Alabama state representatives signed a bill on May 14th that bans abortion at any stage and criminalizes doctors who perform the procedure. These doctors could go to prison for up to 99 years.The bill represents a large scale change occuring in our nation today. States like Alabama are using their power to attempt to overturn Supreme Court decisions like Roe v. Wade, which guarantees a woman the right to terminate her pregnancy. Thus, the anti-abortion bill is not only a piece of legislation that disrupts the very foundations of our contemporary society, but one that demonstrates a flaw in the democratic process. Through understanding the consequences and causes for this series of actions, we can visualize the immense downside to the bill and its negative effects on the nation.
When I first heard of the new law that incriminates those who perform abortions, I was astonished. I did not expect the Alabama state representatives to act so swiftly.
The 1973 Supreme Court case Roe v. Wade protects a woman’s right to privacy and control over her own body while also allowing government officials to prevent an abortion in later stages of pregnancy. This seems like a fair compromise that balances a woman’s choice over her own body with a doctor’s medical opinion. Not only is Roe v. Wade reasonable, but the Supreme Court has upheld it since it was decided 46 years ago. This is why I found the sudden signing of new legislation to be oddly abrupt. Frankly, this bill is the result of American politicians dissolving a medical topic, abortion, into the realm of politics.
The American democratic process seems so forward in thought, but when looking at how it is executed in states like Alabama, there is a lack in diversity of thought. All state officials that voted in favor of this bill are elderly white males. The democratic process, in theory, should ensure that these representatives are taking into account the opinions of the women in their respective districts. However, no man can speak in favor of a law that restricts a woman’s right to make decisions in respect to her body. Disregarding who voted for the bill, according to an article published by Vox only 16 percent of all citizens in Alabama support a complete legal ban of abortion. The reason that these representatives win their respective elections is because of their party affiliations, stances on other topics, and support of some form of an abortion ban, but not a complete ban. The election of state officials who support a full legal ban on abortion and the lack of support for this full legal ban from the citizens of Alabama highlights a loophole in the democratic process. In addition, many prominent Republicans have publicly opposed the ban, such as President Trump and Senator Mitt Romney. This demonstrates a disparity of political opinions throughout the party system. These politicians can voice their opinions, but the legislation is voted on by the Alabama state representatives.
Next, the legislation that has been proposed and passed in Alabama and multiple other states incriminates a doctor for facilitating the abortion procedure. The doctor will be charged with a class A felony and will spend up to 99 years in prison. In this case, the concept of checks and balances is practically nonexistent. The state officials have power over a woman’s body and a doctor’s practice. The bill does not make any exceptions for victims of rape or incest, and even attempting the abortion is a class C felony. Not only are these sentences ridiculously excessive, but they provide state officials with control over medical decisions by threatening medical practices for facilitating an abortion. Restricting doctors’ opinions infringes on their ability to help the public and serve the community. If the government can practically intimidate doctors into sacrificing their professions, then Americans are placed in harm’s way. Today’s actions will have consequences tomorrow, and my fear is that those consequences will affect a doctor’s ability to do their job.