In July, Governor Kay Ivey resumed executions in her state of Alabama. They had been on hold since 2022 when several botched procedures prompted a review. The state concluded that executioners weren’t being given enough time to properly get the job done. They now have 30 hours in which to put a prisoner to death.
The resumption of capital punishment in Alabama is made more sordid by the fact that Ivey has long touted herself as “pro-life.” In 2019, she signed the Human Life Protection Act, a near-total ban on abortions that, according to the governor, recognizes “the sanctity of unborn life.” It allows a provider to be sentenced to prison for up to 99 years. When the Supreme Court overturned Roe three years later, Ivey’s law went into full swing.
“Pro-life” is a big lie. In 2019 when she approved the act, Ivey declared, “This legislation stands as a powerful testament to Alabamians’ deeply held belief that … every life is a sacred gift from God.”
Her words were probably small comfort to death row prisoner Michael Samra. Just 24 hours after praising the sanctity of life, she signed his execution order. Samra was put to death leaving close to 200 unfortunates behind on Alabama’s death row.
When it comes to double standards Ivey has plenty of company. In nearby Texas, Governor Greg Abbott is fond of invoking his Catholic faith to justify his political actions.
For him, the Christian edict “love thy neighbor” amounts to overseeing more than 50 executions, and, like Ivey, signing draconian anti-abortion laws. He recently dumped desperate migrants far from the Southern border. In one such move, a three-year-old died.
A cover-up for bigotry. The death penalty has never been about justice. It is reserved for poor people and is racist to the core. Alabama has one of the worst records, sentencing more people to death per capita than any other state. Of 153 executions between 1927 and 1976, 126 were of African Americans even though they are only 25% of the population.
Denying reproductive rights is also a class issue since the rich always have access to resources. Women of color, immigrant women, and poor women are those who suffer. When forced to bear a child, a mother is four times as likely to fall into poverty.
Oriaku Njoku, co-founder of Austin Regional Clinic–Southeast, which provides funds for reproductive services to Alabamians, notes “We’re living … in an area where there are huge disparities based on if you’re Black and brown when accessing health care at large. Adding abortion on to that is just another obstacle.”
In states run by the likes of Ivey and Abbott the results are clear: when ranked in healthcare affordability and accessibility, Alabama is close to the bottom and Texas is dead last. The punitive policies of godly right-wing hypocrites are not life-affirming; they are just the opposite.
Piety — genuine or not — is a must for conservative southern politicians because one of their largest constituencies is white evangelical Christians. Religious lingo is used to mask the power of the state, such as imposing legal consequences, including imprisonment and execution. Moral talk may claim to be about saving the unborn, but the real issue is instituting control over bodily autonomy to maintain a racist, patriarchal social order.
The good news is that a clear majority supports reproductive freedom — and may one day oppose the death penalty. Recent referendums in Kansas, Kentucky and Montana have won abortion rights in those states, and Nebraska is also considering a similar measure. Such grassroots activism has the power to expose the “pro-life” agenda for what it is: Stone Age moral hypocrisy.
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