Occasionally I get asked what my favorite moments in the State Senate were. To be sure there were several highlights spread out over an eight-year period.
I can distinctly remember the night that we passed the first-ever measure of school choice in Alabama. I recall the very first caucus meeting for the new Republican majority when, for the first time in Alabama history, we didn’t have enough chairs in the room to seat all of the new Republican Senators and how it moved some of the old guys to tears. I remember passing legislation that kept a giant green-energy windfarm from setting up on a scenic byway next to pastoral farmland in my District. I remember a group of high school students I assisted who made it their mission in life to name a highway in my District after the veterans of Afghanistan and Iraq because in their words it was “the war of their generation.” There were economic development bills, getting a raise for deputies, balancing the budgets, cutting our own legislative pay to prove the point that it could be done, and a whole slew of unsung moments with constituents that just made it seem worth it.
But one day when I was speaking to a group of students one of them asked me point blank what was my most favorite thing; the MOST favorite of all. I knew what it was, and it may surprise you: Senate Bill 280, that amended section 22 of the Alabama Code during the 2012 Regular Session.
Here’s the story:
Some very good friends for many years to my wife Charlene and me are Cris and Karen Mahy. Cris has been on Rightside Radio with me several times to talk about the ministry that they have to Ukraine and how the current war is impacting the lives of the citizens there. But their calling to the people of Ukraine dates back a number of years and began with a trip they took to Ukraine and the impact a tour of a Ukrainian orphanage had on their hearts. My friends were the first family I ever met who went through a foreign adoption. As they saw the children of that country, they felt compelled (called, really) that their next child was already born and living in Ukraine. She was and her name is Karina.
The Mahy family went through all of the bureaucratic machinations, legal wrangling, state department approvals and multiple trips overseas. They hired interpreters and foreign lawyers and after what seemed like an eternity, they were able to bring Karina home to Alabama. They went through all that it takes to not only make her a part of the family but to ensure that her US citizenship was established. Everything that it takes to adopt a child multiplied by a factor (and expense) of 10. But they discovered that there was still more to do.
My friend Cris came to see me in my capacity as a lawyer in 2011 because it turned out that Alabama was one of the few states that had laws on the books that required what was known then as the re-adoption process. I discovered because of the Mahy family that Alabama law made the foreign adoption process more difficult by requiring that every parent who adopted a foreign child had to do it twice, including all of the legal costs of doing so. Why? Who knows?
So I handled the issue as their attorney and was proud to stand with them in the Probate Court and celebrate Karina’s second adoption. But next came that MOST favorite thing I ever got to do in the Alabama State Senate just a few months later. I drafted a Bill that became Senate Bill 280, had it cosponsored by several of my colleagues like Senators Paul Bussman, Bryan Taylor, Scott Beason, Gerald Allen and others, and we passed it into law with a unanimous bipartisan vote.
Upon taking effect on January 1, 2013 the new law did away with the archaic need for a second adoption and streamlined the adoption process for countless adoptive parents. To further crown the moment, my colleagues agreed that Section 1 of the Act should state: “Be it enacted by the Legislature of Alabama … this act shall be known and may be cited as Karina’s law.”
It was a great day when Governor Robert Bentley held a special bill signing in the Old House Chamber in the Alabama State Capitol and the Mahy family, with Karina Mahy present, looked on and had their pictures made with the Governor while he signed a bill into law to codify a step forward to build stronger families in Alabama, and named it after their daughter. It was a moment I will never forget.
I tell that story for the simple but profound reason that Karina’s Law is a clear indication that the legislature can (when it wants to) take actions that impact the families that they serve in ways that go beyond budgets, and schools, and Medicaid, and all of the other functions of typical governance.
And right now, in the post-Roe world, adoption needs to be front and center again.
For 50 years pro-life conservatives have been fighting against abortion. They carried the fight forward despite the fact that the abortion industry is a big-money special interest. They fought despite the fact that the left demonized, doxed and demonstrated against anyone who dared to question whether life in the womb was really life in the womb. They fought, and they won, despite political paralysis that saw many politicians become indifferent over time.
While not entirely a Republican matter, the fact remains that the Republican Party maintained the right to life in its party platform and it was largely Republican-led efforts in the legislative processes that kept the political side of the fight alive, including here in Alabama. The Alabama Republican supermajority is now like the proverbial dog that chased cars every day and then one day finally caught the bumper. Now, the question is, “Okay, we won. So, what now?”
Let me suggest that we dispel any of the Liberal talking points that say that Conservatives don’t care about children and families by not taking action that furthers life after birth. We should work now to extend the pro-life movement to not only preserve life in the womb but to enhance the quality of life for children after the womb. One of the chief means that we can do just that is to take the extra steps to streamline the adoption processes in every state.
Let’s make sure the laws on the books are amenable, agreeable and workable for the average person. The Alabama legislature should consider reductions for filing fees on the legal processes required to adopt. Legislators should work toward allowing incentives like tax credits, adoption scholarships, early childhood healthcare credits and more. The State Bar Association can work with Alabama attorneys who handle adoption cases and incentivize them to handle them pro bono, or to allow for a tax credit for doing so. Doctors who practice in the realm of pediatrics can be incentivized to do prenatal and early childhood wellness checks for families that have chosen to forego abortion and choose adoption. The opportunities are endless and, in truth, one omnibus adoption bill could do all of this at once.
The Bible says in multiple places that we should bring justice to the fatherless and that God upholds the fatherless. Jesus said to allow the little children to come to Him. We as a state should do those very things with that very sentiment. As more and more young mothers realize that abortion is not a solution, and in some states, it is not an option, let’s make sure that pro-life means pro-living and that we have done all that we can as a state to promote life both in the womb and after birth.
It is possible to further promote life in a post-Roe world.
Phil Williams is a former State Senator, retired Army Colonel and combat veteran, and a practicing Attorney. He has served with the leadership of the Alabama Policy Institute and currently hosts Rightside Radio M-F 2-5 pm on WVNN. His column appears every Monday in 1819 News. To contact Phil or request him for a speaking engagement go to www.rightsideradio.org The views and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the policy or position of 1819 News. To comment, please send an email with your name and contact information to Commentary@1819News.com.