This is not a conversation I am used to seeing in Alabama, but one I have long wanted to hear. When the new Republican House majority moved to vote on a bill that would make abortions illegal after the 20th week of gestation, Democrats filibustered. The result is an unflinching conversation about the priorities of faith-based politics: does the right to life end at birth?
In part one, Merika Coleman objects to the majority’s changes to the Special Order Calendar; Kerry Rich, the bill’s sponsor, discusses the 'scientific foundation' of his bill; Laura Hall notes the bill lacks exceptions for rape and incest; and Patricia Todd asks that the 'right to life' be applied to funding for education and child care.
In part two, Dexter Grimsley questions Kerry Rich, sponsor of an abortion bill, on his understanding of the medical science of fetal pain; Barbara Boyd questions the majority’s overreach; Alvin Ward reminds the sponsor about the costs of previous suits brought against the state over unconstitutional legislation; Juandalynn Givan excoriates the sponsor for authoring the bill on faith instead of evidence; Greg Canfield asks for civility.
In part three, Christopher John England points out the bill’s problematic disagreement with Supreme Court precedent; Pebblin Warren discusses infanticide and back-alley abortions as the unintended consequences of abortion restrictions; Joseph Mitchell attempts to amend the bill to use the word “fetus” instead of “child;” Paul Lee moves for cloture; Alvin Ward and Mary Moore denounce the move to cut off debate; James Buskey challenges the majority to work on jobs instead of criminalizing legal activity.
As a culture war blogger, I am most impressed that Alabama's House Democrats fought this battle this well and in good order. In fact, I am startled that nearly thirty Alabama legislators are willing to go on the record voting "no" to an abortion bill, given the political climate in Alabama. Based on a Nebraska law, HB 18 represents yet another national attempt to chip away at Roe v Wade in the Supreme Court, charged at taxpayer expense in time of budget crisis. It is not the exception, but rather the rule that culture wars take precedent over needed legislation.
The Democratic caucus is making a clear shift to an urban-first political strategy. I have been advising every Democrat who would listen to talk about a right to life that does not end at birth -- how Democrats should speak about the unemployed and the working, struggling families etc. Democrats did that, making this a conversation about facts, science, and public priorities. They lost, but they put up a great fight.
As for Republicans: they let Democrats talk awhile, and then used their power to force cloture and push through yet another agenda item. As far as the GOP of Alabama is concerned, they're on a roll. Who cares about the medical facts of the thalamus? As long as they have their faith to tell them that a thalamus doesn't matter, it doesn't. The more they make Democrats talk about abortion, the less time there will be to talk about closing the gaps in the education budget; but the budget is their number-one priority. See how that works?