Column: Proposed Alabama Law Bans Masturbation

Protesters Demonstrate outside Alabama Senate. Photo: Gustavo Valdes/CNN

A bill now before the Alabama State House Judiciary Committee makes male masturbation a Class A Misdemeanor carrying a jail sentence up to one year and fines up to $6,000. Proposed by Rep. Lloyd Micklemann (R-Cullman County) and co-sponsored by 30 other legislators, the law is meant to be a companion piece to the recently approved measure effectively banning abortions in the state. 

“Up till now, the focus has been on women and the protection of the human fetus. This proposed law opens up a new front in the battle to protect human life. It is time we recognize that men have an equal responsibility,” Micklemann said. 

Enforcement of the bill’s measures presented a major challenge. At first, the proposed law required state-licensed physicians, nurses and other medical personnel to ask about the masturbatory practices of their male patients. Initially if found they were masturbating, a warning would be issued. The patients would sign a statement that they were told about the law’s penalties. If they continued, they would be reported to the state and could be arrested.

However the Medical Association of the State of Alabama, the state’s major medical group, strongly objected to making the physician-patient relation the focus of enforcement. 

They were joined by national medical groups including the American Medical Association,  the American Academy of Family Physicians, the American College of Physicians, the American Academy of Pediatrics, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, the American Psychiatric Association and the American Osteopathic Association.

The enforcement provisions were changed to instead charge teachers, coaches and other personnel in state-funded schools with the task of monitoring the conversations and actions of all male students. As with the previous enforcement provisions, students found masturbating would be issued a warning and, upon continued acts of masturbation, would be reported to the state. At state-funded colleges and universities, teachers, coaches and other personnel including dormitory residents advisors are included in this provision. Also, the law will be included as part of the state sex education curriculum.

The proposed law also allows for citizen reporting of acts of masturbation. A man talking about masturbating would demonstrate probable cause under the law and be subject to arrest.

The Alabama chapter of Americans United For Life assisted in the writing of the bill. On a national level, this organization has helped write abortion laws in many states. Local chapter spokesman James Tallmure says the bill may serve as a model for legislation in other states.  

“I have been in contact with legislators in Ohio, Georgia, Missouri,  Mississippi and Florida. They are all watching developments here closely.”

According to Tellmure, this is a pioneering effort and the specific provisions of the bill are a work in progress. “But the effort is just as important as the banning of abortion. Just as we uphold the sanctity of human life with women, we must now fight for the life-giving potential of male sperm. Every sperm is sacred.”

As with the new Alabama law on abortion, many local and national pro-choice and women’s groups strenuously objected to the overall intent of the bill. NARAL Pro-Choice America,  Catholics for a Free Choice, the  National Abortion Federation,  the Abortion Access Project, Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice and Life and Liberty for Women all issued statements condemning the proposed bill. 

On the other hand, some pro-choice advocates welcomed how the law targeted men. “Now men must recognize that the pro-choice fight is their fight,” said Jane Lindeman of NARAL.

New to the battle are groups representing LGBT people.  The National Lesbian and Gay Task Force, the Human Rights Fund and Lambda Legal Defense and Education Fund all issued statements condemning the bill. 

“Masturbation, both male and female, is a fundamental human right that cannot be infringed upon by the state,” said James Hathmore of the Human Rights Fund.  Local Alabama LGBT groups are organizing protests. One form of protest is group masturbation sessions. Several gay bars in Birmingham and Mobile have already conducted such protests.

The proposed law is expected to be approved by the Alabama State House Judiciary Committee and prospects of passage by the full Alabama House and Senate are good. Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey issued a statement saying that she would sign the bill when it comes to her desk. “Once again Alabama will be leading the nation on this issue,” she said.

Disclaimer: Nothing in this story is true. But then I never thought that a reality TV star could become Pesident.


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