Last week, Georgia passed the harshest attack on abortion since Roe v. Wade– the Supreme Court case that granted women the full legal right to choose in 1973. The law, which is set to take effect in 2020, grants full legal personhood to fetuses past 6 weeks and prohibits their termination.
For as long as the debate about abortion has existed in America, there have been regional political pushback that’s manifested in activism as well as legislation. And to state the absolute obvious– this addition to anti-abortion rhetoric crosses a line: A line that for so long prevented challenges to the landmark Roe v Wade case.
But on May 14, Alabama followed Georgia’s lead when their state Senate passed a near-total abortion ban specifically meant to challenge the Supreme Court’s decision– who will likely be more receptive than ever to anti-choice arguments with 5 sitting conservative judges.
The law goes even further than Georgia’s ban, proclaiming it a felony for a doctor to perform an abortion at any stage in a woman’s pregnancy, and would come into effect 6 months after being signed into approval by the state’s governor. The decision, which won 25-6, cites no exceptions in circumstances of rape or incest; only danger to the mother’s health allows for any exemptions.
Disputing the correctness of a woman’s right to choose versus the right to “life” is not an ideological battle that I often think is worth the fight– those that lean towards “life” often seem to see a fundamentally different argument than those that understand the “choice” perspective –because the public debate surrounding abortion revolves overwhelmingly around moral-based reasoning.
Simply put, it’s often futile to pit the 2 sides against the other– when 1 side wants broad recognition of the validity of private, individual decisions, and the other wants to project individual moral (and often religiously-backed) opinions into broad legislation, there’s an inherent disconnect. The 2 sides are debating, essentially, 2 entirely different questions.
It bears mentioning that the 27 Republican Alabama state Senators in support of the law are men (and all 22 that voted against the rape exemption were men as well). Overall, the amount of female legislators in the state sits at just 15.7% in both houses, collectively. This is no coincidence.
And while Georgia and Alabama are certainly not alone in their decision making, (governors in 16 other states have recently signed “heartbeat” bills effectively banning abortion if an embryonic heartbeat can be detected) the 2 states stand alone in the weight of what their decisions truly stand for.
Both Georgia and Alabama have made it abundantly clear that these laws are incredibly conscious decisions– and as such, were consciously crafted so as to serve as some kind of precedent –they’re invitations for other states to follow suit. Their agenda is that of a clear legislative challenge to the rest of the country.
And in our fairly-liberal bubble, this is the looming threat of a real wake-up call. Both states’ bills wield a very real weapon against women’s rights that threaten to stretch past the sphere of red states. What southern state legislatures pass and enforce exists in a microcosm of sorts– it’s a mistake to not pay attention.
Granting fetuses personhood means that in the eyes of the law, they’re granted the legal rights of citizens, erasing legal distinctions between the born and unborn– effectively seeking to legally classify abortion past 6 weeks as murder. It’s also important to note that the incredibly limited timeframe falls within just 2 weeks past the typical female menstrual cycle– before many women often realize that they are pregnant.
Despite any subsequent legal action that will inevitably follow the southern states’ decisions, at the end of the day, abortions aren’t disappearing. People will always find a way. It’s up to the highest court (and the country at large) to determine if it would rather that women go by the way of wire hangers and self-termination. To criminalize choice criminalizes proper healthcare– and there’s no pro-“life” distinction in that.