Yesterday, Alabama’s female Governor Kay Ivey signed into law the most restrictive and cruel anti-abortion legislation in the United States, legislation that female Representative Terry Collins introduced in the state house to challenge Roe v. Wade. This past week both Georgia and Alabama have passed extreme anti-abortion legislation, revealing the conservative agenda to overturn Roe v. Wade through the passage of unconstitutional abortion bans.
The bill’s sponsor in the House, Rep. Terry Collins stated after the vote that “this bill is about challenging Roe v. Wade and protecting the lives of the unborn, because an unborn baby is a person who deserves love and protection.” She went further to say that her “goal with this bill, and [she] thinks all of [their] goal, is to have Roe v. Wade turned over, and that decision be sent back to the states so that [they] can come up with our laws that address and include amendments and things that address those issues.” This law was not created even under the pretense of “protecting” women’s health; it was created to be a cruel and extreme law that would quickly reach the Supreme Court.
Alabama’s new anti-abortion law would ban abortion after 6 weeks in all cases, with no exception for rape or incest. The law passed Alabama’s Senate yesterday in a 25-6 vote; every senator that voted in favor of this legislation was a white male. Yesterday’s floor debate highlighted how these male senators that voted in favor of banning abortion did not understand human reproduction. Senator Clyde Chambliss, a prominent supporter of the bill, argued on the floor that he was “not trained medically, so [he] doesn’t know all the proper medical terminology and that sort of things but from what [he has] been told, there’s some period of time before you can know that a woman is pregnant… It takes some time for all those chromosomes and all that.” The men deciding what medical procedures women can and cannot have do not even understand basic human reproduction.
This phenomenon is not unique to Alabama. In Ohio, Rep. John Becker revealed his inadequate understanding of women’s bodies and reproduction when he declared in his floor remarks that insurance companies would cover a procedure to “re-implant the fertilized ovum into the pregnant woman’s uterus” when asked a question about how the proposed anti-abortion bill would affect ectopic pregnancies. This is a fictitious procedure that does not exist. Rep. Todd Akin of Missouri argued that a woman couldn’t get pregnant if raped because “the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down.” Texas state representatives Dan Flynn and Vito Barbieri believe that the uterus can only be reached through an abdominal incision or through the digestive tract, not seeming to understand basic reproductive anatomy.
Georgia last week passed an extreme anti-abortion law last week that would criminalize women who seek and/or receive abortion services. Missouri’s Senate voted today for anti-abortion legislation that bans abortion after 8 weeks, even in cases of rape or incest. Ohio, Mississippi, and Kentucky have all passed similar anti-abortion “heart beat” bills this year, although the new Alabama law is the most restrictive law in the nation. The ACLU, Planned Parenthood, and the Center for Reproductive Rights are challenging the Ohio law, a judge has blocked the Kentucky law, advocates are challenging the Mississippi law, the ACLU chapter of Alabama is fighting the Alabama law, and the ACLU of Georgia is fighting the Georgia law.
While it is often highlighted that men are debating, legislating, and policing women’s bodies, autonomy, and privacy, it is important to note that in the most recent, and extreme, anti-abortion bill was written and introduced by a white woman and signed into law by a white woman. There is currently still a large political gap between women of color and white women. More white women voted for Donald Trump, who promised to overturn Roe v. Wade, than Hillary Clinton. In 2018, more white women supported Republican Ron DeSantis for governor than Democrat Andrew Gillum, and supported Republican Risk Scott over Democrat Bill Nelson for Senate despite DeSantis’ and Scott’s conservative views on reproductive rights.
This political gap is significant because overturning Roe v. Wade will affect women of color more than white women. Women of color are more likely than white women to live in states with the most restrictive abortion laws, specifically in southern, conservative states. If Roe v. Wade is overturned, then “trigger laws,” found in many of these conservative states, will go into effect, immediately banning abortion. Women of color face discrimination and racism within the U.S. healthcare system, which causes higher rates of maternal mortality, poorer health outcomes, and larger barriers for women of color, such as transportation, childcare, and work flexibility, that prevent abortion access where abortion is legal. Women of color are also more likely than white women to lack health insurance, making reproductive healthcare and abortion services financially inaccessible as well.
The Supreme Court is currently scheduled to hear a challenge to a Louisiana law that requires doctors that perform abortions to have admitting privileges at a hospital within 30 miles of where abortion services are offered, similar to the laws at the center of the Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt decision in Texas. This law is an undue burden on women’s access to abortion services and reproductive health care.
Media Resources: Slate 5/16/19; Slate 5/15/19; Slate 5/15/19; CNN 5/15/19; Feminist Newswire 5/3/19; Feminist Newswire 5/7/19; Center for American Progress 8/23/18; Washington Post 11/30/18; CNN 11/23/16; Feminist Newswire 6/29/17