GOP Father Knows Best

Alabama has one of the most restrictive abortion laws in the United States. All abortions after conception, except those which would save the life of the mother, are illegal, and there are no exceptions for rape or incest.

These restrictions went into effect immediately after the Dobbs decision because the legislature had paased a trigger law in anticipation of Roe v. Wade being overturned. The language in the law went further than just making abortion illegal—it also carried implications that people from other states who helped a woman cross the state border could be charged in a criminal conspiracy.

The Alabama Democratic statehouse leadership sounded the warning last year:

 [Former Alabama Democratic Party chairman Chris England and current House Minority Leader Anthony Daniels] have discussed Alabama’s abortion law – the “Human Life Protection Act,” which is one of the nation’s most restrictive laws with no exceptions for rape or incest – and its numerous unintended consequences. And England brought up the fact that Alabama’s accessory laws could now be applied to anyone who aids a woman seeking an abortion in another state.

“Not only can anyone, even the woman seeking the abortion, be prosecuted, but also anyone can be prosecuted for conspiracy if they help someone either get or even plan to get an abortion in another state,” England wrote on Twitter. He also posted screenshots of the applicable laws. Those laws would also potentially be used to arrest the women who seek out abortions, charging them as part of the conspiracy.

England also noted that it would be “foolish” to expect that Alabama Republicans would not apply the law to its fullest extent in order to score “political points” by prosecuting those who assist women – and prosecute the women themselves – in obtaining out-of-state abortions.

Alabama Attorney General Steve Marshall confirmed that all of that is true:

Asked about the law and the comments from Alabama Democrats suggesting that Marshall’s office would prosecute those who assist women in obtaining abortions, Marshall confirmed that England was correct.

“There’s no doubt this is a criminal law and general principles would apply. Provisions related to accessory liability, provisions related to conspiracy would have applicability involving this particular act passed by the legislature,” Marshall said during the interview. “If someone was promoting themselves out as a funder of abortions out of state, that is potentially criminally actionable for us. If there are groups promoting this as part of their services, we will be taking a look at that.”

In July 2023, 2 Alabama reproductive health centers and the Yellowhammer Fund, an organization that helps women get abortion care, filed lawsuits against Marshall.  The Yellowhammer Fund summed up its brief in a press release:

The Attorney General’s threats violate Yellowhammer Fund’s constitutional rights to free expression, association, travel, and due process and intrude on the sovereignty of states where abortion is legal.  This is the second civil rights lawsuit filed this month challenging a state’s efforts to infringe upon the right to travel for abortion care; the first challenges an Idaho law that criminalizes assistance to young people seeking abortion care without parental knowledge.

Last week Marshall filed a motion to dismiss, arguing that since abortion is illegal in Alabama, people from other states offering help for Alabama citizens in getting abortion care are engaged in a conspiracy, and it doesn’t matter if abortion is legal in that other state.

I should be Inured to the insultingly ridiculous rationales that the extremists in the GOP offer in lieu of actual legal research, but I’m not. This rationale (I can’t call it “reasoning”) has a of “Because I’m the parent and I say so” energy–the GOP father knows best.

I’m not a legal professional but I can say this with confidence:  this is the stupidest explanation yet for banning abortion. The move to turn a medical procedure into a crime isn’t based in anything other than a deeply creepy misogyny and a desire to punish women who won’t subscribe to their reactionary and extremist world view.

For me the question of the legality of abortion is rooted in every person’s right to bodily autonomy and I am frustrated that you don’t see that line of argument in any of these lawsuits. Yes, the Alabama legislature wrote a law outlawing abortion but that doesn’t mean that that law is valid. People absolutely have the right to travel, and people absolutely have the right to medical care.

As for the line of argument by Marshall that helping someone get an abortion in another state is a conspiracy, I say that fundamental rights are valid in every state, and therefore laws putting restrictions on abortion beyond normal state regulation of medical procedures are unconstitutional. The state has no standing to bring a suit against anyone involved in procuring a valid medical procedure, even if the state is pretending it has the right to criminalize that procedure.

The media has got to start asking questions along these lines to expose the specious bullshit that is being used to oppress women.

Ella and Louis can soothe our weary souls:

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