Alabama Passes Near Total Ban on Abortion as Part of “Stealth Campaign” to Overturn Roe v. Wade
STORYMAY 15, 2019Watch iconWatch Full Show
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Jessica Mason Pieklo
vice president of law & the courts at Rewire.News and co-host of Rewire.News’ podcast Boom! Lawyered. She is co-author of Crow After Roe: How 'Separate But Equal' Has Become the New Standard in Women’s Health and How We Can Change That and the forthcoming book The End of Roe v. Wade: Inside the Right’s Plan to Destroy Legal Abortion.
executive director of Sister Song.
Monica Simpson on Twitter
Jessica Mason Pieklo on Twitter
Image Credit: Twitter: @YellowFund
Alabama lawmakers voted to effectively ban abortion Tuesday, passing the most restrictive anti-choice law in the country in a direct challenge to Roe v. Wade. The bill approved by the Senate Tuesday and the Alabama House last month bans abortions at all phases. Doctors could face up to 99 years in prison for performing abortions. The bill’s only exception is grave risk to the mother’s life — not cases of rape and incest. The legislation is now heading to the desk of anti-choice Republican Governor Kay Ivey, and many expect she’ll sign it. Opponents say they’ll challenge the bill in court should it become law, but this is precisely the point. Architects behind the legislation want to use it to challenge Roe v. Wade, which recognizes the constitutional right to an abortion. We speak with Jessica Mason Pieklo of Rewire.News and Monica Simpson of Sister Song.
This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.
AMY GOODMAN: This is Democracy Now!, “Democracynow.org”:https://www.democracynow.org
, The War and Peace Report. I’m Amy Goodman.
JUAN GONZÁLEZ: And I’m Juan González. Welcome to all of our listeners and viewers across the country and around the world. Alabama lawmakers voted to effectively ban abortion Tuesday, passing the most restrictive anti-choice law in the country in a direct challenge to Roe v. Wade. The bill approved by the Senate Tuesday and the Alabama House last month bans abortions at all phases. Doctors could face up to 99 years in prison for performing abortions. The bill includes no exceptions for survivors of rape and incest. Its only exception is grave risk to the mother’s life. The legislation is now heading to the desk of anti-choice Republican Governor Kay Ivey, and many expect she’ll sign it. Opponents say they’ll challenge the bill in court should it become law, but that’s precisely the point. Architects behind the legislation want to use it to challenge Roe v. Wade, which recognizes the constitutional right to an abortion.
AMY GOODMAN: Just one day before Alabama passed the legislation, Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer issued what many considered a dire warning from the bench, implying that Roe V Wade is in danger. He wrote the comments in a dissent for an unrelated case in which the court voted to overturn a 40 year-old precedent. Breyer wrote, “Today’s decision can only cause one to wonder which cases the Court will overrule next.”
JUAN GONZÁLEZ: This attack on reproductive rights is playing out in state legislatures across the country. Also on Tuesday, the Republican-led Michigan Senate passed bills to ban the most common method of second-trimester abortion and criminalize abortion providers. Democratic Governor Gretchen Whitmer is expected to veto the legislation. Last week, Georgia Republican governor Brian Kemp signed one of the most restrictive abortion laws in the U.S., banning abortion when a fetal heartbeat can be detected, which often occurs at around six weeks into pregnancy, before many women even realize they are pregnant. The new law is set to take effect on January 1, 2020.
AMY GOODMAN: Ohio Governor Mike DeWine also signed into law a six-week abortion ban last month. The legislation does not include exceptions for cases of rape or incest. Well, for more, we’re joined by Monica Simpson, executive director of Sister Song, Women of Color Reproductive Justice Collective. She’s in Denver today, but she’s based in Atlanta, Georgia.
And we are joined by Jessica Mason Pieklo, legal analyst and vice president of law and the courts at Rewire.News. She is the co-author of Crow After Roe: How “Separate But Equal” Has Become the New Standard in Women’s Health and How We Can Change That. Her forthcoming book, written with Robin Marty, is The End of Roe v. Wade: Inside the Right’s Plan to Destroy Legal Abortion. We welcome you both to Democracy Now! Jessica, let’s begin with you. Explain what just happened in Alabama.
JESSICA MASON PIEKLO: What just happened in Alabama is that lawmakers launched a full frontal attack on legal abortion in the state and across the country with a law designed specifically to challenge Roe v. Wade in the long term and in the short term sow chaos in the state of Alabama for folks who need access to abortion.
JUAN GONZÁLEZ: And could you talk about Justice Breyer’s warning, how that specifically might relate to Roe v. Wade in terms of his dissent in an unrelated case?
JESSICA MASON PIEKLO: Absolutely. On Monday, the Supreme Court issued a five-to-four decision in effectively a tax case, and Justice Thomas took the lead in that decision and upended 40 years of precedent. And that on the face has absolutely nothing to do with abortion rights, but as Justice Breyer noted, the path that the court took in getting to the outcome has absolutely everything to do with abortion rights when we look at the conservative wing of the court looking to enact an agenda that lawmakers at the states have volleyed up for them in these anti-choice bills. And so what justice Breyer did was go through the concept of stare decisis and precedent that the majority in this decision had overturned and suggested how that they could do the same thing when it came to other areas like abortion rights and contraception, for example.
AMY GOODMAN: This is Alabama State Senator Linda Coleman-Madison speaking at the debate yesterday before Alabama voted an almost total abortion ban.
STATE SEN. LINDA COLEMAN-MADISON: This bill to me appears to be about control. When the dust settles and if this bill passes on a roll call vote, you will be telling your wives, your daughters, your granddaughters and those who support this bill that you don’t value the worth of women. Regardless of how educated, how sound of mind, how competent, how knowledgeable, no matter how many degrees they have or how many of these same women you have paid your hard-earned money to educate, that their voice does not matter. We don’t trust you to make a decision that is the most personal and precious decision about your own body. And that includes your offsprings. Your grandchildren.
AMY GOODMAN: So that’s Alabama State Senator Linda Coleman-Madison speaking just before the Alabama State Senate followed the example of the Alabama House of Representatives and voted for the almost complete abortion ban. Jessica Mason Pieklo, go further in explaining exactly what it means. You know, putting doctors in prison for life if they perform the procedure. An 11-year-old kid who is raped by her father forced to bear her father’s child. Talk about why the no exceptions, what the legislature—what Alabama is hoping to do at the Supreme Court.
JESSICA MASON PIEKLO: Well, they are hoping quite clearly to upend legal abortion in any way that they can with this bill. And so by not having any exceptions, for example, they are taking a direct attack on the line of precedent in Roe that says states can enact certain measures before viability, for example, but there need to be exceptions maintained for the health of the pregnant person and their life, for example.
What is really happening here, though, that I think is most important to dive into, is that lawmakers have said very specifically that they know this bill is unconstitutional, that their design by passing this is to force a court challenge. And Republicans have spent the last two years packing the federal courts with ideologues who have promised, if given the opportunity, to upend Roe v. Wade. So this is a political campaign that is being waged in the courts right now because conservatives and Republicans really feel that they have the advantage here.
And we’re seeing in places where pregnant people are already criminalized for certain pregnancy outcomes. The impact of upending legal abortion is starting and has started in places, but what this does is put that on hyperspeed, and says very clearly that lawmakers don’t care what the law is. They don’t care that this is an unconstitutional ban; that’s the point of it. And so the question is whether or not the federal courts are going to do their job and not be ideological in this and apply the law. And should they do that, then this ban is dead in the water.
JUAN GONZÁLEZ: Monica Simpson, you’re usually based in Georgia. Could you talk about what has been happening in your state and this whole issue of this political offensive by the anti-choice forces? Clearly, there is an attempt not only to overturn Roe V Wade, but also to mobilize the anti-choice movement as we head into the presidential elections next year.
MONICA SIMPSON: Absolutely. Thank you so much for having me this morning. I will say that today those of us who have been doing this work in Georgia and have just faced the same battles that our folks in Alabama are facing as of yesterday, we are standing in solidarity with Alabama and all the other states and folks who are dealing with these issues all across the country.
And what we see and what we have been able to really come to grips with in this country is that this has been a steady and a very stealth approach that our opposition has taken against us at the state level. And what we are seeing here in Georgia, what we’re seeing now in Alabama, is that they are making a very clear message—that they do not care about us, they do not care about our ability to make our own decisions about our bodies, about our families, about how we want to create family.
And what we’re trying to do now, what we’re working to do collectively is to build our voices, to build our people power against that. But we have been seeing since 2011 over 400 different measures come through state houses that have been medically unnecessary, and they have been using their political agenda to really move this very clear message and to get us to the point that we are now. And so yes, we are at a point where we have to be ready to mount up all of our defenses against this, and that is exactly what we’re doing in Georgia, and that’s exactly what we’re going to be doing across this country.
AMY GOODMAN: This is Georgia’s Republican Governor Brian Kemp speaking last week after signing into law Georgia’s six-week abortion ban.
GOVERNOR BRIAN KEMP: The LIFE Act is very simple but also very powerful. A declaration that all life has value, that all life matters and that all life is worthy of protection. I understand, like the others have said, that some oppose this legislation. I realize that some may challenge it in the court of law. But our job is to do what is right, not what is easy. We are called to be strong and courageous. And we will not back down. We will always continue to fight for life.
End Part 1. Part 2 follows