In watching national coverage of Alabama legislators discussing the recent passage of a nearly complete ban on abortion, I was struck by the comments of Senator Vivian Davis Figures (D). In answering a question about her position on abortion, Sen. Figures responded that she is both pro-choice and pro-life. As confusion registered on the face of the interviewer, I understood exactly what Figures was saying. Abortion is not a personal choice for Figures, but she believes the right of others to make the best decisions for themselves should not be taken away.
Yet, since the legal case, Roe v. Wade, in which the U.S. Supreme Court in 1973, ruled (7–2) that unduly restrictive state regulation of abortion is unconstitutional, there has been work to overturn that decision. The court, at the time, held that a set of Texas statutes criminalizing abortion in most instances violated a woman’s constitutional right of privacy, as provided for in the 14th amendment.
Today, there remains an orchestrated and nationwide effort by Republicans to limit or deprive women of reproductive choice. Within hours of the Alabama voter, Missouri’s Republican-controlled Senate passed a bill to ban abortions at eight weeks of pregnancy. Unlike their southern neighbor, the Missouri bill would allow for an abortion in cases of rape or incest. Varying forms of abortion related legislation is making its way through state houses around the country to include Georgia, Mississippi, Louisiana, Ohio and Wisconsin.
It is well known that Wisconsin Republicans have done little to respect or protect the reproductive rights of the state’s female residents. Once again, a punitive package of bills, like Assembly Bill 179, which would send doctors to prison for life if they fail to provide medical care to babies who survive failed abortions passed the state assembly. Ironically, many of these same legislators voted to limit the liability on medical malpractice and what people can collect for non-economic damages, such as pain and suffering.
Like Donald Trump, one Wisconsin republican even called for penalties for mothers in certain abortion cases. Although Trump called for “some sort of punishment” for women who seek abortion if it were outlawed, the premise is the same. A powerful minority, in and around the nation, feel compelled to impose their will on the lives of others.
We have long struggled in this country to define where one person’s rights begin and another person’s rights ends. Women and girls, who were long treated as chattel and property in this country have been here before. Women have fought for the right to vote, equal opportunities in education, the workplace and pay equality. Women have fought to be heard on issues of human trafficking, rape, domestic violence, and reproductive freedom. We have won many of these battles and made inroads on others, because we and those who support us, have fought.
To be fair, it is appropriate to acknowledge that it was a Republican female legislator and female governor that introduced and signed the abortion bill in Alabama. It is a shame that they didn’t understand Sen. Figure’s position: you could be pro-choice and pro-life.