Donald V. Watkins
The Alabama Political Life Protection Act
By Donald V. Watkins
©Copyrighted and Published on June 7, 2019
On May 15, 2019, Alabama Governor Kay Ivey signed the most aggressive anti-abortion law in recent American history. The law permits abortions only if the mother’s life is at risk or if the fetus cannot survive. There is no exception in cases of rape or incest.
Under the “The Alabama Human Life Protection Act,” performing an abortion in Alabama would be a felony. The legislation defines a fetus as a legal person “for homicide purposes” and compares abortion to the Holocaust and other genocides. The woman who receives the abortion would not be held “criminally culpable or civilly liable.”
Alabama has a long, ugly, and well-documented history of abusing, neglecting, and taking human life after child birth. Under color of law, its black citizens were lynched, beaten, burned to death, tortured, subjugated, and denied basic human rights. The state’s women were spared lynching, but did not fare much better than blacks. Federal intervention was required throughout the 20th Century and into the 21st Century to protect the basic constitutional rights of blacks, women, children, infants, and the mentally impaired in Alabama.
Within this historical context, the Alabama Human Life Protection Act merely forces a mother to give birth to a child, including a child who is the result of rape and incest. The Act is a political prop that is designed to (a) pander to “pro-life” voters and (b) protect the political life of its legislative supporters and Governor Ivey.
The reality of how the State of Alabama treats its infants, children, and other vulnerable members of society belies any notion that the Act values their lives as human beings.
The Reality of Children's Lives in Alabama
After a child is born, he/she is subject to a myriad of adverse quality of life conditions, regressive governmental policies and laws, and state-sponsored indifference to his/her health, safety, and welfare. The male politicians who voted for the Act are the last people in the world a child in Alabama can count on to protect his/her life. The facts listed below show why.
Let’s start with child birth. According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention and a host of reputable medical journals, Alabama leads the nation in infant mortality, pre-term births, and maternal healthcare. The clinical care for infant care in Alabama ranks 45th in the nation. Alabama ranks 44th in child mortality.
Whether the state’s governor has been a man or woman, not one of them has made infant, child, or maternal healthcare a priority. Furthermore, Alabama has consistently neglected the health, safety, and welfare of its infants and children. The state has always ranked at or near the bottom of these quality of life categories.
If the child lives long enough to attend K-12 school, he/she will be educated in the worst public school system in the nation, according to a May 2019 U.S. News and World Report. Only 62% of those students who graduate from high school go on to a 2-year or 4-year college, according to a 2019 report issued by the Public Affairs Research Council of Alabama.
Nearly 15% of the state’s adult population lacked basic literacy skills in 2018, according to Microsoft News. Only 24.7% held a bachelor’s degree or higher in 2018.
If the child in Alabama falls through the cracks and is incarcerated for any reason, he/she will be housed in the worst prison system in the nation and the fifth worst in the world, according to a 2016 report issued by the Prison Policy Initiative.
Alabama has a 26% black population. Yet, black inmates account for 75% of all inmates housed in the state’s prison system, according to a 2018 report issued by the Sentencing Project.
Black inmates also account for 94 of the 182 persons on death row in 2018. Since 1976, Alabama has executed 21 white death row inmates for killing black victims and 290 black inmates for killing white victims, according to May 31, 2019 figures release by the Death Penalty Information Center.
Controlling Women’s Bodies
The Alabama Human Life Protection Act has nothing to do with protecting human life. It was passed to advance anti-abortion political interests in the fight to overturn the 1973 Supreme Court decision in Roe v. Wade, and nothing more. It represents the latest power-play by white men in Alabama to control women and their bodies.
This is not the first time white men in Alabama passed laws to control women’s bodies. In 1919, Alabama enacted a eugenic sterilization statute that authorized eugenicists in the state to explore their warped ideas about "racial improvement.” This statute resulted in the widespread application of compulsory sterilizations of poor women and women of color by Alabama physicians in both public and private practice.
In 1927, the U.S. Supreme Court declared in Buck v. Bell that compulsory sterilization of women was constitutional. Alabama doctors expanded the practice of sterilizing poor women and women of color to "improve" society by reducing the state's welfare burden. This practice finally stopped when Montgomery Federal Judge Frank M. Johnson, Jr. issued a 1974 ruling in case of Relf v. Weinberger that exposed and halted the sterilization abuse in Alabama. Judge Johnson’s decision led to reforms that protected poor women and women of color across America from this sterilization abuse.
The State of Alabama holds the record in America for violating the basic human and constitutional rights of its black citizens, women, children, infants, and the mentally impaired. The Alabama Human Life Protection Act will likely be struck down by the courts. Even conservative Republicans and religious leaders in national pro-life organizations have renounced the Act as ill-conceived and counter-productive.
The white men who passed the Act do not care about anybody but themselves. When it comes to women’s bodies, white men in Alabama's government forced compulsory sterilizations on women for more than five decades. Today, they are forcing compulsory births in cases of incest and rape.
The Alabama Human Life Protection Act should be renamed, “The Alabama Political life Protection Act,” to reflect its true purpose.
PHOTO: Alabama Governor Kay Ivey signing the "Alabama Human Life Protection Act." The Act is likely to be struck down by federal courts. From 1919 to 1974, the State of Alabama forced compulsory sterilization on poor women and women of color. Today, the state is forcing child birth on female victims of rape and incest who become pregnant from these criminal acts.