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Republicans' Plan to Arrest Women for Abortion
The Alabama AG's office slipped up & revealed all
Conservatives have spent a lot of time, energy and money on the lie that abortion bans won’t send women to prison. It’s a crucial strategy: Voters already overwhelmingly oppose abortion bans, and the last thing Republicans need is for already-worked-up Americans to start thinking about the women they love behind bars.
Despite how obvious the deception is—women were being arrested before Roe was even overturned, and when you make something a crime, people tend to be criminalized—anti-abortion lawmakers and activists continually insist that they will never, ever prosecute women.
Thanks to a slip-up by the Alabama’s Attorney General’s office, however, we now know exactly how Republicans plan to get around those false promises.
For years, politicians and major anti-abortion groups have dismissed feminist warnings about women being prosecuted as ‘myths’ and misinformation. And since Roe was overturned, those same people have pointed to abortion bans themselves as ‘proof’—noting how many contain clauses stating that women are not to be arrested.
Indeed, that language does exist. In Alabama, for example, the Human Life Protection Act explicitly says, “this bill would provide that a woman who receives an abortion will not be held criminally culpable or civilly liable for receiving the abortion.” And when Roe was overturned, Alabama’s Attorney General Steve Marshall went on television to assure voters that the law “is not a criminal offense against the mother.”
But conservatives wouldn’t be conservatives if they weren’t thinking about new and innovative ways to punish women, and Alabama Republicans were never going to let a little thing like the law they wrote stand in the way of putting women in jail.
In the worst wink-wink-nudge-nudge statement I’ve seen in a long time, the Alabama AG’s office told a conservative reporter that just because the abortion ban won’t let them arrest women, it doesn’t mean that the state can’t use other laws to put women behind bars: A spokesperson for Marshall told 1819 News this weekend that even though the Human Life Protection Act exempts women from being prosecuted, it “does not provide an across-the-board exemption from all criminal laws, including the chemical-endangerment law—which the Alabama Supreme Court has affirmed and reaffirmed protects unborn children.”
The state’s chemical endangerment law was crafted to punish adults who expose children to “an environment in which controlled substances are produced or distributed.” In other words, Alabama’s Attorney General plans to arrest and charge women who take abortion medication—which accounts for over 50% of abortions, and is the primary way women in anti-choice states circumvent abortion bans. And they’re going to do so using a law meant to stop adults from bringing kids to drug dealers’ houses.
So much for not jailing women!
Alabama’s chemical endangerment law has actually already been used to arrest and imprison pregnant women—like 23 year-old Ashley Banks, who slept on a jail floor for three months as she endured severe vaginal bleeding without treatment. Why? Because police found a small bag of marijuana in her car.
Another woman, Stacey Freeman, was also incarcerated for ‘chemical endangerment of a child’ after she allegedly used drugs while pregnant. But here’s the thing: She wasn’t even pregnant. After the county jail was forced to release her, a Sheriff Investigator warned Freeman that if she did get pregnant, she’d be brought up on additional charges.
All of which is to say, Republicans will do anything and everything to jail women—and if one law won’t let them, they'll just find another. They just can’t say it out loud. (That’s why I’m betting the spokesperson from Marshall’s office who spilled the beans is about to have a very bad day!)
But we don’t need their gaffes or slip-ups to reveal what’s already obvious: Conservatives are livid over women using abortion medication in spite of state bans, and they want to see us punished. It really is that simple.
And while they don’t want voters to realize just how cruel they are—hence the continued insistence that women will never be jailed for abortion—Republicans’ appetite for abuse will always win out.
It’s our job to make sure that the rest of American knows it.
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