By Bettina Ramon, Communications Manager, People For the American Way
On May 15, the Alabama Senate passed the country’s most restrictive abortion ban to date. The state’s new bill, which Republican governor Kay Ivey signed into law later that day, effectively bans all abortions at any stage of pregnancy and criminalizes abortion providers for doing their jobs. It includes no provisions for rape or incest or for children or people with developmental or intellectual disabilities.
The move comes on the heels of weeks of public outcry as a spate of ultra-restrictive abortion legislation has been enacted or is pending in the South and Midwest.
On May 7, Georgia governor Brian Kemp signed into law a bill banning abortion after six weeks. In April, Ohio governor Mike DeWine introduced yet another extreme abortion bill in addition to the newly-passed early abortion ban that “literally defies science.”
Nearly 30 bans on abortion have been introduced, passed, or signed into law in 2019 alone. And in 10 other states, early abortion bans have been introduced or are moving through the legislature. That’s before many people know they’re pregnant — and before an embryo is developed to be considered a fetus.
Not surprisingly, sponsors of this legislation are spewing the same so-called “pro-life” rhetoric they’ve long relied on to justify their attacks on reproductive freedom. As Governor Kemp said as he signed that state’s bill into law, “Georgia is a state that values life.” Governor DeWine similarly claimed that the new law will “protect those who cannot protect themselves.”
These restrictions aren’t about respecting life — they’re about robbing people of their autonomy and power over their own bodies. In Texas, a bill was proposed in April that would criminalize abortion, under any circumstances, as an act that could be punishable by death. And in Mississippi, where Governor Phil Bryant claims that he wants “Mississippi to be the safest place for an unborn child,” more infants die than in any other state, and the state ranks 50th in women’s, children’s and infant’s health.
Let’s be clear: extreme anti-choice activists consider women and children’s lives secondary to an unborn fetus to the point where they are literally forcing people to carry their pregnancies to birth without consent. That includes children who become pregnant after their rapes, like the 11 year-old girl in Ohio who was impregnated by her rapist.
In the Trump era, these draconian laws have snowballed largely because the Trump-Pence administration has enabled and supported radical activists’ ascent to power in our federal agencies and our courts. They’ve made no bones about their endgame to overturn Roe v. Wade and criminalize abortion. And now that they’re being folded into our political institutions with increasing regularity — and Trump has stacked the now-ultra conservative Supreme Court — they’re relentlessly trying to do just that.
Early abortion legislation flies in the face of Roe — that’s the point. For years, anti-choice activists have worked in a concerted effort to accomplish, as Senior Counsel for far-right group Alliance Defending Freedom Denise Burke put it, “a strategic plan that is a comprehensive, start-to-finish, from when we’re considering legislation all the way up to the Supreme Court, to challenge Roe.”
If there is a silver lining to this extremism, it’s that a number of states are pursuing legislation that would protect reproductive freedom if Roe is overturned. More Americans than ever believe abortion should be safe and legal, and it’s critical that we all organize and keep fighting to protect reproductive freedom.
From near-total abortion bans to threatening death for people who have abortions, the level of extremism in the Trump era to restrict our bodily autonomy is unprecedented. And with so much at stake, we need to fight tooth and nail to make sure that anti-choice legislators never have the power to hijack our rights, our bodies and our lives.