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Dear Media: Women Made the Alabama Abortion Law Happen

The opinions expressed by columnists are their own and do not necessarily represent the views of
AP Photo/Butch Dill, File

Twenty-five white males are responsible for Alabama’s new abortion legislation, according to the news media. But, if Americans look more closely, they’ll find that’s a blatant miscalculation. Women – pro-life women – are the driving force.

The “Alabama Human Life Protection Act,” or HB 314, considers abortion and abortion attempts felony offenses, except in cases where it’s done “to prevent a serious health risk to the unborn child’s mother.” The law acknowledges that women are victims of abortion and “will not be held criminally culpable or civilly liable.” On Wednesday, HB 314, which was sponsored by a woman, was signed into law by another woman. 

But rather than dwell on the oddity of pro-life women, the media blamed another group: white men. Twenty-five of them voted to pass it the day before it was signed.

“Twenty-five members of the Alabama State Senate voted to pass the nation's most restrictive abortion bill on Tuesday,” wrote CBS reporter Danielle Garrand, “and every single one of them were white men.” 

Writing for the Guardian, reporter Erin Durkin and editor Max Benwell stressed the new law “was passed by this group of exclusively white, male politicians.”

“As many people noted, all 25 of those ‘yes’ votes came from white male senators,” added HuffPost reporter Alanna Vagianos. 

For USA Today, Alia E. Dastagir noted the “25 white male Republicans in Alabama.”

“The bill passed thanks to the votes of a group of exclusively white, male Republican senators,” echoed Vice journalist David Gilbert. 

While many outlets admitted a female governor signed the bill into law, they didn’t make it a focus. That’s not surprising for a media who call protecting abortion a “women’s rights” win or who cut pro-life women from documentaries on abortion legislation. 

To the media, pro-life women don’t exist. And it starts to look suspiciously like sexism when the media assume women take a particular position on a certain issue solely because of their gender. This Alabama abortion law shatters that narrative. 

State Representative Terri Collins, a woman, helped sponsor the bill. Governor Kay Ivey, also a woman, signed the bill into law. In a statement, Gov. Ivey prioritized not only the protection of life, but also the enhancement of life. 

She urged members to find the “best ways possible to foster a better Alabama in all regards, from education to public safety,” exposing the lie that pro-lifers only care about the unborn. “We must give every person the best chance for a quality life and a promising future.”

Women’s influence didn’t end there. Pro-life women voters elected these representatives. According to Pew Research Center data from 2014, 58 percent of Alabama adults wanted abortion illegal in all or most cases. Forty-nine percent of those were men – and 51 percent were women. 

Pro-life women don’t just exist in Alabama. An August CBS/Refinery29 poll revealed that 72 percent of millennial women are likely in favor of abortion restrictions. In January, a Marist poll found 75 percent of Americans – including women – say abortion should be limited to the first three months of pregnancy. 

A Gallup poll last summer found that 48 percent of Americans call themselves “pro-life,” the same percentage who identify as “pro-choice.” Other Gallup data determined that both men and women “generally hold similar abortion attitudes.”

On top of that, the national pro-life movement is led by women. Here are just a few of them: Jeanne Mancini of the March for Life, Marjorie Dannenfelser of Susan B. Anthony List, Lila Rose of Live Action, Abby Johnson of And Then There Were None, Kristan Hawkins of Students for Life, Catherine Glenn Foster of Americans United for Life, and Destiny Herndon-De La Rosa of New Wave Feminists.

Last but not least, the media forget that men ruling on abortion doesn’t always translate into a pro-life decision. One of the main reasons the media are causing an uproar over Alabama’s legislation is that they’re worried it could reach the Supreme Court and overturn Roe v. Wade, the 1973 case that legalized abortion in the United States. 

But here’s the catch: Roe v. Wade was decided by men – most of whom were white.

The media will continue to be astounded by the pro-life movement until they recognize that women play a major role in it. That starts by acknowledging their existence. 

And, perhaps then, abortion supporters would come closer to understanding the pro-life position. Pro-life women, by their very existence, shatter the argument that restricting abortion is about controlling women’s bodies. No woman would voluntarily enslave herself. Instead, they demonstrate that the pro-life movement is about something different: encouraging the pregnant woman to recognize the inherent dignity of the other, smaller human body inside of her.

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