“Old white male lawmakers, and the men who agree with them, do not have a nickle in this dime when it comes to a woman, abortion and her body,” said Anna, who wants to remain anonymous, but wants the point made on this explosive matter. The recent bill passed in Alabama virtually banning all abortions in that state, with the exception of when a woman’s life is in danger, sent shockwaves across the nation with fears that Roe v. Wade could be overturned.
It is a polarizing topic of conversation, and right now elected conservatives are making it a hot button issue.
“This is a state of emergency. Black women and girls are at risk and in danger. Our lives are at stake,” said Marcela Howell, founder and president of In Our Own Voice: National Black Women’s Reproductive Justice Agenda. “The reproductive health crisis for Black women puts us at a three-to-four-fold risk for maternal morbidity and mortality and has led to wildly disproportionate rates of HIV infection.”
According to the Center for Disease Control, Black women have a significantly higher abortion rate than whites and Hispanics. In 2014, 36 percent of all abortions in the U.S. were performed on Black women.
“I’m still heartbroken that my colleagues wanted to move forward with such a heinous bill,” said Democratic State Sen. Bobby Singleton. “Under the statute, rapists get up to 10 years but the bill gives doctors who perform the abortion 25 to life and attempted abortion 10 to 25. The rapist will get less than the doctor.”
Singleton said that the bill clearly violates Roe v. Wade. Before the vote, Singleton said if his daughter was raped and became pregnant, she would have to look at her attacker’s face for the rest of her life. He pointed out that the Republicans’ attempt to overturn Roe v. Wade could be the start to overturning other landmark decisions. With conservative justices making up the majority of the U.S. Supreme Court and President Donald Trump in office, Republicans could go after other landmarks such as Brown v. Board, which desegregated public schools.
“I think you open up Pandora’s box, you never know what’s going to come out,” Singleton said. “We saw the Shelby County case that turned over the Voting Rights Act, and Brown v. Board could be next. So many things are at stake under this administration.”
Known as the “Human Life Protection Act,” Alabama’s House Bill 314 was voted on by state legislature and signed by Gov. Kay Ivey last week. The bill criminalizes abortion and doctors who perform abortions in Alabama could be sent to prison for life. The law does not include abortions performed as a result of rape or incest. The Republican majority State Senate passed the bill 25–6.
Republican legislators have been open about their hopes that challenges of the law go all the way to the Supreme Court that would overturn the 1973 landmark Roe. v. Wade. The decision legalized abortions in America.
Alabama’s abortion law is the strictest in the nation. Other states such as Georgia, Kentucky, Mississippi and Ohio have enacted or proposed bills aimed at putting tight restrictions on abortion.
“These usually old white men declare love for fetuses, but hate children,” one observer quipped sardonically. Meanwhile this week has seen mass mobilizations in many a metropolis by women rallying to chant slogans such as, “My body, my choice.”
In a statement In Our Own Voice: National Black Women’s Reproductive Justice Agenda and partner organizations slammed Alabama state lawmakers who they say passed into law an “unconstitutional and egregious abortion ban, criminalizing both patients and abortion providers, without exceptions for rape or incest. The Alabama law comes on the heels of abortion bans passed or introduced in other states, including Georgia, Ohio, Missouri and Louisiana.”
Howell is standing alongside other activists including Black Women for Wellness Executive Director Janette Robinson-Flint, Black Women’s Health Imperative President and CEO Linda Goler-Blount, SisterLove, Inc. Founder and President Dazon Dixon Diallo, and The Afiya Center CEO and Co-Founder Marsha Jones.
“From Alabama to Georgia to Ohio and everywhere in between, we know that no woman in any state is safe given this oppressive trend. Black women—in every state, every count—are outraged, as with the passage of legislation like Alabama’s all our freedoms are compromised. These unconstitutional laws will be challenged and, ultimately, the U.S. Supreme Court will decide the fate of our reproductive freedom,” the statement continued.
“When states are allowed to ban abortion, many women cannot afford the cost of transportation, childcare and time off from work necessary to find safe abortion care. This directly impacts those who already face barriers to accessing health care including Black women, other women of color, the LGBTQ+ community, young people, those living in rural areas and those with low incomes.”
Howell added, “While all who seek abortion care will suffer should the right-wing majority on the high court overturn Roe v. Wade, Black women will be disproportionately impacted. We know this because of the barriers to abortion services that already exist for us. Black women living in southern states are more vulnerable as voter suppression is higher and health care resources already more limited. Before the recent Alabama law, there were over 400 state abortion restrictions passed throughout the country since 2011 and crafted to shame, pressure and punish those who decide to have an abortion. For many, these barriers effectively ban abortion in totality…We cannot count on the judicial or executive branches of our government to protect our most basic human and civil rights. We must hold our elected leaders accountable.”
There is another angle however. A Daily Mail article pointed out, “White women have lower fertility rates in every U.S. state.”
Activist Omowale Clay, while first stating, “A woman has a right to chose what to do with her own body,” said, “The driving force behind current abortion banning legislation across the U.S. is the declining white population, not the fraudulent pretext of concern for ‘life’ in general. This political movement dovetails with the Trump advocacy of ‘Make [White] America Great Again.’ Between 2004 and 2014 the number of states with negative white population growth grew from four to 17. This growing trend is what leads to the projections that by 2045 American whites will be a minority. This contemporary attempt to disguise white supremacy under concern for life flies in the face of real efforts to preserve life through the concrete actions of single payer healthcare, affordable housing, decent jobs and real wages, etc.”
Several women’s reproductive rights groups have been vocal on the decision. Nonprofit reproductive health care organization Planned Parenthood has been at the forefront of the fight to stop the abortion bill from moving forward.
Laura McQuade, president and CEO of Planned Parenthood of New York City, said in a statement that the abortion ban “strips patients of their fundamental humanity.” She said the organization will continue to provide health services for women in New York. The organization touts that 73 percent of Americans don’t want Roe v. Wade overturned.
“As part of that effort, PPNYC is moving forward to merge with four New York Planned Parenthood affiliates to provide more services, better care and greater opportunities for our patients to make their own decisions about their reproductive health,” she said. “PPGNY and our sister affiliates across the state are human rights sanctuaries for all who need us.”
Presidential front-running candidate Joe Biden thus declared, “Women should control their own bodies—period. An abortion should be a decision between a woman and her doctor—period. That is the law of the land under Roe v. Wade, and it must remain the law of the land…Republican-led state legislatures are following the lead of President Trump and trying to end a woman’s right to choose. On the campaign trail, he declared that women should be punished for having an abortion, and now states are following through. He promised to overturn Roe and has appointed two Supreme Court justices to do it. These extreme laws are designed to invite the Supreme Court to overturn Roe and make abortion illegal.”