Alabama’s abortion ban bill has been sitting heavy in my heart ever since the news broke out. It’s frightening and outraging all at the same time. It’s terrifying to know that in the year 2019, women still have to fight to have control over our own bodies and reproductive rights. It really has felt like we’re in the middle of a war against women — The Handmaid’s Tale only in IRL. On Wednesday, Alabama governor Kay Ivey signed into law a bill that bans abortion with rape or incest not being exceptions. Not only will the procedure be banned but it would also be classified as a felony, meaning doctors who perform the procedure could face up to 99 years in prison. If that’s not a direct attack against women and our bodies, I don’t know what is!
“Today, I signed into law the Alabama Human Life Protection Act, a bill that was approved by overwhelming majorities in both chambers of the Legislature,” Ivey said in a public statement. “To the bill’s many supporters, this legislation stands as a powerful testament to Alabamian’s deeply held belief that every life is precious and that every life is a sacred gift from God.”
This controversial law will essentially reverse Roe v. Wade, which provides a pregnant woman with the right and the liberty to choose whether or not to have an abortion. This will hands down be the strictest anti-abortion ban in the country right now and the scary thing is, it can very much happen in states outside of Alabama. Extreme anti-abortion laws are in no way limited to just Alabama. In the last three months alone we’ve seen states pass six weeks bans and those states include Georgia. Mississippi, and Ohio.
In Georgia, Gov. Brian Kemp signed into law the “heartbeat” bill, that would ban abortion as early as six weeks into pregnancy. This is barely enough time considering a lot of women don’t necessarily know they are even pregnant by six weeks. CNN even did a breakup down of the numerous reasons why at six weeks a woman still may not know she’s pregnant, one of the reasons being because 45-49 percent of pregnancies are unplanned, meaning a woman — even if she is on birth control — may not be tracking her cycles like someone who trying to get pregnant would. This is not to say that all women who have unplanned pregnancies are irresponsible but there is room for error and no form of birth control whether it’s the pill, condoms, IUDs — you name it — is 100 percent. The fact that our government wants to punish women for making errors or for getting raped, shows how much they really value women. Would we be having these kinds of cruel laws if men could get pregnant? We absolutely would not.
The reason why it’s been called the “heartbeat” bill is that it prohibits abortion once a fetal heartbeat can be detected. Because it’s so early on in the pregnancy, many doctors and pro-choice activist argue that this law practically falls into the category of being a near-total ban on the procedure and I strongly agree.
In Ohio, a similar state law was passed that prohibits women from obtaining an abortion after a fetal heartbeat is detected, about five or six weeks into a pregnancy and once again there is absolutely no exception to victims of rape or incest. In Missouri, the state Senate also passed a near-full ban on abortions.
These laws are essentially forced pregnancy laws. The message that is being sent out is we don’t care how you got pregnant, whether it was an innocent slip up, a careless moment, or a rape. If you’re a pregnant woman you should be obligated to carry through with this pregnancy full term because the fetus in your body is more important than you. That is really the messaging that’s being sent and don’t get me started on how the same country that wants us to have all these babies doesn’t help provide insurance for all pregnant women and offers the worst maternity leave benefits in all of the developed world. It also doesn’t prioritize women of color, which is why so many Black moms are dying.
But if you don’t live in any of these states, here’s why you should still care. You should care because the fact that laws like these are being passed in 2019 says a lot about the abortion conversation that’s happening today and the approach that’s being taken towards women’s reproductive rights and health. Even though abortion is still legal as of now, that can change. These kinds of laws can be passed in the state you live in at any moment. This is why we can’t just sit in silence and not do anything about this. Like Ava DuVernay recently tweeted: “Your Silence Will Not Save You.”
There are a few things we can do during this frightening time and one of those things includes speaking up. Don’t stay silent. Sure, you can speak out on your social platforms, but the bigger impact will come in speaking to people face on. Have conversations with people in your family, in your friend group, and outside of your groups and talk to them about the significance and importance of having abortion access. Talk to them about how harmful these laws are towards women and inspire them to get involved in fighting towards women’s reproductive rights. Have conversations with folks who are against abortion rights. Challenge the stigmas that have resulted in them not supporting abortion. Encourage people — both men and women — to become allies and supporters in their communities.
We also need to donate and support organizations like Planned Parenthood, NARAL, the ACLU and other organizations whose funding helps provide support and resources to women seeking abortions in their states. You’d be surprised the impact these organizations actually have in our country. There are states where these organizations are the only options women have to seek safe and legal abortions.
Anyone reading this, I highly encourage you — if you haven’t already — to start doing research on these laws. Start having these conversations and start doing your part to get the word out there that there is a war against women in this country and we have got to fight. You might not feel the impacts of these laws now — depending on where you live right now — but the intention behind these laws is not to just be limited to specific states. The intention is to restrict women’s reproductive rights nationwide. That is clearly the goal with a lot of these conservative politicians and we will not stand for them taking away the rights the women before us have fought and put in their blood, sweat, and tears for us to have today. We will not be silent. Not now, not ever.