Alabama Shakes: Audemus Jura Nostra Defendere
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it is worth noting that, when it comes to abortion laws and a lack of progressiveness, the Deep South state is not the only offender. In Northern Ireland, for instance, there is pressure forming because of the abortion laws in the U.S. state of Alabama. It is a controversial subject to get involved with in terms of music but, in society and online, there is a lot of outrage and pressure. The abortion law passed in Alabama is primitive and highly disgusting. Not only does it mean women will have to give birth to unwanted lives but those who have a victim of rape and incest have to live with that experience without the ability to terminate a pregnancy. Vox have reacted to the news regarding the Alabama abortion law:
“The anti-abortion statute signed by the governor of Alabama this week is shocking partly because it aims to outlaw all abortions, including those for unwanted pregnancies that are the result of rape and incest. The Alabama law (and other similar laws in Missouri, Ohio, Kentucky, and Georgia, with more on the way) is even more broadly shocking because Roe v. Wade has been the law of the land for nearly a half-century, supporting women’s efforts to achieve the status of full citizenship. The new Alabama law endorses the end of this project.
Some members of the Alabama legislature have admitted that the criminalization of abortions as a response to rape and incest amounts to a grandstand play, a tactic to hasten judicial review and the demise of Roe. This may or may not prove to be a sound strategy. It is definitely an innovation, if a logical culmination of decades of an anti-abortion position that degrades pregnant individuals in the interests of the “unborn child” or the “fetal person”.
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There has been this outpouring of disgust and anger online regarding the Stone Age laws and how they infringe on women’s freedom and rights. It is not like Alabama is the only part of the civilised world where abortion is illegal: look closer to home and you will find that Northern Ireland still has a long way to go until there is actually common sense and human rights. It might be religion and insane logic getting in the way; people who feel that any form of life is precious – and that terminating it is a sin. The Guardian reacted to the situation in Northern Ireland and how their neighbours, EIRE, sort of promised progress and change – that has not been mirrored in Norther Ireland:
“It feels like a lifetime ago since 25 May 2018. In many ways it was, because that day – when the Republic of Ireland voted to repeal the eighth amendment of its constitution, which outlawed abortion in virtually every circumstance – was a unique step forward for abortion rights in a world where they are rapidly being dismantled.
While the legislation brought in after the Irish referendum is imperfect, the overall success of the repeal movement against so many obstacles gave campaigners across the world an incredible sense of hope. But one year on, global abortion rights are under increasing threat, and that moment in May 2018 feels like an exception, instead of a promise of what was to come.
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Abortion is freedom. It is the freedom to get an education and a job to try to lift yourself and your family out of poverty, the freedom to parent the children you already have in financial security and to the best of your ability, and the freedom to make the choices that are best for your body and your life. For many people, an abortion is the foundation of the rest of their lives. Reproductive rights are liberation – and anti-abortionists know it – because without these rights, entire communities are further marginalised and impoverished. Women in Ireland know this, having spent generations under a regime of coercive control of which lack of abortion rights was just one part. The same people attacking abortion rights are also blocking access to comprehensive sex education and contraception – in the UK, it is the same people who removed Northern Ireland from the domestic violence bill making its way through Westminster”.
We live in a world where two incredibly powerful nations are denying women a say regarding their bodies and lives. It is not as though, in Northern Ireland and Alabama, the women are breaking laws we have in other parts of the U.K. regarding abortion – and when the cut-off point is regarding its legality. If they were doing that then one could understand why laws have come in. The fact that, in these parts of the world, there is such stubbornness is appalling.
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There is this religious and sanctimonious righteousness that means a few in government have decided all abortion is illegal – unless there is a danger to life to the mother. This means that women have to take huge risks and travel to other parts of the world to have an abortion. I think we forget – away from all the furore regarding Alabama – that there are women closer to us here that are being stripped of their dignity and freedom. The fact Alabama has outlawed abortions has raised a lot of debate and unity. There is almost widespread condemnation and confusion from people who feel that, rightly, it is a woman’s choice whether she has an abortion. Nobody takes that decision lightly and, in all cases, it causes a huge emotional impact. I do think there is this genuine belief that, in Alabama, women are getting pregnant for the sake of it and then having abortions to annoy people! What happens to those women who have been raped or are pregnant and want to change their minds? They are being burdened and then, when their child is born, they either have to raise them or give them away. How is that more humane that abortion?! There is this blind ignorance that means there are unwanted pregnancies and women living with one of the worst moments of their lives. Abortion is not pleasant but it is a lot better to terminate an unwanted pregnancy than giving birth and facing the heartbreak of putting a child up for adoption.
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One fears this insane sense of control will spread to other parts of the U.S. It is, perhaps, not shocking that Alabama, a state not known for its tolerance and understanding, should impose such a law. It is religion and ignorance ruling and there are a lot of men in power who are making these decisions. This BBC article asks the question: Should men get involved and have a say regarding the abortion laws in Alabama?
“Alabama's abortion ban - one of several in a Trump-era surge in anti-abortion legislation - has reignited the debate around another key question: Should men be involved in this battle at all?
Internet forums like Reddit and social platforms like Twitter and Facebook are saturated with arguments for both sides. Yes - these laws affect everyone, including men. No - only women get pregnant, so why should we let men decide?
But Mr Jackson would not offer his own opinion on abortion, exactly, saying instead he prefers to stay silent on the specifics since "women are the only experts when it comes to their bodies".
"When it comes to the abortion debate, I think men should say it is a woman's right to choose," he explains.
"That is their body, that is their choice, and that is their business. No man whatsoever has a right to tell a woman what's right for their body."
PHOTO CREDIT: Christopher Aluka Berry/Reuters
Jordan Kizer is against abortion but says he thinks Mr Jackson's decision is "honourable", and that men should "share their privilege".
"Believe women, trust women. If they're telling you they feel a certain way or that this is their experience, you [as a man] don't get to say no, it's not," he says.
Mr Kizer is a part of the New Wave Feminists group in Austin, Texas, that seeks to promote women's rights as a means of making abortion eventually "unthinkable and unnecessary".
"I think a woman should absolutely have a say over her body, I just draw the line between her body and this different body that's inside of her body," he says. "I know that's kind of a tricky distinction to make for some."
Men are fathers and so, in many ways, they should have a say. Should men in power and those who are not directly affected be able to dictate wider society and decide that abortion is immoral and should be outlawed?! I do not think so. It is shocking that, in 2019, there are areas like Alabama and Northern Ireland where there is such idiocy and cruelty. Alabama’s state motto is audemus jura nostra defendere. It means “we dare defend our rights”. It seems ironic that a state that boasts about rights and protection and defying the rights of every woman are leaving them vulnerable and isolated. I could circle back to my idiot argument but, rather than state the obvious, let’s tackle another complexity: musicians and them having a say.
IMAGE CREDIT: Amnesty International UK
I think I posed the question when reacting to EIRE repealing age-old abortion laws and what this meant. It was a stressful time and I asked whether, given the climate at the time, musicians should have a say and help the right decision come about. With Northern Ireland in the news following Alabama’s poor decision, is it time for artists around the world to put abortion in the spotlight? If Alabama is keen to ban abortion and not having it discussed as a positive – in the sense that women can terminate unwanted pregnancies – then musicians could raise their voices and talk about it. The 1975’s Matty Healy recently spoke out at a gig and let his voice be heard. He was incensed by the removal of women’s rights in Alabama and how they are being pushed aside. There is anger everywhere but it is rare for artists to talk so openly and passionately. Healy is someone who has always placed women’s rights close to his heart. When collecting a prize at this year’s BRIT Awards, he used the opportunity to talk about sexual abuse and sexism in music; how something needed to be done and why artists should speak up. Again, his anger and fire has got people talking and raised that question regarding musicians doing more.
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One sees award shows and gigs and there are few times when artists actually use that moment to discuss subjects like women’s rights. Among the inane and predictable moments of interaction with their audience, where are the important messages and powerful statements?! It would not be a downer if someone, for once, understand how influential their words can be. Some say there is a danger regarding artists getting involved in politics and social issues. If a U.S. artist was to speak about a Democrat candidate or speak out against gun laws, would that create a bad impression and be a bit dangerous? I know there is common sense and good but the nature of being ‘right’ is subjective. We would condemn those who backed guns and voted Republican so why would people allow the opposite to exist? The same goes for abortion: if someone spoke at a gig and said they supported Alabama then they would be tarred and attacked. I think it is commendable artists like The 1975 are taking this course and not standing by. It is not like they are trying to sell a product or using their platform to do something stupid and commercial: instead, they are doing something politicians and public figures here are not really doing: blasting Alabama and making sure that this sort of insane law does not happen in other parts of the U.S. There is nothing to say other states will remain idle. We might experience the likes of Georgia and Texas following suit but one hopes there is too much democracy and rationale to let that happen.
I can see Matt Healy is trending on Twitter and, for the most part, people have supported what he is saying and where he is coming from. Why should only women be outraged and speak out? I do think that everyone needs to get involved and heap pressure on places like Alabama and Northern Ireland. Music is a huge platform and has the power to affect real change in the world. More and more, artists are discussing mental-health freely and exposing their inner-pains. This might sound bleak but, think back, and have we had a time when there has been this sort of openness and discussion? I feel like now is a moment when music is more than the commercial and love-based: so many songs are taking the stigma from mental illness. One can say that artists could go further and talk about sexism – the men for the most part – and the rights of the L.G.B.T.Q.I.A. community. I do feel that artists needs to campaign more and have their voices heard. There is a feeling among bigger artists that having a clear opinion might reflect badly when it comes to their fans and following. That might be true regarding political affiliation but what about abortion? Think about the demographic of many big stars and, for the most part, they are girls and young women. How many of them are going to be offended if a big artist rallied against Alabama’s laws and discussed the situation?
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Maybe it would be a bit heavy but it would inspire young women and actually create a force in music more unified and powerful than those who lead our nations. I doubt President Trump’s government are going to attack Alabama and, in fact, one feels like he supports what they are doing. I do think we have a problem in music where very few men are speaking out regarding women’s rights and the fact we need to do more. Women in music are much bolder but, in the case of abortion, does the uncomfortableness affect both genders? Indeed, should men even talk about it seeing as they are not the ones who are directly impacted? I think men can appreciate how insane things are in Alabama and Northern Ireland, and so, this needs to be translated to music. Not that this alone will affect change and reversal but I do feel that music has a big role to play. Matt Healy has shown that giving a brief-yet-powerful speech can do a lot and create something very potent. He has got social media talking and I think music as a whole could actually do a lot. Every rational-minded human knows abortion is unpleasant but it is not something that women particularly like. It is a last resort in many cases and, when women are raped and fall pregnant, abortion is the right decision.
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We can get into moral arguments regarding a foetus being a life and all lives being sacred but I think there is a much more pressing debate: whether women in Alabama are being heard and their feelings taken into consideration? There will be a lot of heartache and unwanted pregnancies in the state and this is upsetting to consider. I do think artists can affect change and it all starts with that motivation and common spirit. Both genders in music can come together regarding abortion and, whether it is the subject being addressed on stage or gigs or whether it is tackled through song…yeah, we do need to see this happen. At the end of the day, we are talking about women’s rights and the fact that they are being denied. Politicians in Alabama have decreed women who go against the laws set out will face time in prison. How savage and insane the state is and, considering that, why would artists stand aside and let that happen? Let’s hope that when Trump’s presidency is over, a sane politician can overturn the ruling in Alabama and realise that a pro-choice agenda is much fairer! It is a strange time for the world and, in many ways, we are going backwards and getting closer to the swamp than the birds. If we are making progress in some areas, abortion laws and women’s rights are being abused.
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Every woman should be able to decide what happens with their bodies. One doubts anyone who helped criminalise abortion in Alabama realises how painful it is to have to make that decision whether to have an abortion or not. Why is it down to those politicians to say what is right for all women and what is moral?! Music is a wonderful thing and there are some that say it should be left uncontroversial and free from politics. There are plenty of artists out there who are playing it safe and keeping people happy. I applaud that but I do think big subjects like abortion and mental-health need to be out in the open and challenged. It not only helps people and makes them feel less alone but it can wake up politicians and help them realise there is no stigma attached to these subjects. There needs to be more education and cooperation across the board and I do think Alabama, like Northern Ireland, needs a kick up the arse! Who knows how many women – in Alabama and Northern Ireland – will risk their liberties and safety to have an abortion? It is sickening when you realise there are women who will have to live with an unwanted pregnancy for nine months – and then have to decide whether to keep the child or put them up for adoption. The impact on their mental-health is clear and makes me wonder whether more harm is being done (than good) regarding banning abortions. Everyone is entitled to have their say and I do not think music can afford to be on the fence and passive. It only takes a few doing what The 1975’s Matt Healy has done and shout about how insane things are right now. Women’s rights are hugely important and, if music can help regarding equality and repealing stupid laws, I think that is a good thing. Rather than having this pregnant pause of fear, let artists around the world realise that there are some subjects…
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YOU cannot be silent about.