate-la salud de las mujeres

Mariana Moisa, media coordinator for the Agrupación, told Rewire that the widespread reaction to Velásquez Parker’s proposal indicates some shift in public perception around reproductive rights in the country.

“The public image around abortion is changing. These kinds of ideas and proposals don’t go through the system as easily as they once did. It used to be that a person in power made a couple of phone calls and poof—it was taken care of. Now, people see that Velásquez Parker’s insistence that his proposal doesn’t need any debate is undemocratic. People know that women are in prison because of these laws, and the public is asking more questions,” Moisa said.

At this point, it’s not certain whether ARENA, in coalition with other parties, has the votes to pass the bill, but it is clearly within the realm of possibility. As Sara Garcia, coordinator of the Agrupación, told Rewire, “We know this misogynist proposal has generated serious anger and indignation, and we are working with other groups to pressure the legislature. More and more groups are participating with declarations, images, and videos and a clear call to withdraw the proposal. Stopping this proposed law is what is most important at this point. Then we also have to expose what happens in El Salvador with the criminalization of women.”

Even though there has been extensive exposure of what activists see as the grave problems with such a law, Garcia said, “The risk is still very real that it could pass.”

Analysis Abortion

Legislators Have Introduced 445 Provisions to Restrict Abortion So Far This Year

Elizabeth Nash & Rachel Benson Gold

So far this year, legislators have introduced 1,256 provisions relating to sexual and reproductive health and rights. However, states have also enacted 22 measures this year designed to expand access to reproductive health services or protect reproductive rights.

So far this year, legislators have introduced 1,256 provisions relating to sexual and reproductive health and rights. Of these, 35 percent (445 provisions) sought to restrict access to abortion services. By midyear, 17 states had passed 46 new abortion restrictions.

Including these new restrictions, states have adopted 334 abortion restrictions since 2010, constituting 30 percent of all abortion restrictions enacted by states since the U.S. Supreme Court decision in Roe v. Wade in 1973. However, states have also enacted 22 measures this year designed to expand access to reproductive health services or protect reproductive rights.

Mid year state restrictions


Signs of Progress

The first half of the year ended on a high note, with the U.S. Supreme Court handing down the most significant abortion decision in a generation. The Court’s ruling in Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt struck down abortion restrictions in Texas requiring abortion facilities in the state to convert to the equivalent of ambulatory surgical centers and mandating that abortion providers have admitting privileges at a local hospital; these two restrictions had greatly diminished access to services throughout the state (see Lessons from Texas: Widespread Consequences of Assaults on Abortion Access). Five other states (Michigan, Missouri, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, and Virginia) have similar facility requirements, and the Texas decision makes it less likely that these laws would be able to withstand judicial scrutiny (see Targeted Regulation of Abortion Providers). Nineteen other states have abortion facility requirements that are less onerous than the ones in Texas; the fate of these laws in the wake of the Court’s decision remains unclear. 

Ten states in addition to Texas had adopted hospital admitting privileges requirements. The day after handing down the Texas decision, the Court declined to review lower court decisions that have kept such requirements in Mississippi and Wisconsin from going into effect, and Alabama Gov. Robert Bentley (R) announced that he would not enforce the state’s law. As a result of separate litigation, enforcement of admitting privileges requirements in Kansas, Louisiana, and Oklahoma is currently blocked. That leaves admitting privileges in effect in Missouri, North Dakota, Tennessee and Utah; as with facility requirements, the Texas decision will clearly make it harder for these laws to survive if challenged.

More broadly, the Court’s decision clarified the legal standard for evaluating abortion restrictions. In its 1992 decision in Planned Parenthood of Southeastern Pennsylvania v. Casey, the Court had said that abortion restrictions could not impose an undue burden on a woman seeking to terminate her pregnancy. In Whole Woman’s Health, the Court stressed the importance of using evidence to evaluate the extent to which an abortion restriction imposes a burden on women, and made clear that a restriction’s burdens cannot outweigh its benefits, an analysis that will give the Texas decision a reach well beyond the specific restrictions at issue in the case.

As important as the Whole Woman’s Health decision is and will be going forward, it is far from the only good news so far this year. Legislators in 19 states introduced a bevy of measures aimed at expanding insurance coverage for contraceptive services. In 13 of these states, the proposed measures seek to bolster the existing federal contraceptive coverage requirement by, for example, requiring coverage of all U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved methods and banning the use of techniques such as medical management and prior authorization, through which insurers may limit coverage. But some proposals go further and plow new ground by mandating coverage of sterilization (generally for both men and women), allowing a woman to obtain an extended supply of her contraceptive method (generally up to 12 months), and/or requiring that insurance cover over-the-counter contraceptive methods. By July 1, both Maryland and Vermont had enacted comprehensive measures, and similar legislation was pending before Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner (R). And, in early July, Hawaii Gov. David Ige (D) signed a measure into law allowing women to obtain a year’s supply of their contraceptive method.


But the Assault Continues

Even as these positive developments unfolded, the long-standing assault on sexual and reproductive health and rights continued apace. Much of this attention focused on the release a year ago of a string of deceptively edited videos designed to discredit Planned Parenthood. The campaign these videos spawned initially focused on defunding Planned Parenthood and has grown into an effort to defund family planning providers more broadly, especially those who have any connection to abortion services. Since last July, 24 states have moved to restrict eligibility for funding in several ways:

  • Seventeen states have moved to limit family planning providers’ eligibility for reimbursement under Medicaid, the program that accounts for about three-fourths of all public dollars spent on family planning. In some cases, states have tried to exclude Planned Parenthood entirely from such funding. These attacks have come via both administrative and legislative means. For instance, the Florida legislature included a defunding provision in an omnibus abortion bill passed in March. As the controversy grew, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, the federal agency that administers Medicaid, sent a letter to state officials reiterating that federal law prohibits them from discriminating against family planning providers because they either offer abortion services or are affiliated with an abortion provider (see CMS Provides New Clarity For Family Planning Under Medicaid). Most of these state attempts have been blocked through legal challenges. However, a funding ban went into effect in Mississippi on July 1, and similar measures are awaiting implementation in three other states.
  • Fourteen states have moved to restrict family planning funds controlled by the state, with laws enacted in four states. The law in Kansas limits funding to publicly run programs, while the law in Louisiana bars funding to providers who are associated with abortion services. A law enacted in Wisconsin directs the state to apply for federal Title X funding and specifies that if this funding is obtained, it may not be distributed to family planning providers affiliated with abortion services. (In 2015, New Hampshire moved to deny Title X funds to Planned Parenthood affiliates; the state reversed the decision in 2016.) Finally, the budget adopted in Michigan reenacts a provision that bars the allocation of family planning funds to organizations associated with abortion. Notably, however, Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe (D) vetoed a similar measure.
  • Ten states have attempted to bar family planning providers’ eligibility for related funding, including monies for sexually transmitted infection testing and treatment, prevention of interpersonal violence, and prevention of breast and cervical cancer. In three of these states, the bans are the result of legislative action; in Utah, the ban resulted from action by the governor. Such a ban is in effect in North Carolina; the Louisiana measure is set to go into effect in August. Implementation of bans in Ohio and Utah has been blocked as a result of legal action.


The first half of 2016 was also noteworthy for a raft of attempts to ban some or all abortions. These measures fell into four distinct categories:

  • By the end of June, four states enacted legislation to ban the most common method used to perform abortions during the second trimester. The Mississippi and West Virginia laws are in effect; the other two have been challenged in court. (Similar provisions enacted last year in Kansas and Oklahoma are also blocked pending legal action.)
  • South Carolina and North Dakota both enacted measures banning abortion at or beyond 20 weeks post-fertilization, which is equivalent to 22 weeks after the woman’s last menstrual period. This brings to 16 the number of states with these laws in effect (see State Policies on Later Abortions).
  • Indiana and Louisiana adopted provisions banning abortions under specific circumstances. The Louisiana law banned abortions at or after 20 weeks post-fertilization in cases of diagnosed genetic anomaly; the law is slated to go into effect on August 1. Indiana adopted a groundbreaking measure to ban abortion for purposes of race or sex selection, in cases of a genetic anomaly, or because of the fetus’ “color, national origin, or ancestry”; enforcement of the measure is blocked pending the outcome of a legal challenge.
  • Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin (R) vetoed a sweeping measure that would have banned all abortions except those necessary to protect the woman’s life.


In addition, 14 states (Alaska, Arizona, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Indiana, Iowa, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maryland, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee and Utah) enacted other types of abortion restrictions during the first half of the year, including measures to impose or extend waiting periods, restrict access to medication abortion, and establish regulations on abortion clinics.

Zohra Ansari-Thomas, Olivia Cappello, and Lizamarie Mohammed all contributed to this analysis.