MONTGOMERY — While State Rep. John Rogers’ (D-Birmingham) viral comments from last week have made international headlines for all the wrong reasons, Alabama Senate Majority Leader Greg Reed (R-Jasper) wants to turn the conversation back to HB 314 and what the abortion debate is really all about: an innocent, defenseless baby in the womb.
In an interview with Yellowhammer News, Reed discussed his support for the bill, which was passed by the House last week. HB 314, which would be the nation’s strictest abortion ban, is on the Senate Judiciary Committee’s calendar for Wednesday at 8:30 a.m.
Reed said his goal is to have the bill on the Senate floor on Thursday. State Sen. Clyde Chambliss (R-Prattville) will carry the bill in the Senate for State Rep. Terri Collins (R-Decatur), the bill’s sponsor.
Known as one of the most influential elected officials in the state, Reed is also a leading pro-life advocate and champion. He was one of the first officeholders nationwide to denounce Roger’s now-infamous remarks, and Reed was a vocal proponent of Alabama’s Amendment Two this past election cycle.
“I am definitively on the pro-life side and will do whatever I can do move this legislation forward,” Reed said. “But I think it’s important for all of us to stay focused on what’s most important.”
He has witnessed firsthand the circus-like atmosphere that the abortion topic has brought to the State House. Rogers aside, pro-abortion supporters have taken their rhetoric to new levels in opposing HB 314. One protester was arrested after vandalizing the House gallery windows with chalk paint, but it was the peaceful assembly that raised eyebrows even higher, and again not in a constructive way. Pro-abortion activists, dressed in attire from the fictional show “The Handmaid’s Tale,” brought signs that said, “Abortion is a human right,” “Abortion is good for families” and “Abortion on demand without apology,” among other sentiments well outside the mainstream, especially for the Yellowhammer State.
Reed decried that the goal of these advocates has changed over time to become primarily about “winning” – and by any means necessary – rather than the substance of the issue itself.
“You wind up to where things begin to lose the significance of what we’re really talking about here,” he outlined. “The number one focus here is the determination of what is right. And how that decision about what is right has significant impact on a child and that child’s mother. When you boil it down, that is what we all should be most concerned with, is that child and that child’s mother, and that helps frame the debate, frame the discussion… in a way that is most important.”
With all of the heated rhetoric surrounding the abortion debate, Reed is worried that people may be missing the crux of the conversation, as well as the point of HB 314 — which is to ideally spark a major rollback of or overturn the Supreme Court’s Roe v. Wade precedent.
“This legislation has a purpose,” Reed emphasized.
He called re-examining Roe v. Wade “important” and “healthy for America.”
Reed also stressed where he stands on the abortion issue.
“I certainly believe the baby in the womb is a human life,” Reed stated.
“For me, it is a very clear, personal decision. Being pro-life is something that I am, have been and will continue to be,” he said. “Because I feel like that should be the position of Alabama and of America in regards to [abortion]… and I think that is the case for most of my colleagues in the Alabama Senate.”
As “a deliberative body,” Reed noted HB 314 is being looked at “carefully” and analyzed meticulously by members of the Senate, as they do with all pieces of legislation.
“I think that’s healthy, I think that’s what we should be doing,” Reed remarked. “I do think that in the end, we’re going to see that the State Senate will vote, as did the House of Representatives, to uphold the sanctity of life and support this legislation as a potential challenge to Roe v. Wade.”
He said this comes “against the backdrop” of Amendment Two being overwhelmingly approved by a referendum of the people in November, declaring Alabama as a firmly pro-life state, despite a massive pro-abortion ad buy by Planned Parenthood.
“The people of Alabama, even with that kind of opposition and that kind of financial resource from places like California and New York, the people still spoke very loudly in regards to what their attitude is toward the sanctity of life,” Reed advised. “So, I think for me, this is an issue that is very important to me personally, and has always been, but I also think that we as a body are moving forward in carrying out what we know are the straight up interests and wishes of the people of Alabama, based on a vote that was less than six months ago.”
Yellowhammer News noted that Collins has stressed that she does not want amendments made to the bill because the legislation was purposefully crafted to challenge the concept of personhood before the Supreme Court and amendments – including adding exceptions for rape and/or incest – could dilute that overarching purpose.
Stressing that his overall perspective is a staunchly pro-life one, Reed outlined, “On the topic of the amendments, I think it’s back to trying to analyze what I have heard Representative Collins say on a number of occasions: that this is a very focused topic, it’s a topic that has specific legal ramifications and the goal of the legislation is to potentially… allow for a review of Roe v. Wade.”
Reed then stipulated that if Roe v. Wade is modified by a new Supreme Court decision he hopes the justices will allow the states to decide for themselves on abortion policy in their own jurisdictions. If that occurred, Reed again pointed to Amendment Two as what the wish of the majority of Alabamians would be.
“At that point then, we would be able to make appropriate exceptions within what would govern the procedures or lack thereof in the state of Alabama,” he added. “At this stage in the game though, with the goal of what the legislation actually is, the fact that the constitutional legal review says that the best way to accomplish the goal is to minimize the amendments, then I’m supportive of that.”
He then reiterated that if the goal of a successful Roe v. Wade challenge is accomplished, the legislature would then be in a position to decide what exceptions are allowed, based on the will of the people and what “is best for Alabama, not governed by federal mandate.”
While Reed wants the legislature to move on from Rogers’ sideshow, he said hopefully that situation “creates a new sense of evaluation,” “a new attitude of engagement” and “newfound support within” people that have become somewhat “desensitized” to the abortion debate in Alabama and across the country.
“Once you are faced with graphic description and once you understand the way some people feel about these topics, for those like myself and many, many others, certainly the majority of Alabamians, then I think that it will re-energize and engage people to re-examine where they are on this topic and have them once again step forward to let their voices be heard,” Reed said.
He said that some of those new voices will not agree with his pro-life stance, but “that’s the beauty of America, that we have the opportunity to do that — and that freedom to express our views.”
Reed called this freedom of thought and expression “the fiber of what makes America a great country.”
The Senate majority leader emphasized that he is encouraged and happy to see Alabamians “standing up for the unborn child” and hopes to see people in this majority continue to become personally involved and engaged.
He remarked that the current makeup of the Supreme Court and the potential for President Donald Trump to add another justice or two if he wins re-election is part of what is re-energizing both sides of the abortion debate, as the potential for change becomes more realistic.
“The president is definitively responsible for that, along with the U.S. Senate,” Reed said. “Having conservatives in positions of significant leadership at the top levels of our nation, has it made a difference? Absolutely it has. Has it changed the narrative? No doubt. And as a result, I think these topics are coming to the forefront again of political and social debate. … I think ‘ground zero’ of that specifically is the U.S. Supreme Court and [Justices Gorsuch and Kavanaugh] who were nominated by the president.”
He concluded by reaffirming what everyone should be thinking about during the abortion debate.
“Some of these comments and some of these methodologies and some of these things that are happening are just outrageous,” Reed emphasized. “Let’s all just stop for a minute and recognize what we’re really talking about here: a little bitty baby and that precious child’s mother and family. Let’s just be focused on what is at stake here.”
Sean Ross is a staff writer for Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn