I can’t pretend that what happened at the Alabama State House yesterday wasn’t a complete and utter travesty. The House passed four bills, all by wide margins, that do precisely diddly-squat to help improve the lives of Alabamians, and entirely far too much to trample on those who are already under the gun.
HB 95 and HB 98 not only threaten the ability of a woman to access the safe and legal medical right to control her own body, but will have negative impacts on birth control availability, in vitro fertilization, and the overall health and safety of women across our state. HB 96 makes it a crime for a medical provider to end the suffering of a terminally ill dying patient suffering horrific pain beyond imagination. HB 24, perhaps the one of these four that makes me angriest, allows foster and adoption agencies to refuse to place children in need of homes into those with LGBT parents. Let me repeat that. HB 24 allows adoption and foster agencies, tasked by the government with ensuring that children are taken care of to the very best of our ability, to COMPLETELY AND UTTERLY forsake that task.
I can’t pretend that the bills described above are anything other than unnecessary and cruel. But I can choose to also highlight a few positives from the day.
Planned Parenthood supporters showed up in force in the Gallery, coming from as far away as Mobile and Tuscaloosa and Huntsville. While the day’s results may not have been quite what this dedicated group hoped for, it is clear that even in Alabama, there is a significant number of people who will stand up for reproductive rights.
Representative Chris England was surgical in his questioning of the underlying rationale and legal theory of HB 98. Why, he asked, are we trying to ensure that our state constitution explicitly contradicts federal case law? On what legal grounds are we bringing back a kinder, gentler nullification theory?
Representative Merika Coleman, meanwhile, was as absolutely cold-blooded as Rep. England was measured. Rep. Coleman took no prisoners during her questioning on HB 24, asking the bill’s sponsor why on earth something like this was even necessary. Our state has not enacted some arduous requirements for foster agencies to follow. This bill is a needless answer in search of a question, and manages to do irreparable harm to children while legalizing discrimination against loving parents for no other reason than who they love.
It seemed that the representative who bore the hardest burden yesterday, though, was Representative Patricia Todd. Against HB 98, she stood up and pleaded for the House to invest in and protect children after they are born. Why do we not fully fund their education? Why do we not ensure that they have good healthcare? Why do we not give them good information about sexuality and birth control? If an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure, why do we so glaringly refuse to proactively tackle these issues and instead take steps to send poor women to their death via back-room, illegal abortions?
Against HB 24, Rep. Todd spoke as the only openly gay House member. Voting for this bill, she said, clearly emotional, would send a sign to her that her colleagues believe she and her wife are not fit to be parents. A vote for HB 24 is one that she would take personally. While it seemed evident from his remarks that the sponsor of the bill held genuine respect for Rep. Todd, it was impossible to adequately square that sentiment with the effects of the bill itself.
Perhaps most heart-rending was Rep. Todd’s testimony on HB 96. She asked the bill’s sponsor if he had ever seen a person dying from AIDS, and after he said no, she stated: “I have.” Rep. Todd went on to describe the pain and suffering that she has watched people go through as a result of the condition, and talked about how she personally has helped a dying AIDS patient alleviate their own suffering by ending their life. HB 96, she said, would have sent her to jail. “I’d do it again,” she stated. The bill’s sponsor made a statement about suicide usually being a “permanent solution to a temporary problem,” indicating a complete lack of understanding of the truly gut-wrenching decisions that occur when somebody is already dying or terminally ill and in great pain.
Time after time yesterday, Rep. Todd stood up and bared her soul in front of her fellow lawmakers who went on to vote against everything she talked about. I thank Representatives Todd, Coleman, England, and all others who spoke out against one or more of these bills. While yesterday may have been filled with defeats, these people show how important it is that we keep fighting. Alabama has a long way to go before we’re treating all of our citizens with the respect that they deserve, and yesterday’s votes threaten to take us further away from that future. Nevertheless, we persist. Much love to you all.