What struck me most in the reports coming out of Alabama this week were not the facts and figures so much as the images of Democrats walking out of the vote in protest, or more specifically, how many of those pictured walking out were people of color.
The African American Christian tradition in the South is every bit as strong as the white one — perhaps even more so — and it’s hard to imagine a politician in Alabama getting elected if they didn’t publicly profess the Christian faith. Yet in a state where systemic racism is so entrenched that, in many communities, racism has basically become synonymous with classism, these legislators don’t find that their faith stands in the way of their support of abortion access. They understand that — for all the talk of protecting mothers and the innocent unborn — restricting abortion is also meant to be punitive, to drive home the idea that actions have consequences and that the punishment should fit the crime.
The problem is that in places like Alabama in particular, the “crime” is not always viewed the same, depending on the perpetrator.
- When the pious, college-bound teenager with the grosgrain ribbon in her hair needs an abortion, her “mistake” is “out of character” and her future too precious to give up, a price too high to pay for a momentary dalliance. So, she quietly goes to the family doctor who takes care of the problem. Or, she goes away for a week to visit her “aunt in Atlanta.”
- When the young woman from public housing finds herself in the same predicament, however, a different calculation is made. Her pregnancy is a manifestation of her choice to wallow in her “sinful” nature, her poverty proof of some moral and spiritual failing. If she attempts an abortion, she and the doctor go to jail for 99 years.