The Feminist Majority Foundation (FMF) has launched a campaign to educate and mobilize students against a thinly-veiled “personhood” amendment to the Alabama state constitution on the ballot this November. Amendment 2 would grant full legal rights to fertilized eggs, embryos, and fetuses, declare that there is no constitutional right to abortion in Alabama, and pave the way to banning abortion and some forms of birth control in the state.
The campaign, “Alabama Students Voting No on Amendment 2,” is working throughout the state to inform students about the potential impact of Amendment 2 and encourage students to get to the polls on Election Day.
“When we talk to young people about what’s at stake with Amendment 2, they are outraged that the government is trying to control what they can and cannot do with their bodies,” said Sherill Dingle, chairperson of Alabama Students Voting No on Amendment 2. “Students deserve to be looking towards the future, not worrying about whether or not they’re going to get dragged back to the 1960s.”
If Roe v. Wade is overturned, a very real threat following the confirmation of Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court, abortion would immediately become illegal in Alabama with no exception for rape or incest, and Amendment 2 would allow the government to outlaw abortion even if the life of the pregnant woman is at risk. Amendment 2 would also make it constitutionally impossible for a woman to receive Medicaid funding for abortion care, as is available in 17 states.
Beyond outlawing abortion, Amendment 2 would give rights to fertilized eggs, embryos, and fetuses, threatening the legality of some forms of birth control, including IUDs and emergency contraception. Procedures that enable pregnancy like in vitro fertilization (IVF) could also be outlawed. IVF requires doctors to have access to many fertilized eggs, some of which will not be implanted. Under Amendment 2, disposing of fertilized eggs and embryos could violate criminal homicide, abuse and assault laws.
Amendment 2 also poses an immediate threat, even without the reversal of Roe. If passed, Amendment 2 would mean that police, prosecutors, judges, doctors, and nurses have a legal obligation to “ensure the protection of the rights of the unborn child,” opening the door for women who experience miscarriage or stillbirth—the result of 15 to 20 percent of pregnancies—to be criminally investigated, prosecuted, and jailed.
According to National Advocates for Pregnant Women, Amendment 2 would allow the state to prosecute pregnant women for assault, criminal endangering the welfare of a child, or child abuse if she engages in actions that are disapproved of by law enforcement. Women could be arrested for smoking cigarettes, drinking alcohol, failing to attend prenatal care appointments, or continuing to work despite a doctor’s recommendation. Pregnant women who are in car accidents or unable to leave abusive partners could also be prosecuted for engaging in risky conduct. Even women who intentionally or unintentionally give birth outside of a hospital could be arrested.
In fact, even without Amendment 2, Alabama has arrested over 500 pregnant women under a law prohibiting the chemical endangerment of a child, which is intended to punish adults who bring children to places like methamphetamine laboratories. Even pregnant women who were taking prescribed medications as directed by doctors have been arrested under this law, and Amendment 2 would only further bolster its authority.
Because Amendment 2 gives fertilized eggs, embryos, and fetuses all the same legal rights as children, a pregnant woman could be prosecuted with kidnapping if she leaves the state of Alabama, whether it be to obtain an abortion in another state or to flee an abusive partner. Men could be permitted to seek court orders to force their partners to remain in the state if such travel is suspected.
Media Resources: Ballotpedia 2018; Slate 7/17/18; National Advocates for Pregnant Women