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The Voices Of Alabama Women on Abortion Rights

University of North America

By Taroue W. Brooks
Photos Dez Wilson 

It is almost impossible to explain the magnitude of this bill to anyone. So how would you do this with a child?  Do you tell a child that the people who can create rules are mean and evil to women?  I can not imagine if a 10-year-old child was raped and became pregnant.    What if that happens to a nine-year-old, molested by their father or a family member?  How can you expect that nine-year-old baby to carry another baby….AND still try to process the crime that happened to her?  Do you understand the mental aspects of a child living through a rape, living as a victim, give birth to a child and raise a child that came from rape? And this is a nine-year-old child.  Can you imagine what could happen to her mind?  Could she live a life as a productive adult woman after living through something like that?  How can you explain that people don’t care about your well being? People that you are paying with your tax dollars.  They are not worried about your state of mind or your health if they create a bill that is so damaging.  It shows us that this is a gender bill.  It seems like they hate women.  We are not supposed to be judged by our sex.  We are supposed to be judged on the content of our character.  But in the state of Alabama, I guess they are not looking at that. This is the worst bill, and it is trying to control women.  We are being trapped and enslaved because we have a womb.  That is the problem. 

Alabama Black Women’s Roundtable, Convener 
Sheila Tyson

I think that the way we fight this is to educate people from all walks of life, races,  and religion.  Educate them on abortion, child molestation, rape, women choices, women voices, and how important women are to society.  We need to motivate women that don’t feel they have a strong voice to fight for their rights.  Our rights are being stomped in the ground by a group of old white men.  It is obvious when they wrote this bill they did not care anything about their daughters, wives, or nieces; they only care about men.  We can educate the state of Alabama and make sure they know this is wrong. We can mobilize our people and make sure these legislators are voted out of office.  Every last one of them.  You will be out if you don’t stand for women’s rights and women’s voices.   I mean, it is 2019, and we are still fighting for equal pay.  In 2017,  the black women’s labor force participation was 60.3 percent and white women a little over 56% in the nation. In Alabama, it is now 72%.  We need to educate women and show policymakers who the majority of voters are that show up at the polls in Alabama and that is women.  When we start removing people from office, they will learn who the number one voters are.  Women need to understand they do not have to follow a man in order to have power.  We hold our own power.  Without women in the state of Alabama, this whole state will collapse.  We are the majority of working, attending college, and holding esteemed positions in the state.  We are the majority.  And 72% are head of households.  So we must educate, motivate, and mobilize. Educate.  Motivate and Mobilize.  Every person regardless of race should be removed from office if they do not have women in mind.

Let’s Set The Record Straight

Racism is just a close relative of the real problem in Alabama. White supremacy, since the founding of Jamestown in 1619, was and continues to define and direct the laws, policies and the culture of Alabama, and indeed the nation. But let’s focus on Alabama and its recent law that gives more leniency to a rapist than a doctor who administers a “constitutionally protected” abortion – 99 years –wow! Make the comparison. A rapist would never get 99 years unless it was a black man accused of raping a white woman. A mentally ill black man was condemned to a 40-year jail sentence for touching a white woman in a Selma Post Office in plain sight of witnesses. No, that did not happen in the 50s when Emmett Till was administered a harder sentence, a cruel and vicious death. The gang rapist of a college student in Selma was actually given probation. Surreal, but painfully real for poor and oppressed victims of white supremacy. 

White supremacy is alive and thriving in Alabama. Governor Kay Ivey refused to allow Medicaid expansion to save hundreds of Alabama lives, but proudly signed an unconstitutional abortion bill. Her actions and politics are grounded in Alabama’s history of white supremacy. It is historical precedent, not co-incident. Connect the dots. 

Faya Rose Toure
Activist, Founder of Selma’s Bridge Crossing Jubilee Commemoration

When I graduated Summa Cum Laude from Johnson C. Smith University, I was not allowed to attend University of Alabama Law School. Neither was my husband who scored in the top ten (10) out of the nation on the LSAT. The Brown vs. Board of Education case dismantled legal segregation, but meant nothing to the white supremacist government officials who understood that the law of circumvention has never been repealed. Alabama schools remain segregated where Black children are in the majority. In Selma, white folk abandoned public schools when myself and other Black protestors demonstrated and demanded an end to racial tracking in 1990.

It is no coincidence, but historical precedent, that Alabama prisoners are overcrowded with African American inmates. As an attorney I still witness Black defendants being confined to jail on high bonds while white offenders walk free on low bonds on the same or lesser crimes. Our infant mortality rate is higher. Our disease rates and death rates are higher, but our wages and wealth levels are much lower.

Black school children are forced by law to attend schools named to honor Robert E. Lee, Jeff Davis and other treasonists and enslavers of their ancestors. The precedent of Justice Taney, in the Dred Scott decision is still the unwritten law of the land. “Black people have no rights which White people are bound to respect. In this white supremacist culture, the abortion bill is just power for the course. Governor Ivey is willing to hasten the death of her own constituents to maintain the white supremacist agenda. Fear of white people becoming a minority and losing their forced “power” is their fear and motivation. Why do Black people accept this way of life? What happened to the rebellious spirit of the Baby Boomers that led to the legal defeat of Jim Crowe segregation? The mythical character “Willie Lynch Jones” defined the problem in graphic detail. The book, “Pedagogy of the Oppressed,” offers a more scientific analysis.

My analysis is simple. Most Black people believe in white supremacy from our mother’s womb to the tomb, who are fed the lie that White people are smarter, prettier and more honest. We are taught to distrust each other and to believe the worse about ourselves and the best about our white oppressors. This is white supremacy in its basic form. 

You do not have to have a rape, gun or racist tongue to be a white supremacist, but you have to have insight, knowledge and courage to reject this false belief system that controls the minds of legislatures and citizens who vote for them. I was recently arrested by a young Black officer for “doing a legal act.”

How are the people of Alabama processing and participating in politics?

Where Blacks are the majority voters, the tactics of the white supremacist has changed. White men and women pretend to be Democrats. The “N” word is a no no, except behind closed doors and segregated country clubs. They have no Confederate flags in their yards. They offer smiles, “small donations” and church offerings to Black voters. The need for status and acceptance buys the loyalty of too many Black officials and leaders. 

In Selma, we have never had a Black sheriff. We only recently elected our first Black probate judge. His opponent ran on the promise that he was the smarter choice. White men and women can still convince some Black voters that they are the smarter choice.

The need for status and to please White people, especially those in power, directs the thoughts and actions of too many Blacks in the middle class and elected officials. But things are changing. It was easier to fool Black people when the “Colored only” signs were removed. The false expectation of integration compelled our silence and acceptance of the more subtle manifestation of white supremacy.  

President Trump has again revealed the ugly head of white supremacy and our motivation to attack this evil monster. The refusal to teach Black history is now being challenged. Our children are still forced to sing a national anthem which condones slavery in its third verse, but self-interest and not white interest is an emerging mindset that may trigger a movement that frees the mind as well as the land.

Linda Verin

What role do you feel that the President of the United States play in racism today? 

Here are a few examples.  Our president has called all Mexicans drug addicts, criminals and rapists and people that cross the border animals.  He said we have a problem in this country; it’s Muslims.  He said LeBron James is the dumbest man on TV and he makes Don Lemon look smart.  Maxine Waters has an extraordinarily low IQ.  NFL players who protest should be fired.  Africa is full of shithole countries.  President Obama is really from one of those.  And in Charlottesville where the Nazis demonstrated, he said there are fine people on both sides. 

Does the average person even know the meaning of Roe vs. Wade?

Unfortunately no.  I find that younger women take for granted that they can get abortions and think it has always been that way.  My mother-in-law, Vidal Clay, who recently passed away at 95, worked for Masters and Johnson who pioneered research about sex in the 1960s, a subject most never talked about. It was a time when many women died from attempting abortions with objects like coat hangers.  This encouraged Vidal to teach sex education in college because young people had no knowledge or incorrect knowledge.  I almost feel it’s the same now because people don’t know the complications that can come up with pregnancy.  Many desperately want children but unfortunately may produce horribly deformed babies; should they be forced to carry to term or be allowed to abort and try again?  There are 1,000s of situation like this.  The public is woefully uninformed and men more so.  Senator Chambliss, who sponsored the bill in the Alabama Senate, could not answer the simplest questions about it.  “How do women know when they’re pregnant?”  Answer:  “You know, chromosomes and all.”

What are they going to do with all of the children that are born in forced situations?

Not take care of them.  Alabama is currently 50th in prenatal care; the legislature did not approve Medicaid expansion so many children are without medical care; our schools are woefully underfunded; when Birmingham, a predominantly black city, passed raising the minimum wage to $10, the legislature said they could not do that.  And $10 is not even a living wage; you can’t support a family on that.  They will warehouse them like prisoners and the mentally ill.

How are white people in Alabama responding to the bill?

There are a group of activists that have risen up but overall I don’t see a reaction.  Hard to say if people are indifferent, don’t realize the impact, know it will never become law or truly agree with it – probably some of each.  The white male preachers have made it a line in the sand for their congregations; they must support it or they are not good Christians.  If it actually become law and people have to deal with it, I think it would influence the next election.  But since it doesn’t have a chance of being enforced in its current state, that probably won’t happen.  They won’t have lost anything and won’t have to think.  Its important to note the large majority of people protesting in Montgomery were white women.

Dee Linson

How racist of a state is Alabama??

As someone born, raised and educated in the State of Alabama in Birmingham and now commuting between Dallas and Birmingham, I’ve understood for some time how racism is truly ingrained in every fabric of life in the state. Just look at the under performing state of education in Alabama and how underfunded public schools are. The state has never made educating Black children a priority – only building more private prisons with subhuman conditions to house them in. I would make excuses for the regressive policies of my home state for years because I personally know how some work at dispelling the negative perceptions outsiders have about it being backwards with no innovation. I also know even as Black people begin to make strides in corporate and political leadership, the existence of systemic racism prevents many of us from elevating to these roles without gaining “permission” from the white status quo. This “foot on your neck” system is understood and adhered to by Black people on even the highest levels of power. 

What are the men saying about this signed bill?

I’m glad to see men just as outraged as women and not just because they’re “feminists” of sorts but also because they understand this is just the first step in disenfranchisement on many levels. If the goal is to challenge and overturn Roe v. Wade this would create a real Constitutional crisis in our country. The next challenge could then be to overturn the 13th, 14th and 15th Amendments or Brown vs the Board of Education. I have an 18 year sold son who’s a college freshman and the effects of this bill is troubling for him and his peers. He doesn’t exactly know why Alabama specifically passed what he calls a “super anti-abortion law” but hopes it opens more people’s eyes seeing a bunch of old white men decide on an issue that effects another demographic other than themselves. Further, this bill only criminalizes the actions of the woman and not the man involved. The men I’ve personally talked with are also outraged by the fact that if the decision to abort a child was one mutually and jointly made by both parents, then this bill only makes the actions of the woman and her physician illegal.  The man involved has no legal repercussions whatsoever.

Catrena Norris Carter

How can Christians really be down with this signed bill?

The basic Christian doesn’t recognize the separation between church and state and unfortunately this also applies to our folks in the Alabama legislature: This law has huge biblical context. It seems the more things change – the more they stay the same when it comes to the hypocrisy of some “so called” Christians!  How can a woman; our Governor Kay Ivey, say that she supports unborn lives, while at the same time allowing hundreds of LIVING Alabamians to die because she won’t expand Medicaid?  How do you contend that ALL lives matter while at the same time supporting the death penalty?  It begs the question of are they really Christians or just church folk  who haven’t read the bible, 

Why do you really think this bill was initiated and signed?

The resounding reason this bill was initiated and signed: Alabama’s antiabortion bill is part of a legislative agenda that is meant for the rest of the country — as much as, if not more than, it is meant for Alabama.  Ultimate Goal:  To take this bill to the Supreme Court and challenge Roe vs. Wade. We must also acknowledge the roles of racism and white supremacy in white men feeling the need to ensure that white women continue their white majority status throughout this country. 

What is the reaction of other women in Alabama?

Women are having a myriad of reactions to this abortion bill- but the main reaction OUTRAGE. How dare a group of old white men dictate what we do with our bodies. What rights do they have to dictate, to actually FORCE us to carry and birth children that for WHATEVER reason is not our choice.  They consistently claim to be Christians, yet they continue to appoint themselves as GODS. We must acknowledge that we have women who support the bill- heck a woman co-sponsored the bill and our Governor, who is a woman actually SIGNED it into law!  Both of them white I may add.  How do we feel about that?  Even more outrage!  They seem to be the gate keepers of white supremacy:  They have continuously failed us- they failed us with Trump where 52% of them voted for him and pushed him over the finish line and here again, as they champion this bill, which take us back to the 70’s and will have long term, devastating effects on not just Alabama but this country for decades to come.  

How are you able to live in Alabama as a woman and feel remotely safe?

Living as a woman in Alabama I struggle as women do across this country with basic issues of justice and equality.  But what scares me more than that is being an African American woman in Alabama. The Shelby County v. Holder case became the vehicle for eliminating provisions of the Voting Rights Act that protected minority voters in states with historical suppression and discrimination- in short, they gutted the Voting Rights Act. 

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