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Alabama’s abortion law is a progressive leap forward

Ignore the Handmaid’s Tale memes. The new legislation pushes back against sexism and racism

To a Greek chorus of progressives caterwauling ‘Regressive!’ on Wednesday, Republican Alabama Governor Kay Ivey signed into law the country’s strictest abortion ban. Depending on your perspective, its either a national reckoning on the right to life or a call to arms for women’s rights.

Alabama’s Human Life Protection Act criminalizes performing an abortion at any point during pregnancy with a single exception for when an ‘abortion is necessary in order to prevent a serious health risk.’ Doctors who commit the felony of performing an abortion can be punished with a prison sentence of up to 99 years.

If you have been able to hear yourself think over all the shouting down of the legislation this week, you might ponder what we mean by ‘progressive’ these days. The word has taken on an uneven and frequently paradoxical meaning.

A progressive agenda by its very name implies advancing beyond the status quo: in modern terms, beyond white privilege, beyond the oppression of women, beyond the glass ceilings.

Self-styled progressives have all the Handmaids Tale memes and punchy tweets to suggest that the Alabama measure is great step back for womankind. But, in fact, the new law pushes back against racism and sexism by rejecting the defeatist notion that there is only room in modern society for selected unborn lives to be afforded the right to life.

A frequent refrain of abortion advocates is that minorities are disproportionately affected by shrinking access to abortion services.

They are not wrong. Alabama shows that black mothers make up the majority of the abortion industry’s business in the state. Sixty percent of abortions performed in Alabama snuff out the life of a black baby, while only 36 percent are performed on white mothers.

Abortion supporters would exacerbate this situation, making abortion access easier for minority mothers in Alabama, who are likely to be poor. This essentially sends the message that society has nothing to offer her child should she choose bring it into the world, so she might as well abort it.

So, ironically, the 25 white, male state senators who passed Alabama’s bill are the ones working against ushering minority mothers towards abortion providers.

Far from being cruel and oppressive, the bill’s message to mothers is one of freedom, that they need not give up their motherhood because life is difficult. A mother deserves better than having to make the gruesome choice between her child and her dreams.

The truth is that the abortion lobby is the establishment in American politics. It is very loud and powerful.  But, in the last 40 years, huge numbers of Americans (and no, not just the religious right) have recognized that the mass abortion is not necessarily conducive to a happy and stable society.  

Whats curious is that so many of the women who support abortion seem to understand what a horrific act it is. The bills passage prompted a deluge of heartbreaking stories from women who took to social media to share their abortion stories. They hoped that the tears that inevitably come to the eyes of any feeling person who hears about the horrific circumstances surrounding some of those decisions will suffice as arguments for keeping the brutal procedure legal.

One woman said she had an abortion when she was 12. Another was 17. One said she had one when she was alone, abroad, and scared. Nevertheless, abortion is the answer, they all said. Is it? Or can we start to think of better ways of dealing with stubborn issue of unwanted pregnancies?

Progressivism is supposed to be about new ideas and innovative solutions to stubborn problems. Abortion is a supremely unimaginative solution at best and a lie leaving mothers with permanent scars at worst. By legalizing it, we as a society have decided mother and child simply cannot both be accommodated, legally. That does not represent progress.

When Alabama’s governor put pen to paper yesterday, she surely knew her move would be vilified by powerful people and organizations with well-padded pockets.

‘Lawmakers are using women as pawns,’ said Barbara Ann Luttrell, a Planned Parenthood spokeswoman for Alabama, Georgia, and Mississippi, all states that have signed heartbeat bills into law.

However, the law was not crafted to be enforced. Its drafters admit it was intended to reach the conservative majority on the Supreme Court and dredge up Roe v. Wade, the white whale for pro-life advocates. It is a reckoning on a larger scale.

We shall see. In the meantime though, its worth praising Alabama, an often backwards state with few progressive credentials, for taking a great leap forward this week.

Now listen to Mairead McArdles discussion of abortion with Freddy Gray on the Americano podcast.


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