This week, DoubleX is proud to inaugurate the Worst State of the Week award, for the member of the union that has shown the most creativity, originality, brio, and thought leadership in expressing its hostility to women’s rights. Before we get to our first-ever winner, though, let’s look at the runners-up.
Third prize goes to Colorado, whose legislature is exploiting a violent crime against a pregnant woman—one that resulted in her baby’s death—to justify a bill defining fertilized eggs as persons, even though voters rejected the notion at the polls in November. Despite claiming that the bill would protect pregnant women, the long history of these “feticide” laws indicates that they are actually used as a pretext to arrest women for stillbirths or even on suspicion of drug use while pregnant—even if they give birth to healthy babies. To add insult to injury, Colorado Republicans are on the verge of destroying a family planning program credited with reducing the teen birthrate in the state by 40 percent over a five-year period.
In second place is Tennessee, where the legislature passed two bills restricting abortion access this week that are expected to be signed by the governor. When Democrats tried to amend the bill to create exceptions for women with mental health emergencies or who were victims of rape or incest, state Rep. Sheila Butt shot them down, insinuating that patients and providers would fake these situations in order to gain abortion access.
Despite such fierce competition, this week’s winner is Alabama, where state legislators finally allowed the subtext to become text with a bill that equates abortion providers and their patients with sex offenders. Republicans in the state House, eager to shut down the state’s one remaining abortion clinic in Huntsville, have concocted a bill banning abortion clinics from operating within 2,000 feet of a school. Local anti-choice fanatic James Henderson takes credit for the idea, saying, “We were advised … that a good approach was to use the same standard of keeping sex offenders from public schools, which is 2,000 feet.”
Henderson also denounced “the spectacle of an abortion clinic” being within the view of children. What he didn’t explain, however, is that the Huntsville clinic itself is not a spectacle—James Henderson is. Henderson and his wife, Carol, are obsessive, belligerent protesters. There’s video of James hurling racially loaded harassment at a black clinic escort, of him telling a police officer he doesn’t have to obey state laws that “God” (read: Henderson) doesn’t like, and generally ranting at the top of his voice at passersby. So not only does this bill equate women seeking abortion with sex offenders, it victim-blames the targets of fundamentalist bullies.
Congratulations, Alabama! Let’s see if you can hang onto the title next week.