By WILL WHATLEY, Alabama Daily News
MONTGOMERY, Ala. – State Rep. John Rogers, D-Birmingham, raised eyebrows across the state and country this week while trying to defend abortion rights during debate over a bill outlawing the practice in the state House of Representatives.
“Some kids are unwanted, so you kill them now or kill them later,” he said. “You bring them into the world unwanted, unloved, then you send them to the electric chair. So you kill them now or you kill them later. But the bottom line is that I think we shouldn’t be making this decision.”
On Thursday Rogers stood behind his comments. He said in an interview with the Associated Press that he was attempting to point out the hypocrisy of Republicans claiming to care about the health of children, saying Alabama hasn’t expanded Medicaid, has a violent prison system and has neglected social services.
“They are being hypocritical. They are killing them anyway,” Rogers said.
“I don’t agree with abortion myself, but I think that ought to be a woman’s decision to make about her body.”
The Alabama House of Representatives approved the proposed abortion ban on a 74-3 vote. The bill now moves to the Alabama Senate.
Supporters of the proposed abortion ban acknowledge it would be struck down by the lower courts, but said their aim is to ignite a legal challenge to the U.S. Supreme Court’s landmark 1973 Roe v. Wade decision that legalized abortion nationally.
Response to the comments poured in quickly. U.S. Rep. Bradley Byrne, R-Mobile, took to Twitter to express his disgust.
“First the comments from Ralph Northam on infanticide & now this,” Byrne tweeted, referencing comments made by the Virginia governor earlier this year. “One of the most horrific statements I’ve ever heard coming from a Democratic representative on abortion. The barbaric embrace of murder from the Dems is despicable. Every life is precious & worth fighting for.”
Byrne is running for the Republican nomination for the U.S. Senate.
In a prepared statement, Alabama Senate Majority Leader Greg Reed (R-Jasper) also expressed his feelings about Rogers’ comments.
“Representative Rogers’ remarks are chilling. ‘Kill them now, or you kill them later’? His comments should be condemned at the state and national level,” Reed said, adding that the Senate will soon be moving the House-passed abortion ban.
“Every human life, no matter how weak or small, has inherent dignity because we are all made in the image of God.”
“It’s hard to counter argue against a comment that was so blatantly insensitive and ignorant,” Sen. Cam Ward (R-Alabaster) said. “Rep. Rogers is a friend of mine but his comments … take our political discourse to a new low.”
The criticism isn’t just going from Republicans.
Rep. A.J. McCampbell, D-Livingston, who chairs the Black Caucus in the House, told Alabama Daily News that Rogers “does not speak” for Democrats or the Black Caucus.
“He does not speak for us. He does not speak for the Black Caucus, not in any form or fashion,” McCampbell said.
Planned Parenthood Southeast Advocates President Staci Fox also weighed in on Rogers’ comments.
“We are disgusted and deeply offended by the most recent comments from Representative Rogers,” Fox said. “Not only were his remarks reprehensible, they are a complete distraction from the real work still left to be done in this state. The people of Alabama deserve better…
“As we speak, Alabamians are dying from real public health problems that need our attention and we will not allow one man’s repulsive rant to distract us from the real issues at hand.”
Daniel Sparkman, former press secretary for Gov. Kay Ivey and current candidate for House District 74, released a written statement condemning the comments and asking Rogers to resign.
“I appreciate Rep. John Rogers’ years of service to the state of Alabama and firmly believe our democracy is made strong through healthy debate,” Sparkman said. “However, Rep. Rogers’ comments that ‘some children are unwanted’ and deserve to be murdered violates all levels of human decency and is unbecoming of a representative of the people. Therefore, I am publicly calling on the Alabama Democrat Party to disavow these comments, and for Rep. Rogers to resign immediately and apologize for his demeaning, hateful and unconscionable comments. I’m running for State House to represent the values of Alabama. It’s clear Rep. Rogers has turned his back on those values and the people of Alabama, especially our children.”
National conservative figures also pounced on Rogers’ remarks.
“This is stomach curling and makes Ralph Northam look like a moderate on abortion,” Donald Trump Jr. said on Twitter. “Every Democrat running for President needs to be asked where they stand on this. The extreme turn we’ve seen from Dems on abortion recently is truly sickening.”
“John Rogers, the rambling, unintelligible psychopath who said we have to kill kids now or kill them later, has been in office in Alabama since 1982,” tweeted conservative commentator and author Matt Walsh. “A literal crazy person has managed to stay in office for 37 years. Somehow I do not find this fact in the least bit surprising.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report.