Activists spent Wednesday focused on the draconian Alabama abortion bill that the Alabama Governor just signed into law. The bill prohibits all abortions except when the life of the mother is at stake, and penalizes doctors who perform illegal abortions by sentences of up to 99 years in jail. The law is so outrageous that even anti-abortion televangelist Pat Robertson was unhappy.
“I think Alabama has gone too far,” said Robertson. “It’s an extreme law, and they want to challenge Roe vs. Wade, but my humble view is that this is not the case we want to bring to the Supreme Court because I think this one will lose.”
Prominent Democrats weighed in on cable TV and social media, including Senator Chuck Schumer:
Legal analysts seemed split about the fate of the bill. Some believe that the Supreme Court is now extreme enough that they may just decide to invalidate Roe v Wade altogether, while others note that the Roberts court has been working hard to quietly chip away at Roe–by allowing highly restrictive state laws–without reversing it, and may opt to reject the Alabama law to avoid election-year controversy while continuing to uphold state laws that place intolerable burdens on abortion clinics, place ridiculous time limits on abortion decisions, etc.
Given the political climate, it’s hard to evaluate the likelihood of the possible outcome. However, the era of Trump has taught us to hope for the best but expect the worst–the absolute worst. Just when we think things couldn’t get more regressive and unjust and corrupt under Trump, they devolve in unimaginably bad ways. So as activists we have to be prepared for Roe to be overturned.
It’s surprising and disheartening that we hear so little substance around the abortion debate. Many of the draconian laws are “fetal heartbeat” laws that prohibit abortion once a fetal heartbeat is detected. But why does a fetal heartbeat matter? What does a heartbeat have to do with personhood or legal rights? The fact is, a heartbeat has nothing to do with personhood. Most living creatures have heartbeats, yet we kill tens of billions of them a year for food. A heartbeat doesn’t make us human. We pull the plug on people with perfectly working hearts because their brains have been damaged beyond repair and have ceased to function. A heartbeat is irrelevant to the question of abortion.
The anti-abortion crowd has also done a good job of mainstreaming the phrase “unborn child,” yet this notion is inaccurate and serves as propaganda to stoke an emotional response. We have accurate words like words zygote, embryo, and fetus to describe something that is not yet a child, and thus not yet a person, at least until the point that the fetus becomes viable outside the uterus. The bedrock argument that the anti-abortion crowd relies on is that a fertilized egg instantly attains a magical status that places it in a special “holy” category above all other animals despite the fact that it is not conscious, has never taken a breath, and has never seen the world we live in. In other words, their bedrock argument is a religious theory, not an observable or verifiable fact. So why aren’t more people in the public sphere challenging these tenets of the anti-abortion crowd? Are they afraid to challenge the religious superstition and bias that animates the core anti-abortion mythology? I realize that some Democrats may hold some of these same views, and I’m fine with that as long as they don’t try to foist their beliefs on anyone else in the form of legislation. After all, the progressive movement is not pro-abortion, it’s pro-choice.
We can’t be afraid. And we may need to mobilize as these challenges to Roe make their way through the courts. Keep resisting and keep working to “vote his ass out of office.”