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As states like New York further reproductive health rights, Alabama remains steadily resistant

Gabby Dance

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A woman grabs her belongings, exits a car and locks her eyes straight ahead as she rushes past a cluster of berating protestors to make arguably one of the most political decisions she can — the decision to get an abortion.

According to the American Journal of Public Health, nearly one in four women in the United States experiences this before they reach age 45. In more liberal states, this may be a simpler decision to make for one’s health or wellbeing, but in Alabama, the social stigma surrounding the procedure can make that decision especially emotionally strenuous.

This strong disapproval of abortion, though seemingly ingrained in Southern culture, was not always the law of the land. In colonial and early America, abortion before “quickening,” a term used to describe the feeling of a fetus kicking, which could only be confirmed by the pregnant woman herself, was legal. In the early 1800s, it was common to find abortion providers advertising their services and abortifacient drugs in newspapers.

As time went on, abortion was deemed illegal, but the argument that fetal life is sacred, used by the current anti-abortion movement, was not the common motivator against it until the 1973 Supreme Court decision in Roe v. Wade. Rather, the potential dangers of the procedure at the time and disapproval of premarital sex and adultery took center stage.

Now, 46 years after Roe v. Wade and nearly 27 years after Planned Parenthood v. Casey, which allowed states to regulate abortions so long as no undue burden is placed on the woman, abortion has become one of the most dividing topics in the country.

In the 2018 midterm elections, the majority of people in Alabama firmly declared themselves as anti-abortion by passing statewide Amendment Two, declaring Alabama a “pro-life” state.

The law is a statement of values to the rest of the country and paves the groundwork for a future Alabama if the Supreme Court decides to make any decisions allowing more limitations on abortion rights. It currently has no legal power.

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“I think the Alabama law is mostly aspirational,” said Bryan Fair, professor of law at The University of Alabama with expertise in constitutional law and civil rights. “The law does little more than state the official policy of the state, even if it’s not the official view of lots of people who live in Alabama.”

Alabama Public Service Commission President Twinkle Cavanaugh, who co-chaired the amendment campaign along with two other Republican women, confirmed this, saying that the purpose of the amendment was to clearly display that the state of Alabama does not guarantee a right to an abortion or support using tax money to fund abortions.

“We won’t be caught in Alabama with a situation where we don’t have our Constitution ready to go,” Cavanaugh said. “It is clear in Alabama that we are a lighthouse for life, and it is clear how a majority, matter of fact an overwhelming majority, of citizens in this state feel about life.”

The amendment drew nationwide attention after being passed. Planned Parenthood Southeast President and CEO Staci Fox said the amendment, which condemns abortion without exceptions for rape or incest, is disrespectful to Alabama women.

“The bottom line here is that abortion is health care, and for some reason, we don’t seem to want to understand that for women,” Fox said. “What we’re saying to women in Alabama is that we don’t respect you and your bodily autonomy nor do we want to give you full access to the healthcare you need and deserve.”

The amendment shows a stark contrast to laws being passed in other states, specifically New York’s Reproductive Health Act. The New York law put protections for reproductive rights in place that would shield the state if federal abortion laws were to change, essentially the opposite of the Alabama amendment.

It also allows abortions after 24 weeks only if the woman’s health is in danger or if the fetus is not viable, which has sparked anger among anti-abortion advocates.

“It scares me to death that as a nation we are OK with killing children that are within moments or days of being born,” Cavanaugh said. “It is wrong. There’s no other way to look at it.”

Cavanaugh compared the buildup to the New York law to a slippery slope, saying that the slow addition of more laws that support abortion rights led to this law, which she sees as extreme.

Fox has a different view on the law, seeing it as a step in the right direction.

“I think it’s great,” Fox said. “I think it’s an interesting juxtaposition of how states are preparing for a post-Roe scenario. While New York is doing things proactively to remove barriers [to reproductive care], Alabama is doing just the opposite through Amendment Two and other legislative actions of the past few years.”

Fox also saw conservative misunderstandings on the New York law being taken to extremes. President Donald Trump furthered the law’s stigma in his State of the Union address on Feb. 5, saying the law allowed for “a baby to be ripped from the mother’s womb moments before birth.”

“I think we should set the record straight,” Fox said. “There is no such thing as an abortion up until or during birth. The claims made by our opposition and the opposition to what’s going on in New York are just outlandish, and honestly, they are intentionally deceptive.”

Though Alabama is a majority anti-abortion state, disagreements on these laws have brought tension between anti-abortion and pro-abortion rights Alabamians. According to Cavanaugh, many have argued about the subject on social media, while others, like herself, have agreed to disagree.

“In this fight right now between people who believe that it is a life that needs to be protected and people who feel that murder is OK right as a newborn, I think we’ve come to a point where the two sides are not going to change each other’s minds,” Cavanaugh said.

Disagreements in Alabama mirror those nationally as states further distance themselves based on political ideology. When it comes to abortion, Fox attributed this strong tension to a lack of knowledge on the subject.

“I think the reason we have a divide is because we have all been complicit in creating shame and stigma around abortion,” Fox said. “We don’t make space for women to share their stories in an honest way.”

Both the New York law and Alabama amendment prepare the states for a situation where the Supreme Court overturns or modifies Planned Parenthood v. Casey or Roe v. Wade. The question is: will this happen?

The answer is fairly complicated and definitely uncertain. With the recent additions of Justices Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh, there is now a strong conservative majority in the court, and Trump may have the opportunity to appoint more justices, especially if he is re-elected in 2020.

“Like many people, I’m very excited about the changes that have been made on the court,” Cavanaugh said. “I pray that President Trump will have an opportunity to put more judges on the bench and that they will be conservative judges.”

However, recent developments may point toward no immediate, drastic changes being made with the current court. On Feb. 7, the Supreme Court blocked Louisiana’s Unsafe Abortion Protection Act, which would have required abortion doctors to have admitting privileges at a hospital within 30 miles of their abortion facility, leaving only one current doctor in the state authorized to provide abortions.

A similar Texas law was struck down in 2016 for placing an undue burden on women seeking abortions, violating Planned Parenthood v. Casey.

Fair noted Chief Justice John Roberts as a key person to watch in future Supreme Court decisions. Roberts dissented in the 2016 Texas law case, but this year, he voted alongside liberal justices in the majority opinion for the Louisiana case, showing a possible turnaround in his opinions on abortion.

“If the court continues to follow the undue burden standard of Casey, then most restrictive laws that do place an obstacle in the path to terminate a pregnancy will be struck down,” Fair said. “There are lots of ways that the right [to an abortion] can be narrowed in subsequent decisions. Whether the court will do that or not I think is just speculation on all sides.”

This uncertainty strikes concern for many pro-abortion rights advocates in Alabama. Should any changes allowing the states to add further limitations to abortion rights occur in the Supreme Court, the state will automatically buckle down under the amendment, making it more difficult for Alabama women to access safe abortions.

“I believe firmly that all women, all humans really, should have an equal and just seat at life’s table, and I think that bodily autonomy and that freedom that humans get when they have autonomy over their own lives is one piece of the puzzle to get that seat at that table,” Fox said. “Abortion’s just the new fight around women’s power and autonomy. Before, it was contraception, and before that, it was voting, and before that, it was whether or not women could own property. Until women achieve full freedom, we’re going to be fighting these fights.”

As the country and the Supreme Court continue to change, all Alabamians can do is wait to see which opinion prevails.

“I just don’t imagine going back to a time when people had to secretly find abortion services in back alleys,” Fair said. “It’s hard to imagine that we would go back to that, but lots of things have surprised me about our country.”

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Judge refuses to dismiss Roy Moore lawsuit against Sacha Baron Cohen

A federal judge last week refused to dismiss a lawsuit against Sacha Baron Cohen, Showtime and CBS filed by former Senate candidate Roy Moore.

Brandon Moseley

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Roy Moore, left, and Sacha Baron Cohen, right, on Cohen's now-canceled show "Who Is America?" (Showtime/YouTube)

Federal Judge Andrew Carter last week refused to dismiss a lawsuit against Sacha Baron Cohen, Showtime and CBS. The lawsuit was filed by former U.S. Senate candidate Roy Moore and his wife Kayla Moore, who claim that Cohen slandered Moore as a pedophile on his now-canceled show “Who is America?”

After the judge denied Cohen’s request to dismiss the $95 million lawsuit, the case will now proceed to discovery, where the Moores announced that they intend to take the depositions of and obtain evidence from Cohen and other relevant individuals at Showtime, CBS and their related entities.

The Moores had put the defendants on notice that if they aired the offensive and defamatory interview by Cohen, who posed in disguise as an Israeli Mossad agent, that they would be sued for large damages. When the defendants did not heed the warning and aired the interview anyway, the Moores brought their lawsuit.

The case is being litigated in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York after it was transferred over a year ago from a federal court in Washington D.C.

“We are gratified that the Court is allowing the Moores’ case to go forward and we look forward to putting Cohen and the other defendants under oath,” said Larry Klayman, founder of Judicial Watch and Freedom Watch, and a former federal prosecutor. “The alleged defamation of Chief Justice Moore was malicious and despicable and it is time that a jury of the parties’ peers allow justice to be done. Great harm has been caused to my clients, which must be addressed and remedied.”

In 2017, Moore, the former chief justice of the Alabama Supreme court, was the Republican nominee for U.S. Senate. The Washington Post released an investigation that alleged Moore sexually abused young women in the 1970s. Moore denied the accusations.

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Brooks encourages Americans to celebrate independence, foundational principles

Brandon Moseley

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Congressman Mo Brooks

Congressman Mo Brooks, R-Huntsville, urged Americans to celebrate the Fourth of July, our independence, and the foundational principles that have made America the greatest nation in world.

“On July 4th, 1776, America’s Founding Fathers launched history’s greatest experiment,” Brooks said. “The Founders sought to answer a question no one had asked before. Can a nation prosper under a system of self-government based on freedom and liberty? The answer, YES!”

“Soviet Union & German style communism & socialism have been relegated to the dustbin of history, leaving tens of millions dead in their wake,” Brooks continued. “In contrast, America’s experiment with liberty and freedom has excelled, making us the greatest nation in history. Today, America faces its greatest internal threat in history, excepting the Civil War. Evil revisionism and dangerous doctrines are being advanced by those who wish to undermine and suppress individual freedom and liberty and replace them with government dictates and Communist China-style slavery, where the masses are forced to work for the financial benefit of elitist party members. I urge all American patriots to remember the sacrifices of our ancestors that have combined to give us the United States Constitution and Bill of Rights. Further, I urge patriotic Americans to fully use and exercise all our rights and powers to protect the foundational principles that have combined to make Americans who we are. Too many Americans are not taught or have forgotten that freedom and liberty are our rallying cry. It’s important to remember freedom, liberty, and our other foundational principles this Independence Day.”

“Over a million Americans have fought and died to bless us with liberty and freedom,” Brooks concluded. “I ask that we, on July 4th, remember their sacrifice and dedicate our efforts to their memory and the freedom and liberty we are so fortunate to enjoy.”

President Donald Trump spoke on Mount Rushmore Friday.

“Today we pay tribute to the exceptional lives and extraordinary legacies of George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Abraham Lincoln, and Teddy Roosevelt,” Trump said. “I am here as your president to proclaim before the country and before the world, this monument will never be desecrated, these heroes will never be defamed, their legacy will never ever be destroyed, their achievements will never be forgotten, and Mount Rushmore will stand forever as an eternal tribute to our forefathers and to our freedom.”

“Our founders launched not only a revolution in government, but a revolution in the pursuit of justice, equality, liberty, and prosperity,” the president continued. “No nation has done more to advance the human condition than the United States of America and no people have done more to promote human progress than the citizens of our great nation. It was all made possible by the courage of 56 patriots who gathered in Philadelphia 244 years ago and signed the Declaration of Independence. They enshrined a divine truth that changed the world forever when they said, “All men are created equal.” These immortal words set in motion the unstoppable march of freedom. Our founders boldly declared that we are all endowed with the same divine rights, given us by our Creator in Heaven, and that which God has given us, we will allow no one ever to take away ever.”

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“1776 represented the culmination of thousands of years of Western civilization and the triumph of not only spirit, but of wisdom, philosophy, and reason,” Trump added. “And yet, as we meet here tonight, there is a growing danger that threatens every blessing our ancestors fought so hard for, struggled, they bled to secure. Our nation is witnessing a merciless campaign to wipe out our history, defame our heroes, erase our values, and indoctrinate our children. Angry mobs are trying to tear down statues of our founders, deface our most sacred memorials, and unleash a wave of violent crime in our cities. Many of these people have no idea why they’re doing this, but some know what they are doing. They think the American people are weak and soft and submissive, but no, the American people are strong and proud and they will not allow our country and all of its values, history, and culture to be taken from them.”

“One of their political weapons is cancel culture, driving people from their jobs, shaming dissenters, and demanding total submission from anyone who disagrees,” Trump continued. “This is the very definition of totalitarianism, and it is completely alien to our culture and to our values and it has absolutely no place in the United States of America. This attack on our liberty, our magnificent liberty must be stopped and it will be stopped very quickly. We will expose this dangerous movement, protect our nation’s children from this radical assault, and preserve our beloved American way of life. In our schools, our newsrooms, even our corporate boardrooms, there is a new far-left fascism that demands absolute allegiance. If you do not speak its language, perform its rituals, recite its mantras, and follow its commandments, then you will be censored, banished, blacklisted, persecuted, and punished. It’s not going to happen to us.”

“Make no mistake. This left-wing cultural revolution is designed to overthrow the American Revolution,” Trump said. “In so doing they would destroy the very civilization that rescued billions from poverty, disease, violence, and hunger, and that lifted humanity to new heights of achievement, discovery, and progress. To make this possible, they are determined to tear down every statue, symbol, and memory of our national heritage.”

Trump is trying to fire up his base headed into the 2020 presidential elections. Brooks represents Alabama’s 5th Congressional District.

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America celebrates Independence Day

The United States celebrates its independence from Great Britain every year on July 4.

Brandon Moseley

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The United States celebrates its independence from Great Britain every year on July 4. On July 4, 1776, the Declaration of Independence was ratified by the Second Continental Congress. This is a national and state holiday that is celebrated with fireworks, family gatherings, concerts of patriotic music and is traditionally the height of the summer holiday season.

The Declaration of Independence defined the rights of man and the relationship between government and the governed. It also stated the colonists grievances with the distant British government and explained why independence was both justified and necessary.

“When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation,” the Declaration reads.

The principal writer of the Declaration of Independence was Thomas Jefferson, who would go on to be the wartime governor of Virginia, vice president and the third president of the United States.

As brilliant as the Declaration of Independence is, independence was not won by words alone — but by the sacrifices of the men and women who sacrificed on and off the battlefields of Concord, Lexington, Bunker Hill, Quebec, Charleston, Trenton, Saratoga, Valley Forge, Kings Mountain, Cowpens, Guilford Court House, Yorktown and countless more to win the nation’s independence.

That ragtag, often poorly equipped and underfed army was led by General George Washington. Washington would go on to be the head the Constitutional convention and the first president of the United States, serving two terms.

Both Washington and Jefferson are immortalized on Mount Rushmore as two of the greatest presidents.

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An estimated 25,000 Americans were killed fighting the Revolutionary War. The British forces lost over 10,000 troops including many Americans who opposed independence and fought and died for the British crown. An estimated 58,000 crown Loyalists would leave this country over their loyalty to the British crown. Many of them settled in Canada.

“Today, we celebrate our Nation’s independence and the vision of our Founding Fathers revealed to the world on that fateful day, as well as the countless patriots who continue to ensure that the flames of freedom are never extinguished,” President Donald Trump said in the annual presidential July 4 message.

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ADPH urges Alabamians to have “safer-at-home” July 4th celebrations

This year, amid a global pandemic, the Alabama Department of Public Health is urging Alabamians to celebrate at home to avoid catching or spreading the virus.

Brandon Moseley

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Saturday is the Fourth of July, a day when many families hold elaborate celebrations with their friends. It is a time for friends, family, fireworks, barbecue, celebrating our nation’s independence and enjoying the summer weather.

But this year, amid a global pandemic, the Alabama Department of Public Health is urging Alabamians to celebrate at home to avoid catching or spreading the virus.

“Independence Day is a wonderful celebration for all Americans,” the ADPH said on their website. “As we move toward this major holiday, we want to share some recommendations and reminders for local governmental officials.”

The novel strain of the coronavirus is the largest pandemic to deeply impact this country in a century. At least 57,236 Americans were diagnosed with the virus on Thursday alone and 131,533 Americans have died, including 983 Alabamians.

A few simple steps can greatly reduce your chances of being exposed and exposing others to COVID-19. Everyone should practice good hygiene, cover coughs and sneezes, avoid touching your face and wash hands often. Avoid close contact with people who are sick, even inside your home, and maintain a distance of at least 6 feet from others not in your household.

The use of cloth face coverings or masks when in public can greatly reduce the risk of transmission, particularly if the infected individual wears a mask. Many people are contagious before they begin to show symptoms — or may never develop symptoms but are still able to infect others.

The ADPH emphasized that there is currently no vaccine to prevent COVID-19, so the best way to prevent illness is to avoid being exposed to it.

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The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention also warns that everyone should avoid large gatherings.

This CDC video explains more about how large gatherings can spread the virus.

According to ADPH, there are no specific treatments for illnesses caused by human coronaviruses at this time.

There is ongoing medical research regarding treatment of COVID-19. Although most people will recover on their own, you can do some things to help relieve your symptoms, including taking medications to relieve pain and fever, using a room humidifier or take a hot shower to help ease a sore throat and cough and drinking plenty of fluids if you are mildly sick. Stay home and get plenty of rest.

Alabama is experiencing a surge in coronavirus cases in the month of June and into early July.

The state reported at least 1,758 positive cases on Friday alone, the most since the pandemic began. In the past seven days, 7,645 cases have been reported, the most of any seven-day period since the pandemic began.

The seven-day rolling average of new cases — used to smooth out daily variability and inconsistencies in case reporting — surpassed 1,000 for the first time Friday.

Since the first coronavirus case was identified in Alabama in early March, 41,362 Alabamians have tested positive, according to the Alabama Department of Public Health.

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