Alabama’s near-total abortion ban, signed into law on Wednesday by governor Kay Ivey, is a real moment of hope. The principle on which it grounds itself is simple enough; as Ivey put it: ‘Every life is precious.’
In those four words lies a remedy for the hatreds that divide humanity. True, pro-lifers have their own doubts over the bill: is it too tactical, by conceding very narrow medical exemptions? Is it not tactical enough, because it will be overturned in the courts and meanwhile alienate the middle ground?
But whatever the merits of these criticisms, the Alabama ban is still a landmark. A body of legislators in the world’s superpower has affirmed that every life is precious and given that belief legal form.
The opponents of the Alabama bill have tried to explain why unborn children are not, in fact, precious. They point out that these children are very small; when that is dismissed as it should be, they retreat to suggesting that lives stop being precious if they are the result of rape or incest; or – this has really caught on – if the children, once born, would be disabled, poor or vulnerable.
One member of the Alabama House of Representatives, John Rogers, denounced the abortion ban by suggesting that saving lives was just delaying the inevitable: ‘You kill them now or you kill them later.’
‘Some kids are unwanted. So you kill them now or you kill them later. You bring them in the world unwanted, unloved, and you send them to the electric chair. So you kill them now or you kill them later… Some parents can’t handle a child with problems. It could be retarded. It might have no arms and no legs.’
There’s a gruesome logic to Rogers’ words.