The American Ethical Union (AEU) condemns the passage and signing into law of the Alabama “Human Life Protection Act.” This law, far from honoring human life, profoundly restricts the bodily autonomy of pregnant people; is a bill of rights for rapists and abusers; puts the lives of pregnant people at risk; upends basic moral principles; and continues an assault on reproductive freedom which has been waged for decades. The bill exists to control and demean women, and the AEU opposes it.
Bodily autonomy is central to human dignity: we all as a matter of right should be able to choose how to control a process occurring within our own bodies. This moral principle is fundamental to any serious ethic, and by criminalizing the provision of abortion the Alabama bill profoundly restricts the autonomy of women and trans men with uteruses, making them second class citizens who cannot decide what their own body does. The freedom to make reproductive choices has wide-ranging positive effects for individuals and for society. When people have access to legal abortions, fewer people die from attempting to end a pregnancy themselves. When families can choose when to start a family they are more economically stable and socially successful.
By offering no exception in the case of rape or incest, the Alabama law is a bill of rights for rapists and abusers: all they must do is impregnate a person—including a child—and that person will effectively be forced by the government to carry their rapist’s child to term. This is both morally grotesque and an extraordinary overreach of governmental power. Government now so big that it reaches into people’s very wombs.
The Alabama bill is yet more wicked in how it targets healthcare providers. By criminalizing the providers of healthcare procedures it severely undermines the essential trust between doctors and their patients, inserting the law into deeply private decisions that should be made only by an individual in consultation with their medical advisers. Doctors will be scared to attempt even legal, life-saving abortions because of potential draconian punishment. This will undoubtedly lead to the death of many women.
The “Alabama Human Life Protection Act” is therefore misnamed: it prioritizes the life of human embryos that are not yet people over the lives of fully developed human persons.
This bill also erodes religious freedom, since it has been promoted consistently by its supporters as the enforcement of sectarian religious convictions on all Alabamians using the power of law. Governor Ivey made the religious nature of the bill clear when signing it, saying: “this legislation stands as a powerful testament to Alabamians’ deeply held belief that every life is precious and that every life is a sacred gift from God.” Those Alabamians who hold a different understanding of the commands of God, or who believe in a different God or none at all, are now subject to an essentially theocratic doctrine. This contradicts the Constitution’s insistence on the separation of church and state, threatening many other freedoms in the process.
The bill in Alabama is but the latest and most egregious example of a furious assault on reproductive rights which has been waged across America for decades. The naked ambition of these bills is clear: they seek nothing less than the total eradication of the right of pregnant people to control their own bodies. The American Ethical Union rejects the moral logic of these laws and sees them for what they are: an attempt to control women and to restrict fundamental freedoms which men take for granted. We reassert our total commitment to reproductive freedom, and call upon our member Societies to stand with the AEU and act in support of that commitment.
Actions might include:
- support of organizations like Planned Parenthood, National Network of Abortion Funds, and the Midwest Access Coalition
- participation in social witness, even, where appropriate, civil disobedience
- expressing opinions directly to decision-makers
- submitting a version of this statement to local media
- hosting discussions and speakers at your community about sex education, contraception, and reproductive choices
- partnering with existing organization to support evidence-based sex education in schools, full access to contraception, and a person’s right to choose whether and when to have a child