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‘It Always Takes Two to Tango’ A Legislative Response Alabama’s Abortion Ban

My body my choice sign at a Stop Abortion Bans Rally in St Paul, Minnesota
My body my choice sign at a Stop Abortion Bans Rally in St Paul, Minnesota. Date: May 21, 2019. (Photo: Lorie Shaull)

An Alabama State Representative introduced a bill that would mandate vasectomies in some men as a way to protest Alabama’s strict abortion laws.

On Thursday February 13 Alabama State Representative Rolanda Hollis (D) introduced House Bill 238 which would make it mandatory for certain men in the state to receive vasectomies. The bill stands no chance of passing, Alabama’s House, Senate and Governor’s office are all under Republican Control, and the State’s legislature is over 80% male. The measure was not intended to become law but was rather meant as an in-kind response to a law passed last year to essentially ban abortion in the Alabama, HB238’s synopsis points out: “Under existing law, there are no restrictions on the reproductive rights of men.”

Mandatory Vasectomies for Some

If passed HB238 would mandate that, “A man, at his own expense, shall undergo a vasectomy within one month of his 50th birthday or the birth of his third biological child, whichever comes first.”

Representative Hollis explained the measure AL.com saying, “The vasectomy bill is to help with the reproductive system, and yes, it is to neutralize the abortion ban bill … it always takes two to tango. We can’t put all the responsibility on women. Men need to be responsible also.”

Alabama’s Abortion Laws

Alabama is one of several states that has enacted strict requirements specifically for abortion providers. Last May Alabama Governor Kay Ivey signed into law the “Alabama Human Life Protection Act.” The law criminalizes performing an abortion by making it a class C Felony, which would leave abortion providers subject to life in prison for performing the procedure. The only exception in the measure is “when an abortion is necessary in order to prevent a serious health risk to the unborn child’s mother.”

Shortly before the bill passed the State Senate Democratic lawmakers attempted to introduce an amendment that would have created an exception for rape or incest, but the change failed to make it past the Republican controlled chamber. The new law was supposed to take effect in November last year, however it was blocked by a Federal Judge while a lawsuit challenging it is ongoing. This was anticipated. Governor Ivey noted when signing it that it would likely not be enforceable, and Alabama’s Attorney General has confirmed that it is intended as a challenge of the Supreme Court Decision Roe v Wade. If this case makes it to the current Supreme Court the outcome is far from guaranteed.

Public Response to HB238

On February 16 Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX) Tweeted “Yikes. A government big enough to give you everything is big enough to take everything…literally! Alabama Democrat proposes bill mandating all men have vasectomy at age 50 or after third child.” Cruz has been staunchly anti-abortion throughout his political career. Many respondents to his tweet pointed out that he seemed to not understand that the Bill is a way of advocating for less government overreach and is intended to illustrate the absurdity of government involvement in reproductive rights. Other far right respondents to the bill seemed to also take it at face value in their reaction.

Real Solutions for Unplanned Pregnancies

Protest legislation such as HB238 can serve an important purpose but Alabama also needs real solutions to address unplanned pregnancies. It can be extremely hard to measure rates of unplanned pregnancies in adults, however it’s estimated that in teens over 75% of pregnancies are unplanned. Alabama already has the tenth highest rate of teen pregnancy in the country.

If that rate does improve it will not be a result of improved sex education. Last year the State Senate was on the verge of passing a law to update Alabama’s sex ed curriculum to remove blatantly homophobic language and make the language medically more accurate. The House failed to pass the measure when they ran out of time to deliberate after spending time on the abortion ban. Currently the state’s code on sex ed curriculum mandates a focus on abstinence. The CDC and other sources have found that abstinence only education is not the most effective way to reduce unwanted teen pregnancies.

Alexis Chapman

Alexis Chapman is a freelance political consultant and writer. She is also a Senior Fellow at the Cape Institute and currently serves as Grassroots Director of the Hawaii Food Industry Association. She holds a Master of International Studies Degree from the Government Department of the Faculty of Business and Economics at the University of Sydney, and a Bachelor’s in Philosophy from Green Mountain College. Chapman specializes in policy analysis, strategic policy analysis, and food legislation at the local, state, national, and international level. She has worked in Australia, West Africa, and around the U.S. in New England, Texas, and Hawaii.

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