I've had the honour of serving as an Alabama State Senator for more than 20 years, and with every vote I've cast, I've remembered that my decisions have consequences that impact the lives of Alabamians. Right now, my Republican colleagues have their sights set on political gains — and they don't seem to care that our constituents have become collateral damage in their agenda to dismantle reproductive rights.
Alabama’s anti-choice politicians, in their quest to bring a case before the U.S. Supreme Court, have shown their blatant disregard for the effects legislation like HB314 will have on Alabamians. Stripping away our reproductive freedom will send us back to a reality where abortion was illegal, creating nothing short of a healthcare crisis for women, especially low-income women.
Criminalising abortion in Alabama is dangerous. This near-total abortion ban threatens the health and lives of women — and puts healthcare workers at risk of imprisonment for helping their patients. This policy will not end abortions, it will only end access to safe abortions, which is why I am committed to protecting the right to choose whether a pregnancy is taken to term. I praise God every day that I was never faced with that difficult choice, but I still believe that choice is solely mine to make.
Most Alabamians are firmly on the side of reproductive freedom, and they are not alone. In response to the systematic implementation of these draconian anti-choice laws in states across the nation, there is a groundswell of activism to fight this assault on safe abortion access. Last Tuesday, thousands of pro-choice advocates came together at statehouses, town squares, and courthouses throughout the country to combat these bans and to show those who want to take away reproductive rights that we are the majority. With protest signs hoisted high, activists called for accountability from the officials who are deliberately disregarding the will of their constituents. This is certainly true in my home state.
HB314 — signed into law by Governor Kay Ivey, but not yet in effect — was sent to her desk by our super-majority of Republican legislators, comprised of primarily white men. But my colleagues in the Alabama legislature are not the ones who will feel the full effects of this legislation. Most of them do not have the organs this law seeks to unconstitutionally regulate, and in some cases, do not understand their basic functioning. So why — on the day HB314 was passed in the Alabama Senate — was I just one of two women debating on the Alabama Senate floor?
Currently, Alabama ranks 47th among states in terms of female representation in elected offices. Women make up only 15% of the Alabama legislature, despite the fact that they represent more than half of Alabama’s total population. I recognise that a woman introduced this bill, women voted in favour of this bill in the Alabama House of Representatives, and a woman signed this bill into law.
Let me be clear: Female legislators aren’t obligated to be progressive. But more women need to be in positions of power and contribute their voices to all legislative decisions — especially decisions related to reproductive rights.
The women who are fighting — and have been fighting — to protect this constitutional right should be acknowledged and centred in these conversations. Activists are making their voices heard. But we also need those voices at all levels of government. We need elected officials who represent the people affected by legislation and who will fight for policies with which the majority of Americans actually agree. With this in mind, on May 21 I filed a bill to repeal Alabama’s extreme abortion ban. It was swiftly buried in the Senate’s Health Committee, which I expected, but I will continue to do all that I can to ensure women maintain bodily autonomy and reproductive freedom.
We are in the fight of our lives. It will take everything we’ve got to stand together, push back, and protect our rights. We need your voice. No matter your background, ethnicity, marital status, gender identity, or experience, your voice deserves to be heard. That’s why I’m asking you to consider stepping up — beyond volunteering or donating, you can decide to run for office and represent your community. As women, we tend to talk ourselves out of running for a House or Senate seat. But it is legislators on the state level who are the first line of defence against these awful bills. If we want to create a world where policies benefit our communities instead of restricting them, we need our state and local government to more accurately reflect our communities.
As I build ways to uplift and put more women in positions of power, I’m proud to be the Honorary Chair of Galvanize Alabama. This September, the United State of Women is bringing its Galvanize training program to Montgomery. We’ll be convening, connecting, and amplifying activists in Alabama to fight for gender equity — with training tracks like women in leadership, running for office, and community organising 101.
If you’re a fellow Alabamian, I hope to see you there! And if you’re one of the amazing people who have taken a stand on reproductive rights and want to support these local efforts, please consider donating to our Galvanize Alabama scholarship fund. The United State of Women team is committed to leading the fight for gender equity — and that includes striving to keep the Galvanize Program low cost to attendees and provide scholarship opportunities. But the organisation needs your support to make that happen. Make a donation today to help empower local organisers in Alabama with the training, tools, and resources they need to be successful in this fight.
Vivian Davis Figures is an Alabama State Senator. The views expressed here are her own.