Alabama lawmakers, dare not bring Texas’ horrible abortion law into our state

This is an opinion column.

I may already be too late. Even if it’s only been a week. A week today since Texas became home to the most draconian anti-choice law in the land since, well, Governor Ivey signed the most draconian anti-choice law in the land two years ago.

Since last Wednesday, thanks to Senate Bill 8, if any of the seven million women of reproductive age in Texas choose to terminate their pregnancy, for any reason (including rape, incest, or a genetic defect), after the so-called The embryo’s “fetal heartbeat” can be detected, any citizen (even if they have no connection to the patient) has the right to sue the person who “helps and encourages” the procedure. Go on to recoup legal fees and get $ 10,000 if they win.

In a shady, lame last-call movement, the The Supreme Court, just before midnight on the day the law came into force, issued an unsigned one paragraph notice stating, in a 5-4 decision, that this would not prevent Texas from enforcing the law, as requested by abortion providers. (Fortunately, the law in Alabama – we’ve turned the medical professionals who perform the procedure into criminals – is stuck in the matrix of the legal system and not yet in force, as are many other laws in d ‘other states.)

Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor, in dissent, called the Texas order “superb” and the law “patently unconstitutional.”

The majority, curled up in their robes, said vendors who challenged the law had failed to make their case amid “complex and novel” procedural issues.

Well, it’s not complex: there are so many insane facets to this insane law that it’s hard to know where to start.

I’ll try here: The so-called “fetal heartbeat” of an embryo can usually be detected around six weeks after the onset of pregnancy. Most women don’t even do it to know they are pregnant until later – 85 to 90 percent of pregnancy terminations in Texas are done after this stage (often after discovering medical abnormalities), providers said. Doctors say a woman is four weeks pregnant by the time she misses her period, giving her just two weeks to confirm the pregnancy and make a monumental decision on how to handle it. (For many women, raising money to pay for the procedure is also part of the unfair timeline.)

“The [six-week] gestational age is so early that many women do not know they are pregnant, ”says Dr Audra Williams, OB / GYN and professor at UAB. “If any abnormalities do arise, they are not diagnosed until later. [The law] limits options for women facing difficult decisions with their pregnancy.

“While I am strongly in favor of reducing the number of elective abortions, I am also against a return to a time when women literally died at the hospital door of hemorrhage and sepsis after clandestine abortions.” says Dr. Jeffery Thurston, an OB / GYN physician (and seminary graduate) who has practiced in Texas, delivering more than 8,000 babies. “In addition, those of us who treat serious abnormalities incompatible with the life of the fetus, not detectable at the earliest before 10 weeks of gestation and often not before a detailed ultrasound at 16-18 weeks, can now not advise our patients in complete safety. Pregnancy and full term delivery always carries a risk of morbidity and mortality.

“Should women be forced to carry a baby to term and give birth, when the fetus has no brain, or its organs are outside its body, or a myriad of life-incompatible mistakes?” ? “

There’s also this: Doctors who specialize in reproductive care, unlike lawmakers, say the so-called “fetal heartbeat” detected at the six-week stage is not a heartbeat at all. Because the heart valves haven’t formed yet.

“At six weeks gestation, these valves don’t exist,” Dr. Nisha Verma, OB-GYN, who works at the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, told NPR. “The flicker that we see on the ultrasound during early development of pregnancy is actually electrical activity, and the sound you ‘hear’ is actually made by the ultrasound machine.”

Perhaps the worst part: the law makes all Texans potential bounty hunters. Placing “enforcement” in the hands of ordinary people and not government officials can ultimately be a sticky way to sidestep constitutionality and deftly undermine a woman’s right to choose what to do with her body. Which has been his constitutional right since 1973. Roe V. Wade allows termination for up to about 24 weeks.

“That private citizens can sue medical professionals is terrifying,” says Dr Williams. “There is a sacred patient / provider relationship that [law] interferes with. Pregnancy is one of the most dangerous things that many women will ever experience. The decision on this should be between a woman and her health care provider. It seems like a free for all, the wild Wild West.

“There shouldn’t be laws that put people in legal danger just by giving them individual advice or helping them in a crisis, whether they are healthcare professionals or not,” adds Dr Thurston. “[The law], although intelligently written to avoid the injunction, grossly infringes on the sanctity of the doctor-patient relationship.

I am probably already too late. But don’t dare, Alabama lawmakers, commit a similar atrocity here.

Don’t even think about it, Alabama Republican legislators. Although I won’t be at all surprised to learn that one of them is already doing it, already planning to drop anti-women legislation before the next session to bow to a base that claims to be pro-life. while their leaders do little for Zilch for the living.

Without expanding Medicare, thousands more families in Alabama can live better by having accessible and quality health care.

While not helping more black babies live by improving our dismal infant mortality rate among black women, whose babies die in our state to twice the rate of white babies.

While ignoring the abysmal quality of life lived by so many low-income families in both rural and urban areas of our state, areas where quality food choices are out of reach, or where living conditions are inhuman.

While shouting “my body, my choice” for a vaccine that could save their life, while being hypocritical and deceptive about a woman doing with her body – with her life – as she chooses.

Adds Dr Thurston: “[Lawmakers] could focus their efforts on supporting the government for free and accessible birth control, realistic sex education, support for adoption agencies and laws that, if they seek to limit abortion on the basis of gestational age, at least allow adequate development to make an assessment of true fetal viability.

“We have bigger issues that women face in our state,” says Dr. Williams.

So don’t dare to bring this horrible law to our state.

Instead, dare to improve the lives of the people of Alabama. Women and children in Alabama. Before it’s too late for too many others.

More Columns by Roy S. Johnson

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Roy S. Johnson is a 2021 Pulitzer Prize finalist for commentary and the 2021 Edward R. Morrow Prize winner for podcasting: “Unjustifiable,” co-hosted with John Archibald. His column appears in The Birmingham News and AL.com, as well as the Huntsville Times, Mobile Press-Register. Reach it at [email protected], follow him on twitter.com/roysj, or on Instagram @roysj.

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