Tweeting that “The safety and security of Alabamians will always be my top priority” in response to C-list musician Bo Bice, Republican Governor Robert Bentley has become one of at least two dozen GOP state executives to bar Syrian refugees from his state.
Of course, governors lack much actual power to refuse refugee settlement, but the PR stunt is certainly going to endear them to a grassroots base that has become unapologetically nativist in recent years.
Meanwhile, Alabama’s Republican state legislators are busy sticking big government into the bodily business of women seeking abortion services with a new bill to ban procedures as early as six weeks. Senator Gerald Allen was quoted by the Decatur Daily:
Allen said his legislation, which hasn’t yet been filed, is similar to what Rep. Terri Collins, R-Decatur, sponsored this year. It required a physician to document the procedure used to determine a heartbeat. Not determining the presence of a heartbeat or performing an abortion when a heartbeat has been determined would be a Class C felony under the legislation, unless the abortion was medically necessary because the woman’s life or health were at risk.
[…] “I think (this legislation) is a piece of the puzzle to continue to let the public know that we’re going to do whatever we can to preserve life,” Allen said.
‘Fetal heartbeat’ laws have consistently been found unconstitutional by federal courts, and as a practical matter, they require abortion providers to insert a transvaginal ultrasound probe all the way into a woman’s vagina in order to detect a potential heartbeat, making them widely derided as ‘rape by the state’ bills.
Despite the unpopularity of this type of legislation even with the ‘pro-life’ voter, Alabama lawmakers have tried to pass an ultrasound mandate for abortion access since at least 2012. The measure was introduced as HB 405 in the 2015 legislative session, but was tabled due to a budgetary gridlock.
Partly as a result of severe annual cuts to public health efforts in Alabama, Syrian refugees being resettled in the state should know that their new home is probably not a great material improvement over their country of origin.
In fact, the Heart of Dixie lags Lebanon in newborn mortality figures, has the longest wait time for agency response to child abuse of any reporting state, is one of the three worst states in the union for low birth weight, has terrible premature birth statistics, and is currently considered the last place in America you’d want to have a baby.
Such is the importance of “preserving life” in the state of Alabama, where even a pregnant, exhausted Syrian woman in labor would presumably be refused room at Governor Bentley’s inn. Especially a pregnant Syrian woman in labor, because (reactionary logic says) she obviously just wants to lay a ‘terrorist anchor baby‘ and bring an entire family of suicide bombers over here to live with her.
Pandering to this gutter-level ignorance, fear, and loathing, a chorus of Republican governors — some of whom are running for president — joined Bentley in the last forty-eight hours to set aside all that bleeding-heart ‘Christian charity’ stuff just in time for the Christmas culture wars.
A lone Democratic governor, Maggie Hassan of New Hampshire, joined in the conservative mewling and fearmongering.
Chris Christie of New Jersey declared that he would not even allow a three year-old orphan into his state.
Bill Haslam of Tennessee, a state synonymous with paranoid Islamophobia these days, is supported by a chorus of legislators representing districts where Christian pastors openly declare “there’s no such thing as a good Muslim.”
No actual Syrians were involved in the Paris attacks last week. Rather, the attacks appear to have been conducted by radicalized, second-generation European Muslims — a good example of why prejudice and anti-immigrant backlashes are extremely counter-productive as public policy.
But ‘facts’ and ‘effectiveness’ obviously mean little in the polarized political atmosphere of state capitals like Montgomery and Nashville that are completely controlled by Christian fundamentalist politicians.
In fact, the sectarian political fires stoked by right wing organizers in recent years suggest that we will still be talking about this until the elections next November, when it will surely disappear as quickly as Ebola hysteria vanished after the 2014 midterm.
Thanks to two dozen Republican governors, if angry crowds of people materialize to wave ugly signs at busloads of families during 2016, we will all know exactly which side they’re on — and who has whipped them into a frenzy.
No longer the “land of the free and home of the brave,” the American political scene has transformed into a nursery full of whiny, demanding infants who wet their pants in terror if a foreign-born child needs shelter. Let’s remember that image whenever these exact same Republican diaper-fillers blabber about the ‘sanctity of life.’