Is the Alabama abortion ban a personhood law?
By Gualberto Garcia Jones, Esq., — The mainstream media and the Marxist left (please excuse the redundancy) are in a frenzy as one American state after another is rejecting one of the most fundamental sacraments of their political ideology: The “right” to kill innocent pre-born children through abortion-on-demand. In the coverage surrounding the passage of the most recent bills—Ohio, Kentucky, Georgia, and Alabama—the word personhood is being tossed around quite a bit by both friend and foe. So, do these bills secure equal protection under the law for all pre-born humans?
The short answer is NO, neither the Ohio, Kentucky, or Georgia heartbeat laws, nor the Alabama abortion ban, are personhood laws. They do not guarantee equal protection to ALL human beings at every stage of biological development. In the case of the Alabama bill, passed by the legislature yesterday, some specific examples will help clarify.
*update: Alabama governor Kay Ivy signed the Alabama bill into law May 15th.
Permission to kill
The Alabama law includes a section with this language: “An abortion shall be permitted if …” If abortion is defined as the intentional taking of the life of the child, as it is in this bill, then the bill does not recognize the equal dignity and personhood of the pre-born. In fact, this language creates a specific “right” to abortion in specific circumstances. What’s more, the explicit acceptance of abortion is totally contrary to the purpose of the bill. Is there a section of the Alabama homicide code that reads, “Intentional homicide shall be permitted if…”? Of course not.
All abortion exceptions undermine and contradict the very premise that the child in the womb is a person who deserves equal protection under the law.
But doesn’t the Alabama bill just refer to the usual “life of the mother” exception put into all pro-life laws? Yes, but the wording of the life of the mother clause in this particular bill unnecessarily and unjustly sacrifices the life of the child. Direct, intentional killing of the pre-born child, as this bill allows, is never medically necessary.
Even Dr. Alan Guttmacher, a past president of Planned Parenthood agreed: “Today it is possible for almost any patient to be brought through pregnancy alive, unless she suffers from a fatal disease such as cancer or leukemia, and if so, abortion would be unlikely to prolong, much less save the life of the mother.” 45 years of abortion-on-demand, based completely on legal and medical subterfuge, should be a hard enough lesson for pro-lifers to be wary of vague language.
The mental health exception
The Alabama bill also includes one of the most often abused exceptions—allowing abortion for reasons of mental health. The bill explicitly permits the intentional killing of an innocent pre-born child “if the woman is suffering from an emotional condition or mental illness” and a second physician confirms within 180 days AFTER the abortion that the mental health issue is serious. While on the surface, it may appear that the Alabama bill seeks to limit the abuse of the mental health exception. In practice, however, an abortionist could kill the child for any reason, check the mental illness box, and then take 6 months to find a pro-abortion psychologist to ratify the decision. If the abortionist does this, the bill states that he or she will have made a prima facie case for a “permitted abortion.”
Now, every pro-lifer who has studied the Supreme Court’s rulings on abortion knows that the definition of health in relation to abortion, according to the Doe v. Bolton decision, includes all possible factors, including mental, physical, economic, familial, age, etc. Doe v. Bolton is why we have abortion-on-demand. Planned Parenthood would have no problem finding psychologists willing to sign off on any mental health concern, like depression or threatened suicide.
Why the drafters of the Alabama abortion ban would allow such a gaping and unnecessary exception to abortion in their law is not clear. What is clear is that the mental health exception is not consistent with the personhood of the pre-born child and is not necessary or effective in treating pregnant women who are suicidal.
A step backwards in Alabama law
This bill, while being lauded as the most restrictive abortion ban in the country, would actually be the first law in Alabama history that directly allows abortion. Up to now, Alabama has upheld the personhood of the pre-born in all of its state laws. The Supreme Court of Alabama has made this particularly clear in a string of excellent rulings on the subject of prenatal personhood. It is, therefore, quite troubling that this new bill does not include a clause that has been routinely inserted into Alabama’s pro-life legislation: “Nothing in this legislation will create a right to abortion.”
On the contrary, the Alabama abortion ban does exactly that, it creates a right to abortion in several vague and unnecessary circumstances.
Of course, we realize that this Alabama bill, if signed into law, will be challenged in court and will have to go through the tortuous process of judicial review. Given the unhinged standards of judicial review and the principle of judicial supremacy, the letter of the law will probably have little bearing on the final determination by a court. Here at the Personhood Alliance, we are fighting for a consistent case for the personhood of the pre-born that can be been made to the courts. Unfortunately, the Alabama abortion ban will not present such a case.
Rejection of the rape exception
The Personhood Alliance applauds the Alabama legislature’s refusal to include a rape and incest exception in this law. Babies conceived in rape and incest deserve equal protection, just like any other child, and must not be put to death for the crimes of their fathers. And mothers from rape deserve healing, not more violence, more trauma, and more violation. Sadly, the broad mental health exception in this bill could create a de facto rape exception when abortion “counselors” pressure a rape victim into killing her child under the auspices of relieving the emotional trauma of the rape.
Because this bill explicitly enshrines a right to abortion in Alabama law for the first time, and because it is full of unnecessary and unjust exceptions that directly contradict equal protection and the inalienable right to life, our affiliate Personhood Alabama was not involved in its passage. At the Personhood Alliance, we have a responsibility to speak the truth and refuse to be carried away by political waves. We sincerely hope that God will use this flawed law in some way, like he uses all of us flawed individuals for His glory and for the good of humanity.
Gualberto Garcia Jones, Esq., is the president of the Personhood Alliance and a licensed attorney in the commonwealth of Virginia. He is a human rights advisor to the Holy See Mission to the Organization of American States and works in Washington DC to stop the expansion of abortion in Latin America.