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Alabama Plays Catch Up to the Past

© Matt Bors

Alabama governor Robert Bentley signed into law the nation’s nastiest immigration law, which requires local police to detain anyone suspected of being an undocumented immigrant. You can easily guess how that will end up — anyone who looks the slightest bit Mexican will get hassled and will have to carry citizenship papers at all times. I mean, think about it — if you were stopped by the police, could you prove you are an American? No, a driver’s license won’t be enough.

The new law also requires schools to check not only the immigration status of students, but also the immigration status of their parents. So great, Alabama doesn’t want to pay a few thousand dollars a year to send the children of illegal immigrants to school (even if the students themselves are US citizens) so they will be more likely to end up in prison, which costs tens of thousands of dollars a year.

But that wasn’t enough. The very same day, Alabama passed another law that makes it illegal to perform an abortion after 20 weeks, even when the pregnancy is the result of rape or incest. Nor is there an exception for when the pregnancy could harm the health of the mother. A doctor could be sentenced to up to 10 years in jail for breaking this law.

This bill is one of a new breed of anti-abortion bills that claim that a fetus feels pain at 20 weeks. According to state senator Scott Beason “It’s clear that a baby at 20 weeks experiences pain. There’s no doubt about that. We’re trying to get it back to the point where once a baby feels pain, there can be no abortions.” But according to the Journal of the American Medical Association “The fetus’s higher pain pathways are not yet fully developed and functional” before the third trimester. That sounds like doubt to me.

But hey, Alabama, don’t let reality stand in your way of regaining the title of most repressive and backwards state in the union.



  1. Steve wrote:

    Any word yet on who drafted this particular law? Go to love the incentives for a private prison industry to diversify into public lawmaking.

    Sunday, June 12, 2011 at 3:47 am | Permalink
  2. ebdoug wrote:

    I had a tax client who moved to Alabama so I went to the Alabama Web Site. Here is a very white retired couple next to “We have the lowest taxes of any state” or something like that. They pride themselves on White Pride.
    Rosa Parks in her book “My story” finally won the right to vote after her third try on literacy tests (she went to the top schools in the state and was extremely literate but results of the voting test were not given out) After that she moved to Detroit, not wanting to live in Alabama any more.
    Anyone who reads this site want to defend Alabama?

    Sunday, June 12, 2011 at 4:56 am | Permalink
  3. ThatGuy wrote:

    I know that the Civil War set the precedent that states seceding is not allowed. But does anyone know if states can be kicked out?

    Sunday, June 12, 2011 at 6:44 am | Permalink
  4. David Freeman wrote:

    I’m a southern boy so I’d really like to defend Alabama but try as I might, after the state tree (longleaf pine) and state flower (camellia) the best thing about Alabama that I could come up with is the high humidity.

    Sunday, June 12, 2011 at 6:54 am | Permalink
  5. starluna wrote:

    Such a waste of money. The state will spend millions of dollars defending laws that are patently unconstitutional. I do wonder if voters were aware of this whether they would change their votes. I’m not sure in a place like Alabama.

    Sunday, June 12, 2011 at 7:43 am | Permalink
  6. Yudith wrote:

    I agree the new immigration law is stupid and allows to arrest someone only on the colour of their skin, which is illegal. But the abortion law is less insensible than it looks like. Remember that 20 weeks pregnancy is about 5 months. With the recent medical discoveries, a fetus of this age is nowaday able to survive outside of the uterus, if given the right treatment. Women still have five months to have an abortion performed; most hospitals don’t perform abortions after the 12th week of pregnancy. In fact, not performing abortion after 20 weeks is also a good way to avoid selective aborting of female fetuses in countries like China and India.

    Sunday, June 12, 2011 at 10:32 am | Permalink
  7. Jason Ray wrote:

    Well said, Starluna. These kinds of things, and the Repulican push to move as much power as possible to the states, is so short sighted. The United States of America is a great – and SINGLE – country. It would be easy for us to end up like the USSR, and only be a single country on paper, and then not even that.

    States and local governments have very necessary areas of responsibility, and have a greater struggle to meet those responsibilities than the federal government does to meet its own. Wasting everyone’s time, energy and money fighting for lost causes and trying to implement unworkable solutions is something we shouldn’t condone in the best of times, and just can’t afford to do at this time.

    I hope voters (especially independents) are paying attention. The Republican Party hoodwinked us into giving them another chance, and based on what they have chosen to do with that chance we should kick them firmly out again. Look at it – no action on job creation, no action on rebuilding the economy. I don’t like the idea of giving the Democrats all the power either, but in the land of the brainless the moron has to be put in charge.

    My personal plan is to work through the 2012 election cycle to keep Obama in for a second term and return the Democrats to slim majority (so that we minimize the damage) and starting January 2013 trying to do whatever I can to support the creation of a REAL third option. Starting that now, unfortunately is likely to fragment the Democrats the way the Tea Party is fragmenting the Republicans, and we can’t afford allowing Michelle Bachmann to slip in to the Oval Office.

    By the way – if she, or Palin, or any of that class of Tea Party Republicans wins the presidency, my family has already decided it would be time to move to New Zealand 🙂

    Sunday, June 12, 2011 at 12:26 pm | Permalink
  8. Jason Ray wrote:

    Yudith, you have a valid point. While I disagree with the Alabama law and strongly support a woman’s right to choose (and even more strongly believe that rape, incest and the like cannot be ignored), there is appoint at which it does make sense to draw a line. 5 months should be enough time to determine the choice. Even the most liberal pro-choice person would likely draw the line at an abortion during labor, so there has to be a cut-off point somewhere. I I think the generally y accepted point (no voluntary abortion during the third trimester) is reasonable, but certainly there is a valid discussion to be had about where to draw the line.

    I cannot support, however, the idea of making abortion illegal when the mother’s own life is in jeopardy. Sometimes these most difficult decisions have to be made (that’s why emergency and military doctors that must make those decisions have one of the hardest jobs on earth) but the idea that ANY government should intervene take that decision away from the family or a doctor on the spot is abhorrent.

    Anti-abortion activists claim abortion is murder. Maybe it is at some point, and maybe it isn’t – but killing the mother to save an unborn fetus because the government passed a law is ABSOLUTELY murder.

    Sunday, June 12, 2011 at 12:37 pm | Permalink
  9. ebdoug wrote:

    I hope everyone remembers that Gov Robert Bentley said that he is working for the Christians in Alabama. It is an irony that Alabama was one of the states that the German Jewish settled in the turn of the 19th to 20th century. I’m sure that statement of Bentley’s went over well with them. I asked my tax client, tongue in cheek, if she voted for Bentley. She is 1/2 Christian and 1/2 Jewish and knew I was kidding.

    Sunday, June 12, 2011 at 3:51 pm | Permalink
  10. starluna wrote:

    One of the many problems with the abortion restrictions is that they remove health decisions away from medical professionals and the individuals burdened with the consequences of those health decisions. Even with the Supreme Court chipping away at abortion rights, even they have maintained the health and life of the mother standard.

    You should know that there are quite a number of severe birth defects that will not be seen on an ultrasound until after 20 weeks. And there are plenty of women who do not get prenatal care until about this time, particularly in states like Alabama that has high poverty rates, low education rates, and not the best access to Medicaid services. According to the March of Dimes, in Alabama, 20% of women who gave birth did not start prenatal care until the second trimester. Further, 25% women who gave birth received inadequate care regardless of when they started prenatal care.


    If you start care late or do not get adequate care, you are setting a woman up for catching problems too late in the pregnancy. Do you really want to force women who find out in the 21st week that their child has a severe birth defect from which it will either die or become an extreme hardship to care during its short life for to be forced to go through that. Making the choice in these situations is difficult enough. Removing the choice from women and their families is simply cruel. And contrary to federal law.

    I would like to add that I’ve been working with a group of women who have children with severe birth defects to help them build community housing for people who have children with these kind of severe disabilities. I don’t know for sure, but I believe these most if not all of these women would have given birth to their children even with the knowledge that their child would be born with defects that require 24 hour specialized nursing care for their entire lives, however long or short they are (in addition to the strain on their families and their financial stability). However, what I’ve seen these families go through affirms my belief that women and families should have the right to decide whether they want to shoulder the kinds of burdens. I believe few people have the kind of grace and strength that I’ve seen in these women and no one should be forced into that situation.

    Sunday, June 12, 2011 at 5:14 pm | Permalink
  11. ebdoug wrote:

    Starluna, that is wonderful of you. I know a family who was told their daughter would have down’s syndrome. They also choose not to abort. She is normal.

    Re: the use of the word “woman” in relation to abortion. I moved to this road in the middle of nowhere in 1973. After many many years, I found out from one of my tax clients that the whole road of “natives” is incestuous. Even when we treated a new born of a twelve year old mother in public health, I did not think incest. (I’m too innocent) The little girl kept on having a baby a year until she moved out of her house of brothers. She had so many by the time she turned 16 and got her license that she forgot to close the car door, one fell out, she ran over and killed the little girl. These are the girls who are not going to get prenatal care, give birth to defective (at least mentally) incestuous babies. And we pay for these children through their lives. Other developed countries don’t let this happen.

    Monday, June 13, 2011 at 6:34 am | Permalink
  12. Falkelord wrote:

    @David Freeman sorry buddy, Louisiana’s got you beat on that humidity 🙁

    Monday, June 13, 2011 at 8:09 am | Permalink
  13. Dan wrote:

    Why is it we always have enough money for prisons and wars but never enough for education and healthcare?

    Monday, June 13, 2011 at 8:39 am | Permalink
  14. Jeff wrote:

    @ Dan: Because Education and Healthcare don’t provide financial returns like prisons and war. There is no fiscal incentive for someone to put money into education or healthcare because they get nothing back from it.

    Here’s my blog post about the conservative view of government:

    Monday, June 13, 2011 at 10:35 am | Permalink
  15. Patricia wrote:

    Dan and Jeff: an all too mundane answer to the ridiculous fact that we don’t like paying for education and health care is that balance sheets don’t factor in the true costs of NOT having these things. Until we can actually calculate the real “cost of doing business” WITHOUT paying for education and health care — nobody will be able to see any reason to pay for them!

    Monday, June 13, 2011 at 8:11 pm | Permalink
  16. johnny wrote:


    Tuesday, June 14, 2011 at 3:55 am | Permalink