Alabama Representative Terri Collins, along with 66 cosponsors, has introduced a bill in the Alabama state house which would make abortion a felony in the state of Alabama. As you are well aware, I have been trying to get abortion banned from Alabama ever since I moved back to the state 10 years ago. You would think, then, that I would be ecstatic to see our legislature finally promoting a bill that would accomplish that goal, but this bill is a very dangerous bill. Let me explain why.
Let’s begin by pointing out the good aspects of this bill. Here they are:
1) The legislative findings section of this bill is excellent. It points out that abortion has never been legal in Alabama, that our state Constitution does not include a right to abortion, that the prenatal child is a legal person in Alabama, that 50 million babies have been killed through abortion since Roe v. Wade, and other important findings of fact.
Well, actually, that’s about it. There really isn’t anything else that is good about this bill, so let’s just move on.
There is a lot in this bill that fits into the bad category.
1) According to this bill, neither killing an ectopic child nor euthanizing a child in the womb who is terminally ill is considered to be an abortion. It is not necessary to kill the child in either of these situations. Ectopic pregnancy can be survived by both the mother and the child, and euthanizing terminally ill patients doesn’t become morally acceptable just because the patient happens to be in his mother’s womb.
2) There are two glaring exceptions to the abortion ban created by this bill. The first is the exception for a medical emergency. This particular exception may seem harmless. Most people think that women should be allowed to kill their own children if those children pose a risk to the mother’s health. But this contradicts the bill’s declaration that the prenatal child is a legal person. If the child is a person, then his life cannot be sacrificed just because his continued existence poses a health risk to another person. If a woman were given a choice between killing her own child and losing one of her kidneys, we would all agree that she should choose to lose a kidney. A child’s life is more valuable than his mother’s kidneys.
3) The second grievous exception to this abortion ban is the exception for a serious health risk to the mother. This may seem to be the same as the exception for a medical emergency, and in fact, the bill lists the presence of a serious health risk as one of the potential reasons for declaring that a medical emergency exists. There is, however, a very important distinction that is made in the bill’s definition of a serious health risk. A serious health risk is defined in the bill as including
“a mental illness which will cause [the mother] to engage in conduct that intends to result in her death or the death of her unborn child.”
In other words, this bill would allow any woman to receive an abortion as long as a psychiatrist is willing to document that continuing the pregnancy would cause her to experience depression along with a desire to kill her prenatal child.
4) This bill prohibits the state from punishing any woman who kills her prenatal child regardless of the extent of her culpability. This is an extremely dangerous (and stupid) provision. The prevention of penalties against a mother who kills her prenatal child is a direct denial of that child’s right to the equal protection of the law as required by our Constitution. It’s also one of the primary reasons that Roe v. Wade was decided in favor of abortion in the first place.
The pro-life attorney tried to argue that the prenatal child was a legal person, but the judges concluded that his argument didn’t make any sense because the abortion ban he was defending did not allow the state to punish a woman who killed her own prenatal child in the same way that the state would punish a woman who killed some other person. The Court concluded that if the state does not give the prenatal child the same protection of the law as born children, then the state does not really hold that the prenatal child is a legal person.
1) This bill does not include a very important declaration that has been included in every pro-life bill which has been passed into law in Alabama. That missing declaration is the simple statement that nothing in this bill shall be construed as creating a right to an abortion. The absence of this language opens up the possibility that this supposed ban on abortion could actually be used to claim that women have a legal right to kill their children under certain circumstances.
2) This bill actually does create a legal right to abortion. The section of the bill which lists the exceptions to the ban begins with the words “an abortion shall be permitted if…” This phrasing establishes that women who want to kill their children have a legal right to obtain abortions that fall within the parameters outlined in this section. This is not just a negative statement announcing the limitations of the bill. It is a positive statement of a right that the state intends to defend. This is a huge step in the wrong direction for Alabama.
3) This bill requires confirmation from a second physician for all abortions performed because of a serious health risk to the mother. However, the attending physician does not have to obtain that confirmation before killing the child. Under the requirements of this bill, an abortionist can kill a child whenever he wants, and he then has a whole six months to find another physician who will confirm that the abortion was done to prevent a serious health risk (including psychological risks) to the mother.
4) There are zero reporting requirements in this bill. While the bill does require a second physician to confirm that the child was killed to prevent a serious health risk to the mother, it does not require the child killer to report his actions to the department of health or any other government agency. In fact, this bill doesn’t even require him to keep the written confirmation in his own records. He is required to obtain the confirmation, but without a reporting requirement, it will be almost impossible for the state to obtain probable cause for pressing charges against anyone who kills a child in an abortion.
And there you have it, folks. The ugly truth about Alabama’s abortion ban is now exposed, and I hope that you agree with me that this is not a good way to end abortion in our state. If the Republicans in Montgomery really wanted to ban abortion, they could do so by passing a bill that I’ve presented to them on multiple occasions. All we have to do to ban abortion in our state is repeal the abortion exceptions to our fetal homicide law. This can be done with a bill that is only one sentence long:
“Be it enacted by the legislature of Alabama that paragraphs (d) and (e) of section 13A-6-1 be repealed.”
That’s it. Passing that one sentence into law would ban abortion in Alabama without any of the dangers of the currently proposed ban. If my bill were to be passed, all abortions without exception would be recognized as the homicides that they actually are.
Bill Fortenberry is a Christian philosopher and historian in Birmingham, AL. Bill's work has been cited in several legal journals, and he has appeared as a guest on shows including The Dr. Gina Show, The Michael Hart Show, and Real Science Radio.
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