Alabama Senator Linda Coleman-Madison was one of six Democrats and only two women in leadership to vote against the state’s new abortion law, which essentially outlaws all abortions, no exceptions for rape or incest. Her amendment, which would require the state to provide free prenatal and medical care for mothers who had been denied an abortion by the law, was struck down.
Coleman-Madison spoke with ELLE.com about the controversial decision made by her overwhelmingly male-dominated state legislature after a heated debate on Tuesday, and the dangerous repercussions of the ban, which sets up a challenge to Roe v. Wade that could result in a Supreme Court battle.
When I walked onto the Alabama Senate floor on Tuesday, I felt like the weight of the world was on my shoulders. We were there to debate and vote on HB 314, a ban on abortions even in cases of rape and incest, and I was one of just four women in our 35-member Senate. [Ed. Note: Of those four, one Senator was sick and couldn’t vote, two—including Coleman-Madison—voted no, and one abstained.]
I wasn’t naive. I knew we were going to have to fight really hard to be heard. My purpose was to debate with everything I had, because I was representing the women who did not have fair representation, who did not have a voice. I was speaking for the women whose decisions about their own bodies were about to be stripped from them.
All 25 of the senators who ended up voting “yes” on the bill were male. I’m angry and I’m mad about the outcome. I’m numb, in a sense, because I can’t believe this is happening. It’s devastating. How can a man, who doesn’t know what it’s like to carry a baby, make a decision about a woman’s body?
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This morning I woke up and I thought to myself, Lord I hope this was a bad dream. But I turned the television on and, no, it wasn’t a bad dream. It’s very much real.
I am personally against abortion, but I’m pro-choice in the sense that I could not or would not impose my will, my desire, or my beliefs on anyone because it is an individual choice. Everybody has to make that personal choice for themselves and certainly that choice is between them and what they believe.
During the Senate debate, I wanted to get that point across, I wanted to shout, This isn’t your body that you’re making decisions about! Instead, I made sure the ramifications of the bill were understood, like a likely increase in back alley abortions. The other Republican senators remained quiet as I brought up these points. I could tell, as I caught glimpses of several of them, that there was a kind of a shame on their faces. They wouldn’t make eye contact with me. It was as if they were saying, You’re right, but I have to go with this, because this is what the party’s agenda is.
To add insult to injury, our governor signed the bill. I have a lot of respect for Gov. Kay Ivey, but she put politics above the people. I thought she was a person that took the higher ground. But she has shown me that the party comes first, the people come second.
People come to this country for freedoms, for rights, and to make their own life choices. In the state of Alabama, we are taking those choices away from you. It’s scary, and people should be afraid of this. The abortion ban is designed to challenge Roe v. Wade at the Supreme Court, and if Roe vs. Wade is struck down, this will become the template that every state will follow.
It will be a sad day in America, a sad day in the world, if that happens.
It is time for women to rise up, be heard, and run for office. I mean all women. Married, single, Republicans, Democrats, Independents, Black, White, Asian, Hispanic. Now it’s more important than ever for all women to come together. Men are making decisions about our bodies, signing laws that regulate our bodies, and even regulating what happens to our families.
I’m sick and tired of being sick and tired. We have fought these injustices for so long. Let’s get this right, America.