Whilst we cannot count Alabama as one of the most progressive states, their latest anti-abortion bill has set human rights back 200 years. On Tuesday, the Alabama Senate passed and on Wednesday Gov. Kay Ivey signed into law the most restrictive abortion bill in the country, a near-total ban on all abortions.
The new law would become enforceable in six months and would carry stiff penalties for those caught violating it. For example, doctors could face up to 99 years in prison for performing an abortion in the state.
The new law is in direct violation o f Roe vs Wade (1973), a landmark decision of the U.S. Supreme Court in which the Court ruled that “the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution provides a fundamental “right to privacy” that protects a pregnant woman’s liberty to choose whether or not to have an abortion.” This new law could apply more pressure to the Supreme Court to overturn Roe vs. Wade altogether.
Speaking in the wake of the vote, one of its main sponsors, state Rep. Terry Collins, said: “This bill is about challenging Roe v. Wade and protecting the lives of the unborn, because an unborn baby is a person who deserves love and protection.”
In what is looking like a conspiracy to eradicate abortion, nation-wide, other states have passed similar laws which, without banning abortion outright, make it near impossible for a woman to act once realising she’s pregnant. Last month, Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine signed a so-called “fetal heartbeat” law, which bans abortions after a fetal heartbeat is detected, which can come as early as the 6-week mark , a time when a majority of women do not even realise that they are pregnant. Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp signed a similar measure earlier this month.
The bill caused outrage among people with many prominent figures coming forward o condemn it.
Out of the outrage came a hashtag #YouKnowMe which women used to share their personal stories and why they were grateful to have had the option to choose whether motherhood was something that they wanted. Started by actress Busy Phillips, who also shared her story, people were inspired to share how they had been personally affected or seen loved ones affected by either unwanted pregnancies or suffered as a result of unsafe abortions.
In a kickback against the controversial law, Planned Parenthood has promised to challenge the Alabama ban in court and to continue to spread the word of legal abortion in all states by demonstrating to women how they can still go about exercising their right to an abortion and offering safe solutions.
What is most shocking about this ban is that it does not take into account the many reasons women fall pregnant and give them the option to choose how they want to deal with it. Survivors of rape will be forced to carry their attacker’s baby to term, young girls molested by family members will have to give birth to children borne out of incest. For the thousands of women who are affected by failed contraception, despite taking the necessary precautions, they will be forced to welcome children that they are not prepare for or, simply do not want.
Where as the pro- life argument supports the lives of children, it doesn’t take into account the lives of the women who will be forced to go through the trauma of childbirth and bring these babies into the world. It’s not simply pro-life, it’s anti-women.
The fact that the wombs of hundreds of thousands of women are being watched by a handful of white, middle-aged men with little understanding of the physical, emotional and mental nuance of pregnancy, in 2019, is horrific. The fact that women have to, over 40 years later, take to the streets to campaign for rights over their own bodies is extremely worrisome and indicative of the rot that continues to spread through Trump’s America.
As the world turns its eyes to America to see how this unfolds, I want to remind us that right here in Nigeria, we are facing a similar battle. Our laws, which put a total ban on abortion, force women, both young and old, to engage in backstreet abortions which have a high rate of fatalities and subsequent health implications.
This fight is not just for America, it’s for women the world over who deserve autonomy and the right to safe and legal terminations. Banning abortions will not reduce the amount of unwanted pregnancies, it will simply push women to seek solutions in the shadows and risk their own lives.
Abortion rights are women’s rights, plain and simple.