The state of Alabama last week criminalized abortions in "pert-near" all circumstances. As the bill proceeded through the Legislature, several amendments were proposed to ease the impact of the bill - medicare for pregnant women, among others. But those amendments failed.
It is interesting to note that just 31 percent of Alabamans agree. Across America, abortion views (46 percent against) more closely match the populace in Turkey (47 percent) and India (48 percent), than Britain (17 percent) or Sweden and Denmark (10 percent).
I wondered if Alabama had a strict sense of the biblical commandment, "Thou shall not kill." Um, apparently not. Alabama's death penalty has been applied to murderers, rapists, burglars and robbers, and 191 Alabama inmates await execution on death row. Once, in 40 years, a death row inmate's sentence has been commuted. She was a lucky woman. In Oklahoma, in the past 40 years, 112 people have been executed, all by lethal injection.
Since 1973, the U.S. Supreme Court enunciated in Roe v. Wade that women have a fundamental 14th Amendment constitutional right to privacy during pregnancy. As the pregnancy proceeds further along, the state's interest becomes "more compelling." Although the Alabama abortion prohibition gives them a 99-year sentence, physicians are telling the public abortions are still constitutionally protected and still available. The Alabama abortion ban is setting the stage for a reinterpretation of the Constitution at the U.S. Supreme Court. The ban is taking its place in the parade line-up. A procession has begun.
This week, the U.S. Supreme Court will be offered the chance to take up several cases aimed at chipping away when doctors can perform abortions. Should the Court constrict existing 14th Amendment rights to prevent discrimination against disabled fetuses? Can states constrict existing 14th Amendment rights by making patients wait 18 hours after hearing a fetal ultrasound so maybe patients will feel guilty and change their minds? (And is this OK when patients live so far from a clinic that the travel situation would be a hardship?) Can a state outlaw the most simple, effective procedure for a mid- to late-term abortion, making it harder and more expensive to get an abortion? Can a state make the doctor affiliate with a hospital, knowing very few hospitals will cooperate?
The recent policy of an ever-more-conservative U.S. Supreme Court has been to entertain cases that chip away at past landmark decisions, but not to outright tack 180 degrees from big major cases that stand like a tree trunk to a network of other decisions. They know to prune the branches and not saw away the trunk. Big steps would cause a flurry of constitutional challenges that could destabilize the legitimacy of the court and start pushback from federal circuit courts across the land.
Polling on abortion seems to be in flux, but historically, 65 percent of folks don't want to see Roe v. Wade overturned. GOP operatives are positioning abortion/choice as a 2020 flashpoint issue to mobilize its conservative voter base. Donald Trump must be looking at the numbers, because he is posturing for a view to the left of the ultra-stringent Alabama anti-abortion proponents. Democrats are hoping to pick up Colorado and Maine Senate seats on this issue. And by taking a radical stance, conservatives are giving up middle ground in states where doctors and patients are being forced-upon with minority views: Alabama, Georgia, South Carolina, Ohio, Kentucky, Louisiana and Mississippi.
Thousands of choice protesters gathered at Union Station this past weekend after Missouri lawmakers on Friday criminalized abortion after about eight weeks. Oklahoma lawmakers are still sizing up whether to put an abortion trigger bill on the ballot next year.
Kathy Tibbits is a Cherokee citizen, attorney and artist living at Lake Tenkiller.