Time to Fight Like Hell

 by Madeline Anscombe

Long time no chat! So some news in Alabama… we have a new bachelorette! Roll tide!

Completely (kind of) kidding, within this past week Alabama has gone from binge-watching The Handmaid’s Tale to actually BEING The Handmaid’s Tale following the recent passage of HB 314 which not only bans abortion state-wide but makes it a Class A Felony punishable by up to 99 years in prison. As per the mission of Truth + Dare, we have drummed up some main talking-points, resources, and information that you should know about everything going down in Alabama this week and the future of our state.

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1. State Politics

Whether you are from Alabama, moved as a transplant, or have never been, just about everyone knows that the state politics here are incredibly corrupt. During the midterm elections, Alabamians cited corruption and ethics as their primary concerns in voting. This is not just a Republican issue but rather one that runs deep in both the state’s parties, so much so that the DNC has ordered a new election for state leadership after years of stagnation and corruption have rendered the party completely ineffective. I believe starting with our state’s political makeup is an important starting point because while I have seen many rush to judge Alabama for being “backwards” or “hicks,” this framing does an immense disservice to both the voters in Alabama and the incredible activists who have worked tirelessly to push the state forward. In reality this is the result of the emboldening of misogynists nationwide and the apathy, suppression, and corruption evident in every level of Alabama state politics. I believe Roxane Gay puts it best here:

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 2. Abortion in Alabama

To gain a comprehensive understanding of the state’s access to abortion pre-ban, we talked to Helmi Henkin who serves as the Vice President of Public Outreach of the Yellowhammer Fund and the Chair of West Alabama Clinic Defenders. Helmi tells us that “aside from this full abortion ban, abortion access in Alabama is already severely limited. There are only three abortion clinics in the state, and abortion seekers have to endure state-mandated counseling and a 48 hour waiting period, both meant to dissuade them from having an abortion. Additionally, abortions are expensive and the Hyde Amendment prevents federal insurances such as Medicaid or military insurance from covering the cost.”

In her work for the Women’s Clinic, Henkin works with a number of other escorts to help patients safely enter the clinic while full-time protesters seek out to verbally assault, and sometimes physically harm those seeking out exploring their reproductive healthcare options. Henkin tells us that while it is important to note that while there are severely limited options in Alabama, the state additionally “already has one of the highest maternal mortality rates in the country, there has been a spike in closures of hospitals in rural areas, and the state has a dire physician shortage. It is already difficult for pregnant people to access the healthcare they need, and this ban is only going to worsen health outcomes by scaring providers from moving to Alabama, and hospitals are going to continue to close as a result of Alabama not expanding Medicaid.” The pre-existing barriers placed on women, transgender and gender nonconforming people make abortion and reproductive healthcare incredibly difficult to seek out throughout the Southeast. For this reason, people travel long distances to seek consultation at the three state clinics. This hurts poor people and people of color at significantly higher rates when access to travel, state-funded healthcare, and other crucial resources are limited.

3. Legality/ Implementation

To unpack the legal ramifications of HB 314, we spoke with Robert Pendley, a contributor to T+D and a recent graduate of The University of Alabama School of Law. In a similar law school-esque fashion, I have highlighted the parts of what he had to tell us that I felt most pertinent. Robert reminds us that the bill is not scheduled to be effective until 6 months from now so abortion is still very much legal in Alabama. “Also, the implementation of the law, once challenged in a legitimate court case, will likely be stalled by court order while the court reviews the case. Federally, abortion is still legal regardless of what any state passes (thanks to Roe v. Wade as modified by Casey v. Planned Parenthood).”

Per legality:

“This poses a question of federalism: does this federal judicial decision stand or does the state law stand? As SCTOUS has held states cannot violate fundamental rights of their own citizens (thnx 14th Amendment). One fundamental right is the right to privacy. If a court finds that a fundamental right is being violated then they will strictly scrutinize the law (in which case the implementer of the law usually loses). I would suspect that opponents of the Alabama law and heartbeat laws will argue that the ability to have an abortion is a right to privacy. Roe+Casey did not go this far in saying that it was a right to privacy but there are strong arguments to be made for this. I would expect the most likely outcome is either SCOTUS not hearing the case because the 11th Cir. clearly ruled it was an invalid law or SCOTUS ruling it is an invalid law without even addressing the right to privacy arguments.

Always a big question with these sorts of cases is who has standing to challenge it. Certainly, if a doctor is imprisoned or a woman seeks an abortion but cannot find a doctor to perform it then she should be able to challenge it legally. She would need to contact a lawyer specializing in civil rights. The best bet would be to wait for the probable ACLU case to progress. The ACLU might seek to add co-plaintiffs or create a class action. This might not happen though too. It’s early. Legal action will happen but it will likely happen most effectively from an institutional plaintiff like the ACLU.” (So donate to the link posted below!)

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4. What Next?

It is okay, normal, and even healthy to feel utterly helpless. Alabama isn’t the first state to pass an effective ban, we have already seen them in Ohio, Kentucky, Mississippi and Georgia and Missouri’s governor is set to sign an 8-week ban this week. If Alabama's complete and total ban goes through, and all neighboring states follow suit (as at least Mississippi and Georgia are), then it will become even more difficult and expensive for disadvantaged Alabama women to travel out of state to get the services they need. Mississippi’s ban will go into effect on July 1 if it is not struck down (stay tuned— there is a hearing next Tuesday.) To be frank, I am incredibly scared for the future of our country, the legislation of our bodies, and once again, the emotional labor that we must endure daily to fight to stay afloat. Here are some ways you can help yourself, your friends and the country:

Explore birth control options: Not on BC? Now’s a great time to start! While BC doesn’t work for everyone, it is one way that can effectively make sure you don’t have to worry too much about your own body during this time. Planned Parenthood has a fantastic informational page which can help you decide which options work best for you. Additionally, encourage your friends and family members to do the same, an attack on reproductive rights could very soon turn into an attack on birth control and it is incredibly important to stay vigilant.

Educate yourself on local politics: It is incredibly easy to see 2020 as just a presidential year and get overly excited about defeating Trump. Be careful doing this and instead of overwhelming yourself with the primary, consider looking into statewide races as well. Who is your congressperson? Who is your state rep? Do you agree with them, and if not, what are you going to do this cycle to change that? Many of the states pushing these bans have senate elections this year (DONATE TO DOUG JONES!) consider getting involved in one of these races if you cannot financially support them.

Donate & Web Resources:

  • Yellowhammer Fund: From Helmi Henkin: The Yellowhammer Fund provides financial and practical support to abortion seekers in Alabama or Alabamians seeking abortions in other states. We have also expanded our scope to provide free emergency contraception and open up reproductive justice centers where people can get supplies such as birth control, condoms, diapers and and other resources they may need to raise healthy families. Our fund is 100% volunteer-led for 2 years now so people can rest assured that their money will go directly to one of our initiatives, whether it's abortion funding, practical support reproductive justice centers or our growing advocacy efforts.” To support Yellowhammer, we have made all profits made off of our shirt sales benefit the fund. You can buy them here.

  • Abortion Network: If you are not from Alabama and want to donate elsewhere, the Abortion Network has an extensive list of local clinics throughout the country.

  • ACLU: Support the people getting in and doing work on the ground. ACLU Alabama has been doing incredible work and desperately needs financial supporters so that they can continue their work.

  • Post Roe Handbook: Provides a list of resources in your state, ways to get involved, and how to prepare yourself for the war being waged on reproductive rights.

5. Share

Remind your friends and family that while these bills have been signed, they are not in effect yet and you can still seek out an abortion!

If you want to talk to anyone about this craziness, pick our minds, or vent, don’t hesitate to reach out to us. Email us, friends: truthanddare.blog@gmail.com