Arts & Life
Canstar Community News
Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 16/5/2019 (421 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
In the race to roll back women’s rights in the United States, Alabama has taken the lead.
This week, the southern state earned the dubious distinction of having the most restrictive abortion law in the United States: a near-total ban, blocking women from terminating a pregnancy at any point, for any reason, except if the woman’s health is at serious risk.
On Wednesday, Republican Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey signed the bill into law. "This legislation stands as a powerful testament to Alabamians’ deeply held belief that every life is precious and that every life is a sacred gift from God," she said in a statement to the New York Times.
The Alabama law is an extreme measure. There are no exceptions in cases of rape or incest, and the law also criminalizes abortion for doctors, who could face up to 99 years in prison for providing a legal medical procedure — 84 years longer than a maximum sentence for rape.
Alabama may now have the most strict abortion law in the U.S., but it is not an outlier. North Dakota, Georgia, Ohio, Kentucky and Mississippi have also passed aggressive abortion restrictions this year. Eleven more states are considering six-week abortion bans in 2019. A day after Alabama, Missouri passed a bill that would ban abortion after eight weeks. Louisiana is also set to move on legislation.
These so-called fetal-heartbeat bills prohibit abortion as soon as the fetus’s heartbeat can be detected, which is usually around six or seven weeks — roughly when most women find out they are pregnant. That’s by design: making an abortion impossible to get is an effective ban.
Heartbeat bills were once a fringe idea among radical anti-abortion activists, and have almost always been ruled unconstitutional by the courts. Now, some are getting passed.
The current rush to legislate is part of a systematic campaign to overturn Roe v. Wade, the landmark 1973 ruling recognizing a woman’s constitutional right to choose. Reversing the protections enshrined by Roe v. Wade could radically alter the lives of women in the United States.
Politicians who oppose abortion have been trying to erode Roe v. Wade since the day it was handed down, but the Trump administration’s recent push to install conservative judges — most notably, with the appointments to the U.S. Supreme Court of justices Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh — has been an accelerant. And the passage at the state level of extreme legislation that will be challenged all the way to the Supreme Court is the next step on the way to anti-abortion Republicans’ ultimate endgame.
In the view of abortion-rights activists, women’s reproductive rights aren’t just being rolled back; they are under attack.
Outlawing abortion does not result in fewer abortions. It results in botched procedures and women getting sick and dying from infection. It results in deferred dreams and keeps women in poverty.
The politicians whose legislation forces women to give birth are often the same ones who don’t believe in funding comprehensive sex education, or providing accessible contraception, or developing a child-care strategy.
When Ms. Ivey says "every life is precious," it’s clear she doesn’t mean the lives of the living girls and women who will be harmed by this law.
Alabama’s new law, and others like it across the U.S., signal a fundamental realignment of America’s political and judicial underpinnings — one that many Canadians will be watching closely as the political winds on this side of the border also continue to change.
Editorials are the consensus view of the Winnipeg Free Press’ editorial board.
Your support has enabled us to provide free access to stories about COVID-19 because we believe everyone deserves trusted and critical information during the pandemic.
Our readership has contributed additional funding to give Free Press online subscriptions to those that can’t afford one in these extraordinary times — giving new readers the opportunity to see beyond the headlines and connect with other stories about their community.
To those who have made donations, thank you.
To those able to give and share our journalism with others, please Pay it Forward.
The Free Press has shared COVID-19 stories free of charge because we believe everyone deserves access to trusted and critical information during the pandemic.
While we stand by this decision, it has undoubtedly affected our bottom line.
After nearly 150 years of reporting on our city, we don’t want to stop any time soon. With your support, we’ll be able to forge ahead with our journalistic mission.
If you believe in an independent, transparent, and democratic press, please consider subscribing today.
We understand that some readers cannot afford a subscription during these difficult times and invite them to apply for a free digital subscription through our Pay it Forward program.