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Thu May 16, 2019, 12:37 AM

Those kinds of violations stack up until they form a basis for disenfranchising half the country


The GOP Has Its Final Anti-Abortion Victory in Sight
Stripping voter rights. Rigging the Supreme Court. Dull procedural tricks. It’s all paying off at once.
By Lili Loofbourow
May 14, 2019 9:54 PM

Shouts broke out on the Alabama Senate floor last Thursday when Lt. Gov. Will Ainsworth tried to rush through a motion without a roll-call vote. If that sentence bored you—even with the shouting—you’ve already grasped something basic: The dullness of these procedures is why most of us have trouble understanding them or paying attention, even when there’s cheating involved. We should try. In this case, the motion would have removed an amendment—supported by some Republicans—to exclude cases of rape and incest from an abortion ban that had already passed the House. Ainsworth believes Americans impregnated by rapists should be made to give birth, so he tried to rush the motion through without a roll-call vote, bending the rules to get his way.

State Senate Minority Leader Bobby Singleton stalled the attempted circumvention through sheer force of will, shouting his objections until the vote was delayed. But this is not a happy story: The controversial bill ended up passing the Senate on Tuesday night—with no exceptions included—and will go to Gov. Kay Ivey’s desk. Its intention is to strip Americans of a constitutional right, on the assumption that a friendly Supreme Court will soon declare that removal legal. The path to that end point is not short, but neither is it far-fetched. It will take only one of these abortion bans to survive the ultimate judicial challenge for Americans with uteruses to be forced by the state to carry fetuses against their will.

If Alabama’s turns out to be the one, we’d do well to remember that one link in that chain of events was Republicans trying to proceed without a roll-call vote. That’s a simple procedural violation, the sort one might hesitate to get too upset over. But those kinds of violations stack up. They stack up until they form a basis for disenfranchising half the country. And at a certain point, there’s nothing to be done but insist that what few rules remain be followed. After last week’s fracas, the New York Times quoted Democratic state Sen. Vivian Figures as saying to her Republican colleagues, “You all are going to get your way, but at least treat us fairly and do it the right way.” This is where we are in a nutshell. Those who wish to preserve constitutionally protected abortion rights are left appealing to the denatured process that got us here: At least have the decency to strip our rights fairly.

Alabama isn’t alone. Just a few days ago, Georgia passed a law criminalizing abortions after six weeks, set to take effect in 2020, and Gov. Brian Kemp signed it. It’s a total abortion ban for reasons you can read here. It’s the most extreme law ever passed, and it’s supposed to be: GOP members across several states have said they’re “excited” to pass illegal laws that defy a settled Supreme Court ruling so that the current court can overturn it. The Georgia bill redefines fetuses as legal persons with rights while, again, stripping the rights and bodily autonomy of citizens who actually exist. Though some activists on both sides want to believe this unlikely, the bill clearly allows for those who actively refuse to give birth to face lifelong imprisonment or the death penalty. Even those who leave the state to abort would be subject to punishment.


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