The Hypocrisy of Alabama’s New Abortion Law

n 2014 Alabama passed legislation,
drafted by Eric Johnston, prohibiting
“Sharia law” (whatever that means),
claiming it “violates women’s rights”.
Subsequently, Eric Johnston drafted
Alabama’s new abortion law, one of
the most restrictive in the world, which
prohibits abortions in all circumstances
except “in order to prevent a serious
health risk to the unborn child’s mother.”
It also seeks to criminalize doctors who
perform abortions with grotesque prison
sentences, up to 99 years. This law, which
has been widely condemned, demonstrates
the hypocrisy and barbarity of the antiabortion movement which claims to be
motivated by humanitarian concerns.

The “humanitarian” concerns of
reactionaries can usually be quickly be
debunked as a farce. While the corporate
press screams about the suffering in
Venezuela (worsened by Western sanctions
supported by the reactionaries under guise
of solidarity with Venezuelans), there is
nearly complete silence about the tragedy
in Yemen, which is the worst humanitarian
crisis in a century, created by the Canada-US-UK backed Saudi bombing campaign.
Over 10 million people are at risk of
starvation, for the profi ts of Western arms
corporations and American hegemony,
while the media screams about the horrors
of “Venezuelan socialism.” There is no
altruism here, merely a thinly veiled
desire for control.

The humanitarian concerns of anti-abortion activists can similarly be rejected.
Fetuses, or “unborn children” are an easy
group to represent, as pastor Dave Barnhart
articulated eloquently. They cannot ask
for anything nor can they contradict any
of your claims. Unlike migrants, the poor,
the incarcerated, or the addicted, they
have no baggage, and once they are born
they can be abandoned. This is the perfect
group to advocate for, for those who want
to maintain a humanitarian veneer while
doing nothing benevolent. The idea that
the protection of non-sentient fetuses is
more signifi cant than the bodily autonomy
of women is simply barbaric. The state
has no right to prohibit one of the most
common and intimate medical procedures
in our society.

As history repeatedly illustrates, those,
like Eric Johnston, who seek to assert
that women or sexual minorities are
under attack from foreign invaders, often
pose a far greater threat to such groups
than the “invaders.” From the lynching
of Black men in the Deep South, often
justified on false accusations of sexual
violence against white women (who did
not attain suffrage until 1920), to Lord
Cromer’s claim that British colonialism
in Egypt would “liberate” women while
he worked against women’s suffrage
in Britain, Western imperialists and
reactionaries have a strong commitment
to what Gayatri Spivak has called “saving
brown women from brown men.” While
imperialists shudder at the barbarity of
Boko Haram and the Taliban denying
education to young girls, they are silent
about the US financing of the Contras,
right wing death squads in Nicaragua who
brutally raped women and worked hard to
destroy the remarkable educational and
feminist achievements of the Sandinista
government. Former Canadian Minister
of Defence Peter Mackay claimed
“ensuring millions of girls are able to
attend school” was the rationale for the
War in Afghanistan. Perhaps someone
should ask Mackay how he feels about
the Canadian alliance with Saudi Arabia,
where women have no rights, or whether
bombing a country into the Stone Age
and murdering civilians is the best way
to ensure women’s education. Domestic
violence in North Africa horrifies
Westerners but Bill Clinton’s bombing of
the Al-Shifa pharmaceutical facility in the
Sudan (on completely false information),
which killed perhaps thousands of women
and inflicted enormous human suffering,
elicits little anger.

One of the most infuriating aspects
of the text of the bill and a talking
point of anti-abortion activists is that
the movement for “the humanity of the
unborn child” is an appeal “to the truth
of universal human equality”, which
was the basis “for the anti-slavery
movement.” This point is barbarous for
many reasons, especially regarding the
history of the trans-Atlantic slave trade.
Originally the slave trade consisted
exclusively of young strong Black men as
they were better workers. Black women
were kidnapped from Africa and brought
to the Americas primarily to serve as
reproducers of slaves. To claim that
abortion activists would work alongside
slavers is so heinous as it ignores the
fact that these abortion laws are part of a
centuries long tradition of denying Black
women reproductive autonomy. Wealthier
women (who are more likely white) will
likely be able to travel elsewhere for
abortion access whereas poorer women
(disproportionately Black) may not have
that option. The maternal mortality rate
in Alabama for Black women is 27.6 per
100000, almost fi ve times higher than
the rate for white women. The infant
mortality rate in Alabama is also one of the
highest in the US and 26% of children in
Alabama live in poverty. Lawmakers who
are dedicated “to the truth of universal
human equality” should seek to rectify the
barbaric poverty and inequality that exists
in their states, a legacy of slavery, rather
than fear monger about foreign demons
and marginalize the most vulnerable
members of their society.

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