Bian: Alabama’s abortion law a huge step back

Andrea Bian, Opinion Editor

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On May 15, Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey signed the Alabama Human Life Protection Act into law. This followed the state’s senators’ passing House Bill 314, another piece of legislation effectively banning abortion in the state. The bill allows no exceptions for rape and incest and is essentially a near-total ban on abortion in defiance of Roe v. Wade. It is one of the most restrictive and extreme abortions bills since Roe.

As of now, abortion in Alabama — and in all 50 states — is still legal. The bill won’t go into effect for six months, and it faces legal challenges from Alabama Women’s Center and the American Civil Liberties Union of Alabama. Regardless, the bill’s passing is a massive step backward for reproductive rights and the rights of any person in need of a safe abortion.

“This bill is about challenging Roe v. Wade and protecting the lives of the unborn,” said State Rep. Terri Collins (R-Decatur), who sponsored the bill. By passing bills like these, lawmakers across the country can have the power to overturn Roe v. Wade by the possibility of cases like these reaching the highest court in the land.

Legislators who believe in overturning Roe — and limiting access to safe abortions — are a legitimate threat to nationwide abortion access. Lawmakers in Georgia, Ohio and Kentucky have made similar moves or signed similarly restrictive laws to the one in Alabama.

There is no such thing as preventing abortion — only preventing safe abortion. According to the World Health Organization, safe (performed by a medical professional) and legal abortion is one of the ways to prevent unsafe abortion, which increases maternal deaths. The Guttmacher Institute, which studies reproductive health, found that abortion rates are similar in countries with and without restrictive abortion laws. It also found that abortion tends to be safer in legal-abortion countries than in countries with restrictive laws.

There are other ways to lower abortion rates, most notably by preventing unwanted pregnancies. This includes more comprehensive sex education. The current sex education laws in Alabama are not as consistent or regulated across the state — much of the curriculum centers around abstinence, which has been shown by research to not lower teen pregnancy rates. Alabama does not have any laws requiring insurance coverage of contraception, unlike 30 other states.

Removing abortion as an option puts people’s health at risk — because people will ultimately pursue abortion through unsafe options.

While white men are typically the majority in making these abortion decisions that control a population of mostly women, the issue is more complex in demographics. White men make up most of the Alabama Senate and the group that voted in favor of the bill, but Ivey, who ultimately signed this bill into law, is a white woman. The bill itself was sponsored by Collins, a white woman. In addition, anti-abortion laws also do not affect only women’s ability to access abortion — they also affect nonbinary and trans people.

Minimizing the issue to only “women’s rights” excludes many others who are also in need of safe and legal abortion services. While men make up a majority of people putting these laws into practice, putting the blame solely on them also ignores people who are also complicit in limiting the reproductive rights of others.

Alabama’s law has been most newsworthy not only for its potential intention to challenge Roe v. Wade, but for its extreme restrictions that do not make exceptions for rape and incest. But the bottom line is that abortions should not take rape and incest to be valid. More than anything, a person’s right to abortion is a person’s right to control their own body. It’s their right to autonomy and the ability to make decisions.

I don’t normally like to use the words “pro-choice” and “pro-life” when it comes to discussing different views on abortion. In particular, it implies that wanting other people to choose what is best for them automatically means not wanting “life.”

I would ask people on the pro-life side about the toddlers being separated at their mothers and dying in custody at the border. I would ask them what they’re doing about the 443,000 children in foster care on any given day. I would ask them if they’ve spoken out about how children in Flint have not had clean water for over five years.

“Every life is a sacred gift from God,” Ivey tweeted when she signed the Alabama Human Life Protection Act into law.

According to the actions of certain legislators, it isn’t.

Andrea Bian is a Medill first-year. She can be contacted at andreabian2022@u.northwestern.edu. If you would like to respond publicly to this op-ed, send a Letter to the Editor to opinion@dailynorthwestern.com. The views expressed in this piece do not necessarily reflect the views of all staff members of The Daily Northwestern.

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