The debate in the Alabama statehouse over a controversial new abortion restriction veered into racial territory on Tuesday when a Democratic opponent claimed that his Republican colleagues would support abortion “if their daughter got pregnant by a black man."
The Birmingham News reported that Rep. Mary Sue McClurkin (R-Indian Springs) kicked off the tussle by comparing the bill in question to the landmark 1954 Supreme Court ruling Brown v. Board of Education, which declared segregation in schools was unconstitutional.
McClurkin’s comments were met with a fierce response from Rep. Alvin Holmes (D-Montgomery).
“Ninety-nine percent of all of the white people in here are going to raise their hand that they are against abortion,” said Holmes, who is black. “On the other hand, 99 percent of the whites who are sitting in here now, if their daughter got pregnant by a black man, they are going to make their daughter have an abortion.
"You know, the truth sometimes hurts," Holmes continued. "All this stuff about abortion and this and that -- that’s just a con game. That’s for whites, it ain’t for blacks."
The bill in question, known as House Bill 490 and authored by McClurkin, would ban abortions upon the detection of a fetal heartbeat. Observers have pointed out that a fetal heartbeat can be detected as early as six weeks into a pregnancy, leaving many women without enough time to even realize that they are pregnant. Democratic amendments that would have allowed for exceptions to the rule in cases of rape or incest were defeated.
The bill subsequently passed, along with three other anti-abortion measures: HB 489, which extends the waiting period from 24 to 48 hours for those looking to obtain an abortion; HB 493, which bans abortion for those carrying a fetus with a lethal fetal anomaly until their doctor has informed them of available abortion alternatives; and HB 494, which requires the parents of an underage daughter seeking an abortion to prove that they are indeed the girl’s legal guardians.
"In Alabama, we will fight tooth and nail to preserve and protect the life of the unborn until the liberal, activist Supreme Court decision making abortion legal in the United States is overturned," said Alabama House Speaker Mike Hubbard (R-Auburn).
Alabama Democrats are confident that the bills, which must still clear passage through the state senate, will eventually be overturned in the courts.
"We already know this is unconstitutional before you even vote on it," said Rep. Napoleon Bracy (D-Prichard). "But you decide you want to vote on this so you can go back home and say, 'Look what I did.'"
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