The passage and signing of Alabama’s abortion ban this week was met by the rest of the country with despair, as well as action; yesterday, Amanda Reyes of the Yellowhammer Fund, the state’s main abortion fund, told Slate the group had received more donations from all over the country than at any point since the fund started.
But there was another, painfully predictable classist response from some liberals—similar to the ones we heard after the presidential election, during the Alabama Senate race in 2017, and generally any other time some politician or legislature in the South does or says something reactionary. The line of thinking goes something like, It’s Alabama, man. Did you really expect anything else from a bunch of dumb hicks?
Here was that point being argued by one of the internet’s most annoying people:
Never mind that you can also marry your first cousin in plenty of blue states, as well as Florida, where Krassenstein lives.
And here’s Tony Schwartz, aka the man who literally ghostwrote Donald Trump’s The Art of the Deal:
I can think of very few people who should weigh in on this less than Tony.
But the sentiment wasn’t just put out there by internet grifters. More broadly, the Twitter hashtag #AlabamaHatesWomen went viral this week. While that’s an understandable attitude given what the state legislature just did, and obviously not everyone using the hashtag is in complete agreement, the overarching sentiment is deeply unhelpful in thinking about the enemy and its targets.
While Alabama’s abortion ban is the most extreme we’ve seen yet, GOP-run states all over the country are pushing similarly oppressive restrictions on abortion. Ohio, which until recently was seen as the ultimate “swing state” in presidential elections, passed a so-called “fetal heartbeat” law in April, followed by Georgia—perhaps the most prominent state in the “New South”—in May. Last night, the Missouri Senate passed a bill banning abortion at eight weeks. In Michigan earlier this week, a GOP state senator said during a hearing that abortion “should be painful.”
In addition to states that are just outright trying to ban abortion, the states that are refusing to provide definitive protections in light of the threat to Roe aren’t doing the people in their states any favors. On the same day Alabama passed its ban, a Rhode Island Senate committee—in a chamber that is controlled by a 33-5 Democratic majority—rejected a bill to codify abortion rights in that state. Four Democrats joined one Republican in voting it down.
The attack on reproductive freedom isn’t just happening in a red state vs. blue state vacuum. Democrats are always just one disastrous election away from losing governor’s mansions and state legislative chambers, which will allow for more restrictions on abortions, especially if Roe is overturned. And it’s happening everywhere, with the Trump administration attempting to force teenagers to carry pregnancies to term, expanding its global gag rule, and Trump putting two judges on the court that could deliver the votes to overturn Roe. As I wrote yesterday, the GOP platform has called for a constitutional amendment banning abortion—with no exceptions—for years, going back at least to the Bush administration.
And so the problem isn’t just Alabama, a state where scores of people are desperately fighting for the reproductive rights they deserve against the religious zealots trying to take them away. You can’t simply discard these people, who largely have no political power to speak of due to various restrictions on voting rights, gerrymandering, and local control. You can’t tell them to move out of Alabama, either; not everyone has the means and flexibility to pack up and move to another state that isn’t gunning for an outright abortion ban right now.
So what is the problem? Who is the villain in this story? It’s the same as it is everywhere: the white supremacist, patriarchal, reactionary conservative upper crust of society—the same society that produces people like Donald Trump, and Sheldon Adelson, and the Mercers, and the DeVos/Prince clan, and so on—just with a Southern drawl tacked on.
For the most part, the men who voted for the law are not poor or uneducated people. State Sen. Clyde Chambliss, who became the dumbass face of Alabama’s new law with brilliant quips like “I don’t know if I’m smart enough to be pregnant,” owns an engineering firm. It’s a similar story if you browse the biographies of other Alabama state senators who voted for the ban: lawyer, owner of a marketing firm, lawyer, pharmacist, lawyer, and so on. The enemies are these people, their backslapping friends at the country club, and the interests that support them behind the scenes with money and resources, not your average Alabaman.
As we’ve seen, these ghouls are everywhere. Calling it a wash, throwing Alabama to the wolves, and telling people there they deserve what’s coming to them isn’t just classist and racist—especially considering the working class in Alabama is largely black, and absolutely did not vote for this—it’s a piss-poor long-term strategy for beating the Republican Party and protecting reproductive rights at every level. And if winning isn’t the goal, then what is?