“Of course, no added punishments for rapists.”
Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., on Wednesday joined a chorus of liberals in condemning the Alabama Senate’s vote the previous day to effectively ban abortion in the state.
In a tweet to her more than 4 million followers, Ocasio-Cortez declared: “Alabama lawmakers are making all abortions a felony punishable w jailtime,including women victimized by rape+incest.”
She added that the law did not prescribe additional punishments for rapists.
Alabama lawmakers are making all abortions a felony punishable w jailtime,incl women victimized by rape+incest.
Of course, no added punishments for rapists.
— Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (@AOC) May 15, 2019
However, as The New York Times article she linked to makes clear, Ocasio-Cortez badly mischaracterized what the Alabama legislation would actually do.
Whereas her tweet suggests that women, including victims of rape and incest, would face jail time for receiving abortions, that is not the case. Instead, it’s doctors who would risk prison time if they were convicted of a felony for illegally performing the procedure. (Exceptions are allowed in cases of serious risk to the mother’s life.)
Many other outraged Democrats managed to make that distinction, noting that the maximum sentence would be a startling 99 years.
Ocasio-Cortez was not alone in her inaccurate take. Journalist Laura Bassett tweeted similar language.
The amendment to add rape and incest exceptions failed 11-22. Alabama will make abortions a felony, in all cases, from the moment of conception, punishable by up to 99 years in prison.
— Laura Bassett (@LEBassett) May 15, 2019
And feminist author Geraldine DeRuiter was explicit in her wrongness.
In Alabama, the penalty for a doctor who performs an abortion on a patient, even in the case of rape or incest, is more severe than the penalty for actually committing rape or incest. https://t.co/zuKFfczw8g
— Geraldine (@everywhereist) May 15, 2019
As a congresswoman, Ocasio-Cortez might be expected to have a better grasp on the law, or even to hold herself to a higher standard than part-time Twitter activists. In reality, though, she has repeatedly struggled with accuracy, and stubbornly refused to admit her mistakes – often attacking her critics in the media and politics instead.
Even the seemingly innocuous last sentence of Ocasio-Cortez’s tweet isn’t quite correct. Gov. Kay Ivey, a Republican, must indeed sign the Alabama bill into law. (She has said she is still reviewing the legislation, but is expected to enact it.)
However, few observers really believe that Ivey will “decide the future of women’s rights in Alabama,” as Ocasio-Cortez claimed.
If the bill becomes law, supporters of the legislation have acknowledged that it will likely be blocked in court, as has happened with a series of less extreme state bills. None of the four states to pass “heartbeat bills” – Georgia, Kentucky, Missippi and Ohio – have actually seen them go into effect.
The real purpose of the Alabama bill, according to its architects, is to test the Supreme Court’s commitment to Roe v. Wade, a landmark 1972 ruling that pro-choice advocates cherish for guaranteeing access to the procedure.
With that in mind, Eric Johnston – the founder and president of the Alabama Pro-Life Coalition – told The Times on Tuesday that his mentality in drafting the law was: “Why not go all the way?”
- Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y.: Screen grab