Alabama Governor Kay Ivey signed the nation’s most restrictive abortion ban into law on Wednesday, effectively banning the procedure except in cases where a pregnant person’s life is at serious risk. The law does not make exceptions in cases of rape or incest and doctors could face 99 years in prison for performing abortions. We speak with Dr. Yashica Robinson, the medical director of the Alabama Women’s Center for Reproductive Alternatives, one of only three clinics left in the state that offer patients abortion services. She is one of only two abortion providers living and working in Alabama. Under the new Alabama law, she could spend the rest of her life in prison for doing her job.
Dear MoveOn member,
I’m Helmi Henkin, an organizer with the Yellowhammer Fund in Alabama, which helps people access safe abortions. I started a petition after our state passed an abortion ban which gives the government control over pregnant people’s bodies—even in cases of rape or incest.
As similar extreme bills continue making their way through state legislatures, it’s vital that we send a clear message to Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. and the other members of the Supreme Court of the United States that we will not tolerate these attacks on our protected human rights.
Alabama’s extreme bill gives the state control over pregnant people’s bodies and increases the already tremendous barriers that people seeking abortion care in Alabama face in accessing their procedures. Access was already a problem in Alabama, which is why the Yellowhammer Fund exists.
The government’s control and politicization of our bodies is unacceptable. Families in Alabama, Georgia, Ohio, and communities across the nation are under attack as part of a publicly stated, coordinated effort to have the Supreme Court overturn its own legal precedent set by Roe v. Wade.1
This is truly concerning, because some members of the Supreme Court are already signaling a willingness to overturn legal precedent on other cases.2
Sign the petition telling Chief Justice John G. Roberts and the Supreme Court justices to end these extreme policies which deny families the right to determine whether, when, and how to create a family.
People espousing “pro-life” politics frequently talk about how much they love pregnant people and babies. However, their political agenda does not extend to ensuring that pregnancy and birth are safe for pregnant people or that parents, children, and families can access the health care they need to live healthy lives. In Alabama, for example, this means that a large number of pregnant people are going without the prenatal, birth, and postnatal care needed to ensure healthy pregnancies and birth outcomes. Maternal and infant mortality rates are high.3
We will work with trusted partner organizations such as MoveOn to ensure the support of this petition is used to further pressure key decision-makers, keep the story in the media, and give everyone opportunities to stay engaged! MoveOn members have already raised more than $30,000 for our work in Alabama, and we’re seeing generosity across the country—but we also need to make sure the Supreme Court respects the fundamental right to access an abortion, so we need to act now.
Thank you for your support during such an important moment for this movement.
–Helmi Henkin, The Yellowhammer Fund
1. “Alabama Governor Signs Abortion Ban Into Law,” NPR, May 14, 2019
2. “Supreme Court’s Breyer, mentioning abortion case, warns about overturning precedent,” NBC News, May 13, 2019
3. “States with the worst anti-abortion laws also have the worst infant mortality rates,” Los Angeles Times, May 15, 2019
The Alabama state legislature
Alabama lawmakers are expected to vote on a bill to outlaw abortion outright in the state, which would become the strictest such law in the US if passed.
The state Senate began debating the measure on Tuesday, and must decide whether to allow exemptions for cases of rape or incest.
The bill was passed 74-3 this month in the state House of Representatives.
Activists hope it will challenge a landmark Supreme Court ruling that legalised abortion in the US.
A final vote could come on Tuesday evening.
Republican Governor Kay Ivey has not said whether she would sign it, but she is seen as a strong opponent of abortion.
Democrats plan to mount a filibuster to block the bill, but have only eight seats in the 35-member chamber.
Republican lawmaker Terri Collins, sponsor of the legislation, said: “Our bill says that baby in the womb is a person.”
Democratic state Senator Bobby Singleton said the bill “criminalises doctors” and is an attempt by men “to tell women what to do with their bodies”.
As the Senate debated whether to an exception for rape and incest, Democrat Rodger Smitherman said: “We’re telling a 12 year old girl who, through incest and rape is pregnant and we are telling her that she doesn’t have a choice.”
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- The women looking outside the law for abortions
What does the bill do?
It goes further than legislation passed recently elsewhere in the US to ban abortion after a foetal heartbeat can be detected, usually around six weeks into a pregnancy.
Under the Alabama measure, provision of abortion at any stage in pregnancy would be a class A felony.
Doctors could face 10 years in prison for attempting to terminate a pregnancy and 99 years for actually carrying out the procedure.
A woman who receives an abortion would not be held criminally liable.
The bill would allow abortion in cases where the mother’s life is at serious risk.
Its text says more foetuses have been aborted than people killed in “Stalin’s gulags, Cambodian killing fields”.
An anti-abortion activist in Philadelphia
Supporters of the legislation have welcomed an inevitable challenge in federal court if the measure becomes law.
The bill’s architects expect it will be defeated in the lower courts, but hope it will end up before the Supreme Court.
Their aim ultimately is to overturn Roe v Wade, the 1973 ruling that recognised a woman’s constitutional right to end a pregnancy.
Emboldened by the addition of two Trump-nominated conservative justices, anti-abortion activists are eager to take one of the most divisive issues in America back to the highest court in the land.
Eric Johnston, founded the Alabama Pro-Life Coalition that helped draft the bill, told NPR: “The dynamic has changed.
“The judges have changed, a lot of changes over that time, and so I think we’re at the point where we need to take a bigger and a bolder step.”
What’s the national picture?
If signed, the Alabama measure would become one of more than 300 laws challenging abortion access in the US.
Its passage comes amid a wave of anti-abortion measures in Republican-controlled state capitols around the nation.
Legislation to restrict abortion has been introduced in 16 of America’s 50 states this year alone, according to the Guttmacher Institute, which advocates for more abortion access.
The flurry of measures has led these activists to warn that a swathe of US territory could become an “abortion desert.”
At the other end of the political spectrum, a Democratic-sponsored bill in Virginia that would have allowed third-trimester abortions up until the point of childbirth failed to make it out of committee.
The editor and publisher of a local paper in Alabama is under fire for penning an editorial calling for mass lynchings by the Ku Klux Klan (KKK).
The opinion piece ran in his print-only newspaper, the Democrat-Reporter, last Thursday, Goodloe Sutton confirmed on Tuesday.
He said Democrats were going to raise taxes and that the KKK should hang them and raid Washington DC.
Alabama lawmakers have called for Sutton to resign.
The KKK is one of the oldest white supremacy groups in the US, formed just after the civil war. The group was behind many of the lynchings, rapes and violent attacks on African Americans in the 1900s.
The editorial began garnering attention online after students from Auburn University in Auburn, Alabama, tweeted photographs of the article.
Sutton could not be immediately reached for comment on the matter.
He was once a celebrated journalist, commended for his ethics by other news outlets – including the New York Times and American Journalism Review.
What did the editorial say?
A short editorial piece published without a byline on 14 February was entitled: “Klan needs to ride again.”
“Time for the Ku Klux Klan to night ride again,” the article said, referencing the KKK’s terrorising raids through black communities.
“Democrats in the Republican Party and Democrats are plotting to raise taxes in Alabama… This socialist-communist ideology sounds good to the ignorant, the uneducated, and the simple-minded people.”
“Seems like the Klan would be welcome to raid the gated communities up there.”
“If we could get the Klan to go up there and clean out DC we’d all been better off,” he said. “We’ll get the hemp ropes out, loop them over a tall limb and hang all of them.”
“It’s not calling for the lynchings of Americans. These are socialist-communists we’re talking about.”
Sutton also told the paper he did not believe the Klan was a violent organisation.
“They didn’t kill but a few people. The Klan wasn’t violent until they needed to be.”
According to the Southern Poverty Law Center, there are currently around 5,000 to 8,000 KKK members across the US; during the Klan’s heyday in the 1900s, there were as many as four million members.
More voices on US race issues:
- Why US right-wing groups are on the rise
- Behind the legacy of America’s blackface
- Viewpoint: Why racism in US is worse than in Europe
What’s the reaction?
Alabama Senator Doug Jones, the Democrat who won a bitter race against Republican Roy Moore, expressed his shock over the “absolutely disgusting” editorial and said Sutton must resign immediately.
Democratic Representative Terri Sewell, who is black, said Sutton’s language was not a joke, but a threat.