While many reproductive rights advocates are looking to the courts to halt the flood of restrictive legislation being passed across the country, an Alabama state representative has come up with a more direct—and unexpected—solution.
On February 13, Representative Rolanda Hollis of Birmingham proposed House Bill 238, which states that all men of a certain age in the state should be legally required to be sterilized. Reads the bill’s synopsis: “Under existing law, there are no restrictions on the reproductive rights of men. This bill would require a man to undergo a vasectomy within one month of his 50th birthday or the birth of his third biological child, whichever comes first.”
The bill is an intentional response to an Alabama law that would criminalize abortion. According to USA Today:
Hollis, a Democrat, added the proposal is meant to "neutralize" the Human Life Protection Act passed last summer, which would have made performing an abortion a Class A felony, punishable by life or 10 to 99 years in prison. A federal judge blocked the ban in October, and a lawsuit is pending.
Hollis is not the first Alabama legislator to see the political possibilities of expanding reproductive regulations. According to AL.com, “state Senator Vivian Davis Figures, D-Mobile, tried to address what she saw as hypocrisy on the abortion ban bill by adding an amendment making it a felony for a man to have a vasectomy. The amendment failed.”
Alabama’s abortion law continues to move through the court system, which is the path its supporters hoped it would take. The abortion bill’s author, state representative Terri Collins, said that from its inception it was, reports The Washington Post, “intended to serve as a direct challenge to Roe v. Wade, the landmark 1973 Supreme Court decision that the Constitution protects the right, nationwide, to have an abortion. Collins earlier said she wanted the law to be strong enough to force federal court intervention—something she and others hope will lead to national restrictions on abortion.”
Currently there is not a date set to vote on the vasectomy bill. Hollis is not surprised by the backlash her legislation has received among state Republicans and on social media. "Year after year the majority party continues to introduce new legislation that tries to dictate a woman’s body and her reproductive rights," she said in a statement to The Associated Press. "We should view this as the same outrageous overstep in authority."