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National Feminist Leader: Alabama's In Vitro Birth Ruling Aids Right-Wing Theocracy Bid to Control Women

Last week, the Alabama Supreme Court ruled, in a case involving in vitro fertilization, that frozen embryos are children, due all the legal rights of living, breathing human beings.

On Monday, the executive director of a prominent feminist organization described the "extraordinary decision" as an inevitable extension of the U.S. Supreme Court's 2022 revocation of the longstanding constitutional right to abortion.

It also is evidence of a national, right-wing extremist effort to control the reproductive choices and bodies of women, Katherine Spillar, leader of the Los Angeles-based Feminist Majority, said in a Newsmakers TV interview.

"Everyone has to understand where this leads," she told us. "There is a very strong Christian nationalist movement that overlaps with the movement that we see spearheaded by Donald Trump, towards an authoritarian state. Where authoritarianism is on the rise, women's rights are the first to be attacked."

As her organization prepares its members and supporters to contest the 2024 elections, Spillar is scheduled to be in Santa Barbara next Friday, to address the annual President's Circle Luncheon of the Women's Political Committee.

While the Alabama decision, coupled with the threat of a federal abortion ban and the specter of legal suppression of birth control, represents an urgent defensive political priority, Spillar said, she also will discuss Feminist Majority's offensive strategy to push Congress to recognize the Equal Rights Amendment, ratified in 38 states, as the 28th Amendment to the Constitution.

"That is the only way to fully restore abortion rights and achieve women's full equality in this country," she stated.

The threat from Alabama. In discussing the tendentious Alabama case, Spillar cited the U.S. Supreme Court's 2022 Dobbs decision, which threw out the 1973 Roe v. Wade ruling. For a half-century, Roe provided a federal right to choose to have an abortion -- until the Dobbs opinion, written by Justice Samuel Alito, who variously referenced "unborn human beings," "fetal life" and "potential life" in it.

It is this notion of fetal personhood that lies at the core of Alabama's in vitro ruling.

In vitro fertilization - known as IVF - is a method of reproductive technology that involves fertilizing eggs -- perhaps a dozen or so single-celled zygotes - with sperm cells under laboratory conditions. A single fertilized egg is then implanted into the uterus in an effort to achieve pregnancy, while the other eggs are frozen, to be used later if needed.

In the case, several dozen frozen embryos from three couples were accidentally destroyed in an Alabama hospital. The couples sued, and the court agreed with the plaintiffs that the embryos were children, and therefore the hospital could be held liable for their destruction under Alabama's 1872 Wrongful Death of a Minor statute.

In a concurring opinion, state Chief Justice Tom Parker wrote the following:

"Human life cannot be wrongfully destroyed without incurring the wrath of a holy God, who views the destruction of His image as an affront to Himself.

“We believe that each human being, from the moment of conception, is made in the image of God, created by Him to reflect His likeness. It is as if the People of Alabama took what was spoken of the prophet Jeremiah and applied it to every unborn person in this state: ‘Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, Before you were born I sanctified you.’ Jeremiah 1:5 (NKJV 1982)."

"They said the quiet part out loud," Spillar told us. "They intend that this is going to be a Christian nation, which is what we're fighting in so many different ways - Christian nationalism."

"The chief justice essentially says (that) his theology, the theology of Alabama...their particular faith, should be the law of the land and government," she added.

"You're defining a fertilized egg as a full human being, as a child," Spillar noted. "A woman's life is on par with a fertilized egg."

What is looming. A native of Texas, the feminist leader said that "anti-abortion extremists," are responsible, not only for the Alabama ruling, but also for high-profile, Republican-sponsored legal action that invokes the federal Comstock Act of 1873. This 150-year old law prohibited mailing anything “intended for the prevention of conception or procuring of abortion.” and anti-abortion activists have cited it in a bid to ban the shipping of abortion drugs like mifepristone.

The Alabama ruling raises further the already high stakes of this year's elections for President and for Congress, not least because "a federal ban (on abortion) is a very real possibility," with many Republicans, including Trump, favoring federal prohibitions on the procedure, variously, from the moment of conception to six or 16 weeks, Spillar said.

"The minute they would take power, of the presidency, of the Senate and House, we would face very similar kinds of legislation to allow this kind of extremism," she forecast.

Bottom line. However, Spillar believes that "women understand this to their core," and that voters ultimately will reject Trump and many of his allies in this raging political battle of the nation's cultural wars.

"Every seat matters, and every vote matters," she said. "This is a top issue for women, especially young women...It will be a top issue until we have restored abortion rights permanently across this country,

"And we intend to do that."

P.S. The Santa Barbara Women's Political Committee's Presidents Circle Luncheon will be held on Friday, March 8, at the Cabrillo Arts Pavilion, 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. Tickets are available at Scholarships for students are available.


Watch our interview with Katherine Spillar via YouTube below, or by clicking through this link. The podcast version is here. TVSB, Channel 17, broadcasts Newsmakers TV every weeknight at 8 p.m. and at 9 a.m. on weekends. KCSB, 91.9 FM, airs the the program at 5:30 on Monday.

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