By Sikivu Hutchinson
Atrocities like the Alabama abortion bill are one of the reasons why I’m an atheist. Barefoot, pregnant, and bombed back to the Stone Age continues to be the clarion call for dominionist lawmakers who are bound and determined to hijack women’s rights.
It was no surprise that twenty-five Republican white men (one of whom is Dr. Larry Stutts, a freshman senator and OB-GYN who was dubbed Alabama’s 2015 “Scumbag of the Year” for seeking to repeal a law named after a patient who died in his care shortly after giving birth) in the Alabama state legislature were the linchpin for passing the most draconian anti-abortion bill in the nation and shepherding it to the desk of Alabama Governor Kay Ivey, who dutifully signed it into law. These are the same kind of men who queue up in front of abortion clinics to hound and demonize pregnant women. They are the same kind who lock and load at the mere mention of “abortionists” and think chastity belts are long overdue for a revival. The same kind who howl, piss, and moan about their immoral “God and Country” and foment Christian fascism based on a deeply misogynist fear of women’s bodies, sexuality, and reproductive autonomy. They are also the same kind of men whose protected white families systematically benefit from Black, Latinx and Indigenous peoples’ poverty, segregation, and criminalization by gutting social welfare funding and anything that supposedly “reeks” of wealth redistribution. As it stands, the Alabama “Heartbeat” bill—which was preceded by similar bills in Georgia, Mississippi and Ohio—has been framed as one of the most potent threats to Roe vs. Wade. But it should be also be viewed as a bellwether of economic injustice. Far too often, the focus on abortion rights, rather than on reproductive justice, does not adequately address how abortion is a powerful force for women’s economic liberation.
As other abortion rights’ advocates have pointed out, these bills are most prevalent in states that have some of the worst health and poverty indices for women of color and children in the nation. Georgia has the second highest black maternal mortality rate in the country (According to the Centers for Disease Control, Black women died at a rate over three times as high as white women during childbirth). Alabama ranks 49th in infant outcomes due to poor scores in infant mortality, low birthweight, neonatal mortality, and preterm birth. Poor and rural women constantly struggle to find adequate maternal care providers in these states, further belying the claim that Heartbeat laws “protect” children. Alabama also has the sixth highest poverty rate in the U.S. with over 17% of Alabamians living below the federal poverty line. 250,000 Alabama children live below the poverty line and the state’s child food insecurity rate is 22.5%, well over the national average of 17.5%. Predominantly African American counties in Alabama have the highest poverty rates in the state. Despite all their claims of Christian charity, poverty, child care and social welfare have never been of concern to the Religious Right theocrats who passed this law on the backs of women of color.
The South and the Midwest’s anti-abortion assault fundamentally undermines women’s right to self-determination by jeopardizing their earning potential, job mobility, and ability to access child care. Nationwide, communities of color disproportionately rely on family planning providers like Planned Parenthood for counseling, screenings, contraception, and abortion care. The closure of family planning clinics across the South and Midwest has forced women to travel hundreds of miles for care; further endangering their lives, families, and incomes. The Alabama bill stipulates that doctors who perform abortions could be charged with up to 99 years in prison, a provision that criminalizes health care practitioners and lays the foundation for a dangerous pre-Roe era underground abortion economy. The bill’s prohibition on abortions for rape and incest victims would also heavily impact Black and Indigenous sexual assault victims (who have some of the highest rates of sexual assault and rape in the U.S.), condemning them to relive the trauma of their assault through forced pregnancy and government invasion—a prospect that hearkens back to the sexual terrorism of slavery and colonial occupation of Native land.
The white fundamentalist Christian stranglehold on Southern and Midwestern legislatures has proven to be a national cancer which further exposes the dangerous lie of a God-based, biblical morality. The Alabama bill is yet another wake-up call for why theocracy, and all its amoral patriarchs, must be aborted.