One of my favorite shows these past few years has been “Call the Midwife.” It’s a BBC show that follows a lovely, interesting group of midwives and nuns in the East End of London. I find the characters really compelling and engaging, and the storylines thoughtful and poignant. In the course of the different seasons the show has tackled difficult issues of race, poverty, gender, addiction, and religion–among other things–with sensitivity and nuance.
At this point in the show, we are in the early 1960s, and one of the main issues that the midwives are dealing with is the fallout from illegal abortions. At this time in England, not only is abortion illegal, but women who have them are criminalized and prosecuted. Doctors’ hands are tied, and so the midwives have to deal with the horrific consequences of unsanitary and unprofessional backroom abortions. Death is not uncommon.
You might assume that my reaction would be to be thankful that we live in a different time and a different era, and maybe that is true in most places in this country, but it is certainly not true in the state of Alabama.
Surely today you have seen the news that Alabama Governor Kay Ivey signed into law a controversial abortion bill that could punish doctors who perform abortions with life in prison–in essence, making the procedure illegal in that state. There is no exemption for rape and incest victims.
When signing the bill into law, the governor said, “To the bill’s many supporters, this legislation stands as a powerful testament to Alabamians’ deeply held belief that every life is precious and that every life is a sacred gift from God.” However, we know that she doesn’t really believe that: Alabama still has the death penalty. That is an inconsistency that I find deeply disturbing.
Frankly, it makes me suspicious that abortion laws like this one are much more about controlling sexuality, enforcing purity, and reinforcing traditional gender roles and family norms. What decade is this, anyway?
if you want to decrease the number of abortions, increase access to birth control; don’t demonize vulnerable women, many of whom have been victimized, and put their lives at risk.
There has been opposition, of course, and many are gearing up for a fight. I don’t know anyone who is “for” abortion, or who takes it lightly, but this kind of draconian legislation that disproportionately penalizes women over men, and the poor over the rich is not the answer. It never is. If we really value all lives, then we need to value the lives of women who find themselves (or are put in the position of) facing an unwanted pregnancy–and value them before they even find themselves in that situation. All women should be able to both say “no” to any man at any time, and say “yes” when they want, without having to roll the dice. That is the way to reduce abortions.
What decade is it, anyway?