Of course, in this instance, that state-level brotherhood is irrelevant.
By passing its stringent anti-abortion bill in the closing minutes of the session last Thursday, Alabama’s Republican-controlled Legislature selected a dangerous path that pits the medical knowledge of legislators against the training and wisdom of health experts, many of whom find fault in the bill’s intellectual and factual assertions.
In essence, Alabama legislators — particularly Rep. Kerry Rich of Albertville and Sen. Scott Beason of Gardendale — claim to know as much, or more, about fetal pain than those who have advanced training in pregnancies and pre-natal care.
Beason told The Birmingham News that “there is no doubt” that fetuses feel pain. Rich, the bill’s sponsor, said, “in my mind, they do” feel pain at 20 weeks.
They are legislators. Not doctors. Not scientists. Not medical researchers.
It is the definition of political recklessness.
In fact, the progressive website ThinkProgress.org notes that Beason has a degree in geology — the study of the earth, not fetuses. That site juxtaposes Beason’s stance with that of the Journal of the American Medical Association, which has written that “[T]he fetus’s higher pain pathways are not yet fully developed and functional” before the third trimester.
Trust us: The AMA understands fetuses better than Alabama legislators with no advanced medical training. Nevertheless, it was disappointing Tuesday when an aide to Republican Gov. Robert Bentley, a retired dermatologist, said the governor plans to sign the bill.
In essence, what happened last Thursday wasn’t about fetal pain or abortion. Abortions remain legal in Alabama, and the procedures the bill will ban represent only a fraction of those performed each year in the state. Last year, less than 1 percent of the 10,000 abortions performed in Alabama were done after 20 weeks.
Instead, this anti-abortion bill represents yet another of the GOP-controlled Legislature’s efforts to remake the state in its likeness at the expense of Alabama’s legitimate needs. That options for mothers with high-risk pregnancies will be reduced if this bill becomes law will be a bitter label placed on the 2011 Legislature.
This bill is an example of what happens when extreme agendas — of any party — seep into the governance of a state. It creates more problems than it purports to solve.
Republicans in the Legislature have succeeded in re-telling the nation that Alabama is a state of conservative values. But when it comes to advanced medicine, it would have been good if those same legislators knew what they were talking about.