State Rep. Terry Collins, at a public forum last week, reiterated her intention to revisit her toughest-in-the-nation anti-abortion law should it withstand a court fight and result in the U.S. Supreme Court overturning Roe v. Wade.
The law makes it a crime “for any person to intentionally perform or attempt to perform an abortion” at any stage in pregnancy, except to avert death or “serious health risk.” Performing an abortion is a Class A felony, punishable by up to 99 years in prison. It does not make exceptions for pregnancies that are the result of rape of incest.
“We believe it has a chance to get to the (Supreme Court) because it has the same wording as Roe v. Wade,” Collins said. “I believe that’s why you saw such media coverage about it from opponents and proponents. Everybody thought, ‘This one might really be the one they (Supreme Court justices) hear.’ The rest of the laws don’t address the question, ‘Is that baby in the womb a person?’ ”
Making no exceptions for rape and incest is meant to make the high court deal with the personhood issue head on. But Alabama already has a personhood law on the books, and it’s main effect has been to criminalize pregnancy.
Last year, Alabama voters overwhelmingly approved statewide Amendment 2, which read:
“(a) This state acknowledges, declares, and affirms that it is the public policy of this state to recognize and support the sanctity of unborn life and the rights of unborn children, including the right to life.
“(b) This state further acknowledges, declares, and affirms that it is the public policy of this state to ensure the protection of the rights of the unborn child in all manners and measures lawful and appropriate.”
According to Lynn Paltrow, executive director of National Advocates for Pregnant Women, Alabama currently leads the nation in charging women for crimes related to their pregnancies. As The Associated Press reported, Paltrow pointed out “hundreds have been prosecuted for running afoul of the state’s ‘chemical endangerment of a child’ statute by exposing their embryo or fetus to controlled substances.”
That prosecutorial precedent and Alabama’s personhood amendment came together last week to result in a bizarre indictment that has Alabama once again making news round the globe — and not in a good way.
A Jefferson County grand jury indicted Marshae Jones, 28, for manslaughter after she was shot in the stomach during a December altercation by 23-year-old Ebony Jemison.
“Jemison was initially charged with manslaughter, but the same grand jury declined to indict her after police said an investigation determined Jones started the fight, and Jemison ultimately fired the fatal shot in self-defense,” The AP reported.
“The state of Alabama has proven yet again that the moment a person becomes pregnant their sole responsibility is to produce a live, healthy baby and that it considers any action a pregnant person takes that might impede in that live birth to be a criminal act,” said Amanda Reyes, director of the Yellowhammer Fund, which raises money to help women have access to abortions.
It’s hard to argue with Reyes’ conclusion, and one wonders where it ends.
“Once we start holding women responsible for such unintentional harms, where do we draw the line?” wonders Reason magazine’s Elizabeth Nolan Brown. “Is playing sports OK? Riding a bicycle? Is it OK to meet new people, even though they could turn out to be violent? What about driving on highways? Driving, period? Angering an abusive partner? Walking in a bad neighborhood?”
Collins says she would revisit her anti-abortion law, but there’s no guarantee future legislatures, governors or district attorneys will go along.
And even while Roe remains the law of the land, Alabama is already treating pregnant women as mere handmaidens.