'I don't feel safe': Alabama newspapers publish letters by women on abortion ban

Adrian Horton in New York


Three major Alabama newspapers devoted their Sunday editions to letters from women across the state, offering an expansive look into the reactions after a nearly all-male state legislature passed the nation’s strictest abortion ban last week.

The Alabama Media Group, which operates the Birmingham News, the Huntsville Times and the Mobile Press-Register, filled their Sunday papers with 200 essays from Alabama women of various backgrounds, ages and political leanings. The essays were also available as a package online under the title “It’s time to hear Alabama’s women”.

Though the state was “the talk of the nation last week”, wrote Alabama Media Group’s vice-president, Kelly Ann Scott, in an introduction to the series, “missing from many of those conversations were the voices of women from this state”.

Scott continued that in less than 24 hours, more than 200 Alabama women wrote in with their perspectives.

“They are women who live here, and some who have left,” she said. “Those who have prayed for this very law, and those who now live in fear. Mothers, trying to understand the message this law sends to their daughters and sons. And women who are angry that a majority of men in the state legislature spoke for them.”

All 25 Alabama senate votes in favor of the ban, which criminalizes almost all abortions with no exceptions for rape or incest, came from white men (the four women of the state senate voted against). Alabama’s female governor, Kay Ivey, signed the bill into law Wednesday night. Several groups, including the ACLU and Planned Parenthood, have promised to sue, probably tying up the law in court for months.

The essays illustrate a range of feeling and frustration over the law’s passage. Some women expressed anger at what they called the hypocrisy of the legislature’s “pro-life” position. “If they really believed every life was precious, they wouldn’t have allowed Alabamians to die at an alarming rate from accidents, childbirth and preventable medical conditions,” wrote Tabitha Isner, who is running for chair of the Alabama Democratic party.

“This abortion ban puts myself, my friends and future generations in danger. Not to mention any victims of sexual assault or rape,” said Isabel Hope, a teenager in Tuscaloosa. “I don’t feel safe walking alone ever. How am I supposed to feel knowing that if something were to happen, I would have no options?”

Others grappled with their personal beliefs and the implications of the ban, which will disproportionately impact low-income and black women. “I am pro-life, yet I still find it problematic to legally force my personal views upon others, particularly when I know economic disenfranchisement and systemic racism await too many black children once they are born,” wrote Idrissa Snider. “These issues plague the quality of life for black children every day in our state.

One woman, Rachel Hauser, wrote that the ban’s passage compelled her to share the story of her sexual assault for the first time. “If I had become pregnant from that incident, I would have had an abortion,” she said, noting that she was “thankful” to have the option of emergency contraception at the time.

In her introduction, Scott said the Alabama Media Group was restricting online comments on the essays to keep their voices “heard instead of debated”.

“No one should ignore their voices,” she said.