During the last two legislative sessions, Williams, R-Rainbow City, has sponsored a bill that would define “person” to “include all humans from the moment of fertilization and implantation into the womb.” The bill did not pass.
This year, he has indicated that he may not sponsor it again.
Williams’ aim has been to undermine Roe v. Wade, the 1973 U.S. Supreme Court decision that upheld a woman’s right to an abortion. In his opinion, the court would have ruled otherwise if Texas, the state where the case originated, had defined when life began. His plan is for Alabama to do just that and “create a state-level argument” against Roe.
Or, to put it another way, pass a law that will again tie us up in court.
In 2011, Mississippi tried to define a “person” in much the same way. That state submitted the plan to voters as a constitutional amendment. It failed 58 percent to 42 percent.
Williams decided not to go the amendment route, instead choosing a legislative act and supposedly assuming that legislators would be more inclined to support the plan (because their votes would be on the record) and avoid the wrath of the state’s vocal anti-abortion advocates.
Then the courts could sort the whole thing out.
It is not that Williams has given up the fight. Not introducing the bill this year is a tactical retreat while Personhood Alabama, the organization most actively supporting the measure, finds a new director. Ben DuPre, who last held that job, resigned to become chief of staff for state Supreme Court Chief Justice Roy Moore. Few doubt how Moore would vote if the issue reached his court.
Defining when life begins is both a medical and a theological question; no matter how the issue plays out, there will be many who are unhappy with the outcome. Some fear, and some hope, that such a definition as Williams and Personhood Alabama propose might not only limit abortions, but may limit forms of contraception and in-vitro fertilization, as well.
If the bill comes up again — and if it passes — the courts will decide the issue. And they’ll be accused of judicial activism when they do.