Alabama Just Passed a “Personhood” Law That Gives Unborn Fetuses the Same Rights As People

credit: Roxely Briones / FIERCE x mitu

As we previously reported, Alabama voters were tasked this mid-term election with deciding whether or not abortion would remain legal in their state in the event that Roe vs. Wade was ever overturned. On November 6th, the voters made their voices heard and decided by a margin of 59% to 41% that fetuses will now be granted the same rights as a living person under state law.

This means that embryos, regardless of gestational age, are now fully protected under the Alabama constitution. So in effect, both a woman and her fetus are granted equal protection under the eyes of the state law. This Amendment would render abortion effectively illegal in the state of Alabama if Roe vs. Wade were ever to be federally overturned. This event would disproportionately affect Latinas, especially those of low-income.

Alabamans took to the polls and voted “yes” on the proposed amendment to the Alabama constitution.

According to the bill’s sponsor, Rep. Matt Fridy (AL-R), the ballot measure was proposed in order to ensure “that at a state level, if Roe v. Wade is overturned, that the Alabama Constitution cannot be used as a mechanism by which to claim that there is a right to abortion”. Roe vs. Wade is the landmark 1973 Supreme Court ruling that bars states from banning abortions before a woman’s third trimester of pregnancy. According to the Supreme Court’s opinion at the time, a woman’s decision to terminate her pregnancy fell under the 14th Amendment’s “Right to Privacy”. Therefore, abortion has been legal nation-wide since 1973.

However, the uptick in states trying to solidify their statewide anti-abortion laws is due to a statement President Trump made during his 2016 presidential campaign. When asked in an interview with Fox News if he wanted The Supreme Court to overturn Roe v. Wade, Trump replied “Well, if we put another two or perhaps three justices on…that will happen automatically because I am putting pro-life justices on the court”. Because of this statement, many Pro-Life activists believe they must change their local laws now to be ready in the event of a strike down of Roe v. Wade.

This ballot measure has been controversial from the beginning, with Pro-Choice groups claiming that the measure creates “profound hardships for women and families” and is especially tough on “those who already face significant barriers to receiving high-quality health care”. On the flip side, Pro-Life activists firmly believe that all life begins at conception and it is morally wrong to end a life when humans should have a fundamental right to “personhood”.

As with any controversial issue, Latinas are not a monolith and don’t vote in blocs–they, like every other group of people, have a range of opinions.

So of course the reaction to the new ammendonet on Twitter has been strong.

And has highlighted just how concerned with the new ammendment we should be.

The personhood law works to establish fertilized eggs as “persons,” or people with rights and the full legal protection of the U.S. Consitituion. When Roe v. Wade was signed into law it also marked the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision to reject any indication that fetuses are people. As of now, abortion is still legal under federal law, but the latest ammendemnt poses a deep threat to people in the state of Alabama seeking to terminate their pregnancies. The new law means that Roe vs. Wade could undergo scrutinzation from the Supreme Court which now has conservative majority.

As for this law’s effect on average Latinas, like many other issues, the abortion debate oftentimes boils down to socio-economic factors. Experts say that banning abortion in one state primarily effects poorer women who don’t have the financial means to travel out of state for an abortion. And this phenomenon matters to Latinas, considering 20% of the Latinx population lives in poverty (compared to just 9% of the white population). Pro-choice groups also say that if a woman isn’t able to access an abortion by a licensed doctor who can perform the procedure safely, they may turn to more dangerous methods out of desperation. This means that by in large, due to their socio-economic status in the US, Latinas are more likely to resort to unsafe methods to terminate an unwanted pregnancy.


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