Doctors who conduct abortions in the U.S. have for decades been attacked in their homes, had their clinics firebombed and their families threatened. Almost a dozen doctors and staff have been murdered — one doctor as he was handing out hymn books during a Sunday church service.
Such have been the brutal tactics of America’s ‘right-to-life’ militants — but these zealots’ illegal acts appalled other Christians, even when they also believed that life begins at conception.
Now, however, doctors who perform virtually any abortion face up to 99 years behind bars in one southern state. And their punishment will be completely within the law.
Bianca Cameron-Schwiesow, from left, Kari Crowe and Margeaux Hartline, dressed as handmaids, take part in a protest against HB314, the abortion ban bill, at the Alabama State House in Montgomery, Alabama
Alabama’s state Senate voted 25-6 on Tuesday night to approve a hugely controversial law that will ban all abortions in the state, except for cases where the mother’s life is at serious risk. Even pregnancies that are a consequence of rape or incest must be allowed to run their course under a measure pushed through by the conservative Republicans who control the state’s legislature.
Myriad other southern and Midwestern Bible Belt states are doing the same, emboldened by Donald Trump’s presidency, which has tipped the balance towards the Right in the membership of the U.S. Supreme Court — America’s ultimate arbiter of abortion law.
The abortion bans have sparked protests by women dressed as 17th-century Puritans, an actors’ boycott of anti-abortion states and even a call by female Hollywood stars for women to go on a ‘sex strike’. When the BBC’s Andrew Neil last week suggested to U.S. conservative commentator Ben Shapiro that the abortion ban was taking America ‘back to the Dark Ages’, his interviewee walked out in fury.
Governor Kay Ivey signed into law the Alabama Human Life Protection Act despite protests
Although women who have an abortion won’t face punishment, Alabama has criminalised the procedure as a ‘Class A felony’ for the doctor, following a four-hour debate in the state’s Senate.
The argument that some abortions must be morally justifiable was swept away by senators who have compared abortion to the Holocaust.
‘“Abortion is murder”. Those three simple words sum up my position on an issue that many falsely claim is a complex one,’ said Will Ainsworth, who presides over the Senate.
One of the few women senators — a Democrat — suggested an amendment to also make it a crime for a man to have a vasectomy (it didn’t pass) to emphasise the point that an all-male group of lawmakers had imposed the new rules on women.
However, the split is really about ideology rather than gender. The bill’s sponsor was congresswoman Terri Collins, a mother of three. Passionately anti-abortion, she says her measure recognises that ‘that baby in the womb is a person’. The legislation must be approved by the state’s female governor, Republican Kay Ivey, who is expected to wave it through.
Although women who have an abortion won’t face punishment, Alabama has criminalised the procedure as a ‘Class A felony’ for the doctor, following a four-hour debate in the state’s Senate
Opponents promised to challenge the new law as unconstitutional — but that is precisely what the bill’s sponsors want. Any legal challenge may be referred to the U.S. Supreme Court, which, in the famous Roe v Wade case of 1973 established that a woman has a constitutional right to an abortion.
The ultimate goal of the right-to-lifers isn’t an statewide abortion ban — but a national abortion ban. And they believe a reconsideration of Roe v Wade could go their way.
With America’s highest court now leaning heavily towards conservatives, thanks to President Trump — who has been able to appoint two of its nine judges and may soon also choose a successor to the ageing liberal firebrand Ruth Bader Ginsburg —