I Was Born In Alabama And I’m Ashamed Of My Home State
I came of age in Alabama in a small window of time in which women had control over their own bodies.
I was born in 1961, the third child in my family of six, raised in Birmingham and then Helena, until I moved to New York City at 24 to pursue a career in the theater.
It was when I was 21 and still in college, that I began to be sexually active. I did the responsible thing and started using a diaphragm. One night, it failed. I became pregnant.
I was the high-achiever in my family. I was going to go far, possibly have a career in music. So many people believed in me and supported me. I couldn’t possibly disappoint everyone in my life with a pregnancy. I was terrified and denied it for almost 4 months. Then I forced myself to do something about it. I was tested, it was confirmed, and I immediately made an appointment for an abortion.
My friends and I were indeed born at the perfect time in terms of our reproductive rights. It had been ten years since Roe v. Wade was decided in the Supreme court, making abortion legal across the country. In 1983 in Birmingham, Alabama, there were no waiting periods, no forced ultrasounds, no sermons, and no gauntlets to walk through on the way into University of Alabama’s clinic .
I drove myself there one morning in the Spring of 1983, paid for the abortion with my own money, underwent the procedure — which was safe, painless and quick — then drove myself home. Afterward I was flooded with relief and had not one second of regret. It was the right and only decision for me and thankfully, it was my choice. I had no business having a child to care for. Unmarried and penniless, and with big plans for my future, it was simply impossible for me to carry a pregnancy to term.
I was one of the lucky ones. If I was a young woman in Alabama today, where abortion is banned at every stage of pregnancy, the one exception being the life of the mother, I would surely have done something desperate. I would have found a way out of my predicament even if it would mean putting my life at risk. I have no doubt of this.
I would never have told my parents about my pregnancy. I couldn’t bear to disappoint them. I was their golden girl, the one who always did the right thing. How could I tell them? I was raised in the Baptist church. A good girl who was saved could never get herself into such a mess.
I am sickened by the recent bill, signed into law by Governor Ivey, which would ban every abortion, in a cynical attempt to get the case kicked up to the Supreme Court, where conservatives hope that their newly anointed justice Kavanaugh will rule against Roe v. Wade, increasing it’s chances of being overturned.
Do the Alabama legislature and Governor Ivey care about the women of Alabama? Not for one second. This is nothing but an attempt to control women’s bodies and to satisfy a base that seeks to keep women down, especially poor women and women of color. Women will suffer and die as a result of this law; that is a fact.
There are good people in Alabama who will fight this draconian legislation, but sadly they are in the small minority. I pray that the young women — and men! — of Alabama will stand up for their rights. Now is the time to fight. We cannot let this law stand.
Alabama is a beautiful state, the state I was born and educated in, and the state that nurtured me. But Alabama is on the wrong side of history, morally and simply as human beings. The state is punishing women, pure and simple, and I am angered that so many citizens of Alabama think this bill is a good thing. That a doctor who helps a rape victim will serve more jail time than the rapist is appalling.
At this moment in history I am ashamed of Alabama.
Rebecca Luker is a 3-time Tony-nominated actress who now resides in New York City.