- Jessica Mason Pieklovice president of law and the courts at Rewire.News and co-host of Rewire.News’s podcast Boom! Lawyered. She is co-author of Crow After Roe: How “Separate But Equal” Has Become the New Standard in Women’s Health and How We Can Change That and the forthcoming book The End of Roe v. Wade: Inside the Right’s Plan to Destroy Legal Abortion.
- Monica Simpsonexecutive director of SisterSong.
Alabama lawmakers voted to effectively ban abortion Tuesday, passing the most restrictive anti-choice law in the country in a direct challenge to Roe v. Wade. The bill, approved by the Senate Tuesday and the Alabama House last month, bans abortions at all phases. Doctors could face up to 99 years in prison for performing abortions. The bill’s only exception is grave risk to the mother’s life—not cases of rape and incest. The legislation is now heading to the desk of anti-choice Republican Governor Kay Ivey, and many expect she’ll sign it. Opponents say they’ll challenge the bill in court should it become law, but this is precisely the point. Architects behind the legislation want to use it to challenge Roe v. Wade, which recognizes the constitutional right to an abortion. We speak with Jessica Mason Pieklo of Rewire.News and Monica Simpson of SisterSong.
JUAN GONZÁLEZ: Alabama lawmakers voted to effectively ban abortion Tuesday, passing the most restrictive anti-choice law in the country in a direct challenge to Roe v. Wade. The bill, approved by the Senate Tuesday and the Alabama House last month, bans abortions at all phases. Doctors could face up to 99 years in prison for performing abortions. The bill includes no exceptions for survivors of rape and incest. Its only exception is grave risk to the mother’s life. The legislation is now heading to the desk of anti-choice Republican Governor Kay Ivey, and many expect she’ll sign it. Opponents say they’ll challenge the bill in court should it become law, but that’s precisely the point. Architects behind the legislation want to use it to challenge Roe v. Wade, which recognizes the constitutional right to an abortion.
AMY GOODMAN: Just one day before Alabama passed the legislation, Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer issued what many considered a dire warning from the bench, implying that Roe v. Wade is in danger. He wrote the comments in a dissent for an unrelated case in which the court voted to overturn a 40-year-old precedent. Breyer wrote, quote, “Today’s decision can only cause one to wonder which cases the Court will overrule next.”
JUAN GONZÁLEZ: This attack on reproductive rights is playing out in state legislatures across the country. Also on Tuesday, the Republican-led Michigan Senate passed bills to ban the most common method of second-trimester abortion and criminalize abortion providers. Democratic Governor Gretchen Whitmer is expected to veto the legislation. Last week, Georgia Republican Governor Brian Kemp signed one of the most restrictive abortion laws in the U.S., banning abortion when a fetal heartbeat can be detected, which often occurs at around six weeks into pregnancy, before many women even realize they are pregnant. The new law is set to take effect on January 1, 2020.
AMY GOODMAN: Ohio Governor Mike DeWine also signed into law a six-week abortion ban last month. The legislation does not include exceptions for cases of rape or incest.
Well, for more, we’re joined by Monica Simpson, executive director of SisterSong Women of Color Reproductive Justice Collective. She’s in Denver today, but she’s based in Atlanta, Georgia.
And we’re joined by Jessica Mason Pieklo, legal analyst and vice president of law and the courts at Rewire. She’s the co-author of Crow After Roe: How “Separate But Equal” Has Become the New Standard in Women’s Health and How We Can Change That. Her forthcoming book, written with Robin Marty, is The End of Roe v. Wade: Inside the Right’s Plan to Destroy Legal Abortion.
We welcome you both to Democracy Now! Jessica, let’s begin with you. Explain what just happened in Alabama.
JESSICA MASON PIEKLO: What just happened in Alabama is that lawmakers launched a full frontal attack on legal abortion in the state and across the country with a law designed specifically to challenge Roe v. Wade in the long term and, in the short term, sow chaos in the state of Alabama for folks who need access to abortion.
JUAN GONZÁLEZ: And could you talk about Justice Breyer’s warning, how that specifically might relate to Roe v. Wade in terms of his dissent in an unrelated case?
JESSICA MASON PIEKLO: Absolutely. On Monday, the Supreme Court issued a 5-to-4 decision in effectively a tax case, and Justice Thomas took the lead in that decision and upended 40 years of precedent. And that, on the face, has absolutely nothing to do with abortion rights, but as Justice Breyer noted, the path that the court took in getting to the outcome has absolutely everything to do with abortion rights, when we look at the conservative wing of the court looking to enact an agenda that lawmakers at the states have volleyed up for them in these anti-choice bills. And so, what Justice Breyer did was go through the concept of stare decisis and precedent that the majority in this decision had overturned, and suggested how that they could do the same thing when it came to other areas, like abortion rights and contraception, for example.
AMY GOODMAN: This is Alabama state Senator Linda Coleman-Madison speaking at the debate yesterday before Alabama voted an almost total abortion ban.
SEN. LINDA COLEMAN-MADISON: This bill, to me, appears to be about control. When the dust settles and if this bill passes on a roll call vote, you will be telling your wives, your daughters, your granddaughters and those who support this bill that you don’t value the worth of women, regardless of how educated, how sound of mind, how competent, how knowledgeable, no matter how many degrees they have or how many of these same women you have paid your hard-earned money to educate, that their voice does not matter. We don’t trust you to make a decision that is the most personal and precious decision about your own body. And that includes your offsprings, your grandchildren.
AMY GOODMAN: So that’s Alabama state Senator Linda Coleman-Madison speaking just before the Alabama state Senate followed the example of the Alabama House of Representatives and voted for the almost complete abortion ban. Jessica Mason Pieklo, go further in explaining exactly what it means—you know, putting doctors in prison for life if they perform the procedure, an 11-year-old kid who’s raped by her father forced to bear her father’s child. Talk about why the no exceptions, what the Legislature—what Alabama is hoping to do at the Supreme Court.
JESSICA MASON PIEKLO: Well, they’re hoping, quite clearly, to upend legal abortion in any way that they can with this bill. And so, by not having any exceptions, for example, they are taking a direct attack on the line of precedent in Roe that says states can enact certain measures before viability, for example, but there need to be exceptions maintained for the health of the pregnant person and their life, for example.
What is really happening here, though, that I think is most important to dive into, is that lawmakers have said very specifically that they know this bill is unconstitutional, that their design by passing this is to force a court challenge. And Republicans have spent the last two years packing the federal courts with ideologues who have promised, if given the opportunity, to upend Roe v. Wade. So this is a political campaign that is being waged in the courts right now because conservatives and Republicans really feel that they have the advantage here.
And we’re seeing in places where pregnant people are already criminalized for certain pregnancy outcomes, the impact of upending legal abortion is starting and has started in places, but what this does is put that on hyperspeed, and says very clearly that lawmakers don’t care what the law is. They don’t care that this is an unconstitutional ban. That’s the point of it. And so, the question is whether or not the federal courts are going to do their job and not be ideological in this and apply the law. And should they do that, then this ban is dead in the water.
JUAN GONZÁLEZ: Now, Monica Simpson, you’re usually based in Georgia. Could you talk about what’s been happening in your state and this whole issue of this political offensive by the anti-choice forces? Clearly, there is an attempt not only to overturn Roe v. Wade, but also to mobilize the anti-choice movement as we head into the presidential elections next year.
MONICA SIMPSON: Absolutely. Thank you so much for having me this morning. I will say that today those of us who have been doing this work in Georgia and who have just faced the same battles that our folks in Alabama are facing as of yesterday, we’re standing in solidarity with Alabama and all the other states and folks who are dealing with these issues all across the country.
And what we see and what we’ve been able to really come to grips with in this country is that this has been a steady and a very stealth approach that our opposition has taken against us at the state level. And what we are seeing here in Georgia, what we’re seeing now in Alabama, is that they are making a very clear message: that they do not care about us, they do not care about our ability to make our own decisions about our bodies, about our families, about how we want to create family.
And what we’re trying to do now, what we’re working to do collectively, is to build our voices, to build our people power against that. But we have been seeing since 2011 over 400 different measures come through statehouses that have been medically unnecessary, and they have been using their political agenda to really move this very clear message and to get us to the point that we are now. And so, yes, we are at a point where we have to be ready to mount up all of our defenses against this. And that’s exactly what we’re doing in Georgia, and that’s exactly what we’re going to be doing across this country.
AMY GOODMAN: This is Georgia’s Republican Governor Brian Kemp speaking last week after signing into law Georgia’s six-week abortion ban.
GOV. BRIAN KEMP: The LIFE Act is very simple but also very powerful, a declaration that all life has value, that all life matters and that all life is worthy of protection. I understand, like the others have said, that some oppose this legislation. I realize that some may challenge it in the court of law. But our job is to do what is right, not what is easy. We are called to be strong and courageous, and we will not back down. We will always continue to fight for life.
AMY GOODMAN: That’s Georgia’s Republican Governor Brian Kemp speaking last week after signing into law the six-week abortion ban. Stacey Abrams, the Democratic politician who narrowly lost to Brian Kemp, who was the secretary of state, the Republican governor’s race, tweeted after the bill was signed into law, “Bad policies like the forced pregnancy bill are a direct result of voter suppression. If leaders can silence Georgians’ voices at the ballot box, they can ignore Georgians’ voices when in office. We will fight back in court and at the voting booth,” she said. Monica Simpson, if you can talk about what happened on the ground in Georgia, and particularly how these abortion bans affect women of color?
MONICA SIMPSON: Absolutely. On the ground, we have been working together collectively. We, across different organizations, across our sectors of reproductive health, rights and justice, formed the Georgia Coalition for Reproductive Health, Rights and Justice to be in lockstep, to be in connection with each other, as we were fighting on the ground, moving at the grassroots level all the way up to our state House, to make sure that we were educating our communities, amplifying the needs and the voices of the most marginalized in our community, to really fight back against this.
And what’s interesting whenever I hear Kemp say that we need to make courageous decisions and that we should not make the easy decisions, there are so many things that Georgia could be actually fighting for that would actually impact the lives of those living in the margins. We are a state where we’re at the very bottom when it comes to maternal mortality, and we see that black women are dying at a rate four times higher than white women in childbirth. We are a state that has yet to expand Medicaid. We are a state where we still need to be making sure that we are creating economic opportunities for people to be able to survive and thrive.
But instead of really focusing on those issues, which have been what our folks on the ground have asked for of our elected officials, of the governor of our state, instead we’re moving forward measures that actually decrease access and put people at risk. And when we have things like a six-week abortion ban in place, and if that’s something that moves forward, which we are going to fight every single day to make sure that it doesn’t, things like that, when you put those different measures in place, we know who gets impacted the most. It’s folks of color, marginalized communities, young people. Those folks, their lives are the ones that are most at risk.
So instead of listening to the folks of Georgia and listening to the needs of the people of Georgia, we have folks in office who are really focused on moving their political agenda and using our bodies and our wombs as collateral. And we say no more to that. And so we are working together collectively to build that people power, to make sure that we are fighting this at every level that we most possibly can. But on the ground, we have been working diligently to build that collective power to make sure that we have what is necessary for us to fight this at every level.
JUAN GONZÁLEZ: Jessica Mason Pieklo, I’m wondering if you could talk about Ohio, a key, obviously, battleground state in the upcoming presidential race, and the abortion law there.
JESSICA MASON PIEKLO: Right. Well, we have seen Ohio try to enact as many anti-abortion measures as they can, including one of these six-week bans, in addition to a ban on later abortion, which is tied up in the courts. And you mentioned Ohio is a battleground state. And I think it’s really important to bring this back into this idea of disenfranchisement and who is passing this and why. You know, we have seen success from the last 40 years of having broader reproductive—or, access to reproductive health services and the ability to plan families and to try and parent as we choose. And so it is no surprise that in those states where some of those advances have taken place in rapid form, we’re seeing such a pushback.
And so, I so appreciate Stacey Abrams making that connection in terms of disenfranchisement. I don’t think we can say that enough. These are bills that are designed to keep people out of civic life and out of the political process. And so, Ohio is an excellent example of this, where there is good support for abortion rights and access on the ground and in its citizenry, but the politicians are using the power that they have right now to try and stymie that. And it is important because Ohio sits in the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals, and that is also a federal circuit court of appeals that has been newly made more conservative thanks to Trump appointees. And so, again, when I talk about this as a political campaign that’s being waged in the courts, those are the dots that I hope people are starting to connect, because they are all connected.
AMY GOODMAN: Do you actually see Roe being overturned?
JESSICA MASON PIEKLO: That’s an excellent question. I do. I think that, you know, there are two paths that conservatives can take. They can continue on an incrementalist approach, which we are seeing them attempting in the states through various types of procedure bans, through TRAP restrictions that we’ve talked about previously on this show. Or they can go for the brass ring and go for Roe altogether. And we’re seeing them take that path now.
You know, the question will be, ultimately: What stomach does Chief Justice John Roberts have for overturning precedent here? We’ve seen early indications that he is uncomfortable by some of the political nature of what is happening. However, when it comes to a substantive vote in defense of abortion rights, Chief Justice John Roberts has yet to cast one in favor of abortion rights on the merits. And so, I think that it is well within our concern to think that Roe v. Wade could be overturned in the next several years.
AMY GOODMAN: We’re going to end with a video that went viral just a few months ago. It’s Georgia Democratic state Senator Jen Jordan speaking against the abortion ban on the Georgia state Senate floor in March.
SEN. JEN JORDAN: The deepest, darkest times of my life have occurred in the presence of and with my physician. You see, I’ve been pregnant 10 times. I have seen what many of you in here have called a heartbeat 10 times. But I have only given birth twice. I have lost seven pregnancies in varying points of time before 20 weeks, and one after five months. Her name was Juliet. I have laid on the cold examination table while a doctor desperately looked for a heartbeat. I have been escorted out the back door of my physician’s office so as not to upset the other pregnant women in the waiting area, my grief on full display and uncontainable. I have been on my knees time after time in prayer to my god about my losses. I have loved each and every single one of those potential lives, and my husband and I have grieved each passing.
But no matter my faith, my beliefs, my losses, I have never, ever strayed from the basic principle that each woman—each woman—must be able to make her decisions in consultation with her god and her family. It is not for the government or the men of this chamber to insert itself in the most personal, private and wrenching decisions that make every single day. And that’s not some smily, happy statement that’s been focus-grouped; that is the reality of our lives. … And let me be clear: If you shirk the most basic duties you have to protect the fundamental rights of women today, then no doubt the women of this state will reclaim their rights after they have claimed your seats.
AMY GOODMAN: That’s Georgia state Senator Jen Jordan speaking in March. And that does it for this segment. We want to thank Monica Simpson, executive director of SisterSong, a Women of Color Reproductive Justice Collective, based in Atlanta, Georgia, and Jessica Mason Pieklo, legal analyst and vice president of law and the courts at Rewire. She’s co-author of Crow After Roe: How “Separate But Equal” Has Become the New Standard in Women’s Health and How We Can Change That. Her forthcoming book, The End of Roe v. Wade: Inside the Right’s Plan to Destroy Legal Abortion.
This is Democracy Now! I’m Amy Goodman, with Juan González. When we come back, what’s happening at the Venezuelan Embassy in Washington, D.C.? Stay with us.