Newsletter: Alabama, the pro-‘life’ state that loves the death penalty

Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey signs a bill that virtually outlaws abortion in the state on Wednesday in Montgomery, Ala.
(Hal Yeager / Associated Press)

Good morning. I’m Paul Thornton, and it is Saturday, May 18, 2019. I trust that all my fellow Americans of Norwegian descent had a wonderful Syttende Mai (pronounced something like “SOOT-in my”). Let’s take a look back at the week in Opinion.

Michael Brandon Samra might have briefly hoped his life would be spared the day before Alabama executed him on Thursday. For it was then, on Wednesday, that the only official with the unilateral authority to grant the convicted murderer a reprieve declared “every life” — really, every life — to be a sacred gift from God.

But as we can almost always infer from the statements of anti-abortion hardliners, it’s really the “lives” of blastocysts, embryos and fetuses that are valued the most — or at least used disingenuously to pass laws meant to kick the issue of abortion up to the Supreme Court. In a piece posted after Gov. Kay Ivey signed her state’s flagrantly unconstitutional criminalization of nearly all abortions, editorial writer Scott Martelle called out Alabama’s transparent hypocrisy on the question of protecting “all” life:

Apparently, Ivey’s not averse to returning some of God’s sacred gifts, since as governor she’s overseeing the planned execution ... of Michael Brandon Samra, who was 19 years old when he took part in the quadruple murder of the family of a friend angered by the father’s refusal to let him borrow a pickup truck. The ringleader, who was 15 at the time of the crimes, is serving life in prison.

In fact, since Ivey assumed office two years ago last month, Alabama has executed six other men, including convicted serial bomber Walter Moody who, at 83, became the oldest person executed in the nation’s history when he was strapped onto the gurney last year.

Earlier this year, the state executed Domineque Ray after the Supreme Court refused to issue a stay when Ivey’s government denied the condemned Muslim inmate access to an imam in the death chamber, although it does provide a Christian chaplain.

Although California has the nation’s largest death row with 735 condemned inmates, Alabama has the highest per capita rate of death sentences.

And six weeks after she was sworn into office, Ivey signed into law a measure shortening the appeals process for capital offense, a move that makes it more likely the state will execute the innocent.

So much for Ivey’s notion that the new abortion ban “stands as a powerful testament to Alabamians’ deeply held belief that every life is precious & that every life is a sacred gift from God.”

Or maybe the asterisk after “every” didn’t come through on Twitter.

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Roe vs. Wade isn’t the kind of precedent you overturn. Examples abound of Supreme Court decisions that deserved to be reversed because they were so egregious; not only wasn’t Roe egregious, it was also correctly decided, says the L.A. Times editorial board. At this point, any effort taken to protect Roe may seem pointless, but since you can bet that Republicans aren’t finished yet with abortion, now’s the time to get involved, says Melissa Batchelor Warnke.

Vote the men out. Editorial writer Mariel Garza says the solution to anti-abortion laws like the ones in Georgia and Alabama is for voters to stop electing men inclined to make decisions for women: “Until and unless more women start running for office, and voting for female candidates when they do run, then we should not be surprised to see more of these appalling laws that treat women as less-than-equal baby vessels.” L.A. Times

Sen. Kamala Harris does not like to spend political capital, so it isn’t surprising to those of us who have been watching her career all these years to see her poll numbers drop in a Democratic presidential primary race dominated by the politically risky policy pronouncements. This piece shoehorns Harris’ biggest flaw into what the reporter views as a strength: The senator’s experience as a prosecutor tells her always to play the long game and not get caught up in brief news cycles that demand the quick, easy answers her Democratic opponents are all too willing to provide. I guess that’s one way to make evasion look strategic. The Atlantic

California’s housing crisis can wait — that’s the message sent by the Senate’s shelving of SB 50, the most serious attempt yet to address the shortage of homes in the state. Still, local officials upset by the bid to overturn their zoning laws and allow for denser housing along transit corridors and in single-family neighborhoods should serve as a warning to cities that fail to address this crisis, says the L.A. Times editorial board. L.A. Times

But the guy who killed SB 50 has a plan for housing — and it involves vanity plates rather than doing anything helpful, like building more homes. Sen. Anthony Portantino, chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee, unceremoniously shelved SB 50, saying that the bill “isn’t the right fix at this time.” The fix from the La Cañada Flintridge Democrat? A “California Housing Crisis Awareness” license plate program. L.A. Times