Alabama just joined the slew of states attempting to ban abortions and passed the most restrictive abortion law in the country. Though unlike Georgia’s recent “fetal heartbeat bill,” this new law does not punish the woman receiving an abortion. However, it punishes the abortion provider by up to 99 years in prison.
Most egregiously, the law does not allow for abortions in the case of rape, incest or a pregnant minor. As long as the pregnant woman can give birth without her or the baby dying, a victim of rape or incest — regardless of age — must carry the baby to term.
Despite insistence they are looking out for the growing fetus, legislators have not provided any support for the fetus beyond mandating its continued existence. A 2014 report found that 49% of women who received abortions were below the poverty line.
Requiring these women to carry their pregnancies to term would not change their circumstances. A woman still would not be able to afford to care for the child, but she would have one anyway. With no guaranteed support in place, abortion bans are severely hypocritical. They protect a ball of cells but do nothing for a baby once it is born.
The only exception to the law is in the case of “serious health risk” to the pregnant woman or baby, but in that case, the risk must be approved by two Alabama-licensed physicians.
This may seem like a good compromise, but it may be challenging to find two doctors who agree on what “serious health risk” means. With a 99-year jail sentence looming over their heads, doctors will not be liberal with such a diagnosis. This law places women’s health in danger.
The U.S. already has the worst maternal mortality rate of any developed country, and what’s more, the medical system routinely misdiagnoses women because doctors simply do not listen to them. Women already have the odds stacked against them in the medical system; an exception for “serious health risk” does little to protect women’s health.
Restrictive abortion laws allow men to pat themselves on the back for saving a fetus the size of a pea but not doing anything to protect the living, breathing pregnant woman standing in front of them. They don’t even help the child after it’s born. These laws take away a woman’s choice not to have a child but do not support her when they force her to give birth.
The U.S. does not provide free contraception, pregnancy tests, prenatal care or prenatal vitamins — all the things needed to either prevent a pregnancy or foster a healthy one.
Ironically, Planned Parenthood, which supporters of these laws fight to defund, does provide these services. The “abortion clinic” — abortions are actually 3% of its services — helps pregnant women more than “pro-lifers” do.
Even if women find all these services for free, the cost of giving birth in a hospital is $10,808 if it is done vaginally and if there are no complications. But again, the U.S. is “the most dangerous place in the developed world to give birth,” so that number is likely to skyrocket.
Restrictive abortion laws set women up to fail. They can either carry the pregnancy to term and hope they have enough financial resources and emotional support to get them through it, or they can find a back-alley abortion.
And if they have a “serious health risk,” they better hope they find a doctor who will actually listen to them. All of this says nothing about the cost and lack of government assistance in raising children — we don't even have required paid parental leave.
Legislators cannot have it both ways. They should not force a woman to go through with a pregnancy and not provide the resources to make it healthy and prosperous. They are placing both the mother and the eventual child in danger.