Cawley: Moving us dangerously backward in time

It was another blow for women on Wednesday.

Alabama’s Republican governor signed into law legislation that would make performing an abortion a felony in nearly all cases, following several states that have approved bans on abortions once a fetal heartbeat is detected, which could be as early as six weeks.

It’s safe to say abortion is a controversial topic.

But I see these state bans, which seem to be a political ploy at overturning Roe v. Wade, the 1973 Supreme Court decision that affirmed safe and legal abortion is a constitutional right until a fetus is developed enough to live outside a woman’s uterus, as moving us backward.

It’s 2019 and politicians, who have no concept of any individual woman’s situation related to why she would deem an abortion necessary, is looking to overturn a court decision from nearly 50 years ago that would take away her rights to make a decision that impacts her life, and not theirs.

In fact, the Washington Post reported that the lawmakers who co-sponsored Alabama’s anti-abortion bill framed it as an opportunity to take down Roe.

“This bill is about challenging Roe v. Wade and protecting the lives of the unborn because an unborn baby is a person who deserves love and protection,” Alabama state Rep. Terri Collins, a co-sponsor, was quoted as saying.

For me, it’s hard to fathom the logic. I can’t speak from personal experience, but I can presume that in many cases, a woman’s decision on whether or not to have an abortion is an agonizing one. It’s not a decision that is made lightly, not something you decide to simply fit into your day.

But what it should be is a private one, an individual or family decision. It’s not something that should be regulated or determined by politicians, such as conservative, out of touch, older men who will never be pregnant themselves. And yes, I’m aware Alabama’s governor, Kay Ivey, is a woman, but at 74 years old, the decision will not have an impact on her life in any way.

There are some extenuating circumstances that come to mind about why someone would seek an abortion. A young girl may have landed herself in a frightening position, unexpectedly pregnant and nowhere near ready to take care of a child. Maybe a woman is in a bad relationship or doesn’t have the financial means to support a child.

For some, those may not seem like good enough reasons to terminate a pregnancy. But what about instances where pre-existing conditions could make carrying a child to term life-threatening for the mother? Shouldn’t a woman have a choice on whether she wants to keep a child knowing the baby could have a severe birth defect, such as one that may be fatal? Or what about the woman who is raped? Should she have to carry her rapist’s child?

What Alabama’s abortion ban does is take away a woman’s right to make a decision about her own life. Women seeking or undergoing abortions wouldn’t be punished by the new legislation, but it would take away access by making it a felony for a provider to perform one at any stage of pregnancy, unless a woman’s health is at serious risk. There are no exceptions for rape or incest.

What struck me about Georgia’s ban is that a woman would only be allowed to undergo an abortion in instances of rape or incest if she had filed a police report. No proof, no procedure. That strikes me as at the very least, being in poor taste.

Proponents may argue that these abortion bans are aimed at protecting life, but what they may do is drive desperation. If a woman is panicked and set on getting an abortion and finds there isn’t a safe, legal option, she may try alternative and dangerous methods.

I get it. Proponents argue they’re protecting the rights of an unborn child. But these are personal decisions. A woman’s rights or health shouldn’t be compromised because politicians are looking for a win.


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