As Alabama lawmakers were preparing to pass an antiabortion bill set to become the strictest such law in the United States — banning almost all abortions and punishing doctors who try to perform them — one Democratic state senator made a piercing proclamation: “You just aborted the state of Alabama!”
Senate Minority Leader Bobby Singleton stood at a lectern Tuesday night in the Senate chamber of Alabama’s State House, waving his arm in anger after an amendment failed that would have allowed abortions in cases involving rape and incest. Now a near-total abortion ban was about to pass the Republican-controlled Senate.
“This is a shame! This is a disgrace and a travesty!” the senator shouted, according to NBC affiliate WVTM. “You don’t care nothing about the citizens of the state of Alabama! . . . You don’t care nothing about the mothers of the state of Alabama! . . . You don’t care nothing about whether or not men take advantage of women and rape them and take something out of them — and you still want them to have a child of that bad act!”
“You just aborted the state of Alabama! You just raped Alabama with this bill!” Singleton roared.
“And the governor,” Singleton added, “when you sign it, you just raped the state of Alabama yourself!”
The Alabama bill passed Tuesday as several other states are pushing similar legislation dubbed “heartbeat bills,” banning abortions as soon as a doctor can detect a fetal heartbeat.
Singleton, who voted against the Alabama legislation, told CNN on Wednesday that he is concerned about the bill, which is now awaiting a signature from Gov. Kay Ivey (R).
“I think that we raped women last night. We made women of Alabama the model of the new Roe v. Wade,” he told CNN.
Leading up to the vote, Singleton said, he discussed the bill with his family members, including his 12-year-old daughter. He said it’s distressing enough to think about his 12-year-old being raped, but he said he can’t imagine then having to tell her that she must carry any resulting baby and “look that rapist in the face for the rest of her life.”
“I just couldn’t take it as a father,” he said of the bill. “I had to speak up for women all over the country, for women in the state of Alabama, because this is just wrong.”
Some people argued that the senator went too far with his illustration.
“He was trying to evoke an emotional response in his legislature, and I can appreciate that, but not exactly the same experience of those who endured rape — it’s a different violation,” said Dina Zirlott, a 31-year-old rape survivor. Zirlott said that she was sexually assaulted by someone she knew when she was 17 and that it was so violent she became suicidal.
She said she did not realize she was pregnant until much later. A year after her daughter Zoe was born, the baby died of hydranencephaly, a congenital condition that prevents the child’s brain from developing properly.
After that experience, Zirlott said she has become an abortion rights activist. She said she has three daughters and wants them to have a choice. She acknowledged that Alabama is “not a good state to have three daughters in.”
Scott Dawson, an evangelical minister who ran for governor in the state, said Singleton may need to rethink his heated words on the bill.
“In the heat of the moment, sometimes we say some stuff that we wish we could take back,” Dawson said of Singleton’s comments. “If he just said it mad, then let’s forgive and move on. If he did mean it, he needs to rethink his words because words have meanings and it shows how little he has thought about these issues that are at hand.”
The Alabama bill would allow a doctor to terminate a pregnancy only in dire circumstances, such as when the mother’s life is in danger or when the fetus has a “lethal anomaly,” defined in the bill as a condition “from which an unborn child would die after birth or shortly thereafter or be stillborn.”
According to the bill, any doctor in the state who violates the law could face up to 99 years behind bars.
As The Washington Post previously reported, similar antiabortion bills are being pushed in other states. Lawmakers across the country are rushing to pass highly restrictive bills in hopes of pushing the laws to the U.S. Supreme Court, which they see as the most antiabortion bench in decades.
Chip Brownlee contributed to this report.