Alabama has a new law restricting abortions for minors, and it might be the most ridiculous piece of legislation you've ever seen.
The law, which is currently in effect, says that girls under 18 who want to get an abortion without parental consent are subject to legal hearings wherein a state prosecutor or judge can appoint a lawyer to advocate on behalf of the unborn fetus.
Yes, you read that correctly. The state can appoint a lawyer to argue on behalf of a fetus. "The Legislature further finds the the public policy of the State of Alabama is to respect life," the law reads. "In respecting and protecting life, there is included the unborn life of a child whose life may be subject to termination before birth by abortion."
The reaction: The new policy was met with an ACLU lawsuit and plenty of criticism for its seeming embrace of fetal personhood, a philosophical and legal grey area, as well as the implication that a minor would have to stand before a judge and potentially a lawyer advocating for her fetus and defend her desire to have an abortion.
"We all want our daughters to come to us if they get pregnant, and most do. But we all know that, unfortunately, some just can't," Jennifer Dalven, director of the ACLU's Reproductive Freedom Project, said in a statement. "Forcing a teen to go on trial to get an abortion doesn't make her any safer, and doesn't bring families together. It just puts her at risk and could lead her to seek an illegal, unsafe abortion. None of us want that."
While 21 states, Alabama included, require parental consent for a minor to get an abortion, the Supreme Court has ruled that a confidential "judicial bypass" must be made available when girls can't get that consent. While other states simply provide one-on-one meetings with judges to meet that requirement, Alabama has all of this.
What it means: Mother Jones looked at previous examples in which attorneys were called in to represent fetuses in Alabama. (A judge tried it in 1987, then another revived the practice in the 1990s and 2000s.)
Here's part of the cross-examination of a 17-year-old girl by pro-life advocate Julian McPhillips, who was acting on behalf of the her fetus. McPhillips named the fetus "Baby Ashley," because the situation wasn't difficult enough for the minor without a strange man giving her fetus a name and telling her how much she was sinning.
McPhillips: You say that you are aware that God instructed you not to kill your own baby, but you want to do it anyway? And are you saying here today that notwithstanding everything that you want to interfere with God's plan for your baby?
Suffice it to say, this kind of aggressive cross-examining makes this already very difficult decision even more complicated and hard on the pregnant teen.
The ACLU's lawsuit is still pending. But for now, Alabama has rolled back women's rights to the point where a 17-year-old girl may have to argue with a state-ordered lawyer about her own body.