Who would have thought last week’s primary runoffs would rank a distant second on a scale of last week’s important political stories?
If you have not heard, the U.S. Supreme Court overturned 1973’s Roe v. Wade decision that legalized elective abortions on demand with a 5-4 decision in the Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization case.
For now, abortion policy is determined by each of the individual states.
The Alabama Legislature decided its fate for this time back in 2019 with the passage of the Human Life Protection Act, which is deemed one of the strictest abortion bans in the country.
The law prohibits abortion with no exceptions, even for rape or incest. The lone exception is when the life of the mother is threatened.
Did lawmakers think it would ever actually be enacted when they voted for passage?
The 1973 Roe ruling was a sitting duck.
Public policy debates come and go. The one that has always lingered has been abortion. Pro-choice advocates said it was settled law repeatedly, yet pro-life activists kept up the fight.
Society never ultimately accepted abortion on demand.
To answer the question once and for all, the country must somehow come together and collectively decide when life begins.
Is it at conception? Second trimester? Birth? Your 30th birthday? Who the hell knows?
(This is a prime example of why platitudes about “coming together as a country” are a farce. There are some things you will never have a broad consensus on.)
In Roe v. Wade, the legal theory was the 14th Amendment provided a “right to privacy,” which protected a woman’s right to choose.
It did not answer a fundamental question: Does a pregnancy constitute human life, and if so, is that life entitled to the same protections as everyone else?
The 2019 Alabama law attempted to force the U.S. Supreme Court to answer that question.
When the legislation was initially being considered, the law’s chief sponsor, State Rep. Terri Collins, R-Decatur, wanted to go for Roe’s jugular.
Five days before Gov. Kay Ivey signed the bill into law, Collins laid out the reasoning for passing a bill without exceptions.
According to Collins, the objective was to go for the jugular and challenge Roe because, with technological advances, one could grant personhood to a baby in the womb.
“The reasoning is the same reasoning, Roe v. Wade was decided that the baby in the womb was not a person,” she said during a speech in Huntsville on May 10, 2019. “So, this bill bases its reasoning that the baby in the womb is a person. And we based it on the fact that in Alabama law, we currently consider the baby in the womb a person. If you were a drunk driver and you killed a pregnant woman, you have a double homicide on your hands. We voted as a state to be a pro-life state.”
Adding exceptions for rape and incest would contradict the argument that the baby in the womb is a person, Collins said. Thus, no exceptions were included in the Human Life Protection Act.
“The biggest thing to attack it with is to say, ‘What, you’re not going to include rape and incest?’” Collins explained. “Well, how do we say, ‘The baby inside is a person unless they’re conceived in rape or incest?’ If that amendment was to get on the bill, then I’ll kill the bill because it won’t go to the Supreme Court. It will contradict itself. And so that’s why we’re trying to keep it clean.”
Later, Collins would say she was open to amending the law to add exceptions if the U.S. Supreme Court took the case and ruled in Alabama’s favor.
Most so-called experts said this was a waste of time and money. The taxpayers of Alabama should not be forced to foot the bill of some test case meant to challenge the law of the land.
The law was, of course, challenged. Shortly after that, U.S. Middle District of Alabama Judge Myron Thompson issued a stay on the law as it made its way through the judicial process.
Many may have assumed the law would never take effect. How many times over the past 50 years have we heard speculation about the high court definitively ruling against “abortion rights?” Nothing has ever happened.
Last Friday, everything changed for Alabama. Judge Thompson dissolved the injunction, and the abortion ban became the law in Alabama.
Indeed, the Alabama Legislature will go back and add exceptions, right? Not likely.
Did the public fully understand what was being debated in 2019? The 2019 law passed under the premise the ends would justify the means. Roe v. Wade was a horrible and weak precedent. It needed to be defeated.
However, the concept of no exception — was that fully vetted?
Let’s say you are the parent of a little girl. God forbid she has a pregnancy resulting from rape.
Are the people in this state entirely on board with Alabama law forcing your daughter to carry her rapist’s child? Maybe those instances are few, but it does not mean they do not happen.
It is hard to know how you would feel or what your thought processes would be until you are in that situation. It is easy to say all the right things now as a pro-life conservative, but things are easier said than done.
That hypothetical situation is enough to make me uneasy.
Granted, one will still be able to travel to another state for abortion if they choose. The United States is not exactly becoming the Republic of Gilead because of this ruling.
Still, it seems as if we did not have an opportunity to have the discussion weighing the morality of the pros and cons of no exceptions to an abortion ban.
Some of us skipped past it because we were in awe of the bluster from the institutional left and the media threatening Alabama with punitive acts that never came to be.
Others, like me, assumed the law was a low-percentage play unlikely to survive the federal courts. If somehow it did, there would be sufficient political will to tweak it where necessary.
That is not going to be the case.
Acts of the Legislature have consequences. Let us hope this goes well.
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