Last Women Standing

Published: May 17, 2019

By Jim Lichtman
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What Alabama’s state Senate did was nothing less than a return to the dark ages for women.

Photo by Sam Moghadam on Unsplash

In Tuesday’s debate in the Alabama state legislature, Democratic Senator Linda Coleman-Madison asked her Republican colleague a question regarding a proposed bill that would be the most restrictive abortion law in the country.

Coleman-Madison asked Republican Senator Clyde Chambliss about a passage in the bill that says that the law wouldn’t affect women until they “are known” to be pregnant.

“What, exactly, does that mean?” Coleman-Madison asked.

“Well,” Chambliss said, “if you don’t know, then you’re not known to be pregnant.”

“I guess that’s a typical male answer,” she said. “You don’t know what you don’t know because you’ve never been pregnant, and herein is the problem: You can’t get pregnant. … You don’t know what it’s like to be pregnant.”

Coleman-Madison and Democratic colleague Vivian Davis Figures were the only women who spoke during the hours-long debate in Alabama’s state Senate.

“At the end,” Coleman-Madison said, “it’s the concept of strength in numbers.”

While she and Figures both personally oppose abortion, but they do not believe in making the procedure illegal.

“Do you know what it’s like to be raped?” Figures told fellow senators. “Do you know what it’s like to have a relative commit incest on you?”

“That’s why we need more women to run for office,” Coleman-Madison said. “These decisions are going to be made whether we like it or not, and we’re not going to like it when decisions like this one, about a woman and her health, are being made by all the men.”

The Senate considered an amendment that would exclude cases of rape and incest, but the Republican-led Senate voted it down.

The Alabama bill is the most blatant attempt to date to overturn Roe v. Wade.

“To take that choice away from that person who had such a traumatic act committed against them,” Sen. Figures said, “to be left with the residue of that person if you will, to have to bring that child into this world and be reminded of it every single day.”

The Alabama chapter of the American Civil Liberties (ACLU) has vowed to sue if the bill becomes law and followed with a tweet that displayed a map showing the locations of clinics across the state.

“This bill will not take effect anytime in the near future, and abortion will remain a safe, legal medical procedure at all clinics in Alabama.”

“In Ohio, a law signed last month by Gov. Mike DeWine, R,” The Washington Post writes (May 15), “outlaws abortion as early as a fetal heartbeat can be detected before many women even know they’re pregnant (also without exception for rape or incest). And in Georgia, a new law signed last week by Gov. Brian Kemp, R, outlaws abortion after six weeks, again before many women know.”

On Tuesday, Senator Figures filed an amendment to the bill that would make it a felony for a man to have a vasectomy. It failed to pass.

“ ‘It was just to prove a point,’ she told The Washington Post. ‘Put yourself in our shoes. I tell them, there’s no law on the books anywhere in this country that mandate what a man can and can’t do with his body, yet for us, there are a number of them. … They’re just so hellbent on doing what they want to do that they ignore all of that.’ ”

“Now, we understand the women in this chamber are a minority,” Coleman-Madison told Senate Republicans, “but one of these days that’s going to change. And Sen. Figures’ amendment might just get passed.”

On Wednesday, Governor Kay Ivey signed the bill into law.

Roe/Wade was a subject brought up by many of the women in the U.S. Senate before confirmation hearings on Brett Kavanaugh.

After meeting with the Supreme Court nominee in her office, Senator Susan Collins of Maine appeared satisfied by Kavanaugh’s response on the issue.

“We talked about whether he considered Roe to be settled law,” Collins told reporters. “He said that he agreed with what [Chief] Justice [John] Roberts said at his nomination hearing in which he said that it was settled law.”

If the Alabama case makes it to the U.S. Supreme Court, we’ll see.


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