Alabama’s politics are somewhat confusing, as you can see from its recent court decision to “protect” embryos from—from the sheer terror—of being fertilized. Yes, the judge there decreed that an embryo has a right to its eternal innocence, which requires absolute protection from any invasion by sperm. The decision makes it clear that if a sperm dares to unite with an embryo, that embryo loses its virginal identity—forever—because it is now fertilized, and this fertilization violates the fundamental right of an egg to remain unfertilized.

The law has run into objections, as it also appears to violate the right of some women to bear children because it is also a type of birth control enforced by state law. At this time, almost 2% of pregnancies in the U.S. are achieved through artificial fertilization, so outlawing the practice would prevent that percentage of births.

To understand the process, you have to consider in vitro fertilization, which is literally fertilization in glass. Women who have trouble getting pregnant by the normal method have been able, since 1978, to become pregnant and have a perfectly normal baby. This is accomplished by taking unfertilized eggs from inside a woman, exposing them to sperm, and then inserting a fertilized egg into the woman’s uterus. Some eggs simply fail to develop, and are lost. These are the eggs that the Alabama court has decided to protect from harm by forbidding the entire process. To lose a dozen eggs to get a good, viable one is now illegal. Never mind that the vast majority of eggs always get lost, since the average woman will ovulate four or five hundred times in her life. So, you have to wonder if the next bold step might a law to allow the state to rake out all those horribly wasted eggs and deposit them in a freezer for eternity.

While Alabama has made its pioneering advance to preserve eggs that are clearly not human beings, the state has at the same time also pioneered a highly advanced form of murder, using an entirely new method to carry out an execution. Last month, a living, breathing, post-fetal human, Kenneth Smith, was killed by the state as punishment for a murder he had committed back in 1988. The event was a unique, indeed, a major breakthrough in the execution procedure, because it was the very first time nitrogen gas was used by a state to carry out a murder, or what is most popularly called an execution. Alabama resorted to this unique new method because other “humane” substances for murder were not readily available.

A second strange twist in the case was that a jury had sentenced Smith to life, but the judge in the case overrode this verdict, making the execution possible. After this action, Alabama made it illegal for a judge to override a jury’s decision.

As for the execution itself, they had the nitrogen turned on for 15 minutes, and Smith appeared conscious for “several minutes into the execution,” and for two minutes after that, he “shook and writhed on a gurney,” according to on media witness report. That was followed by several minutes of deep breathing before his breath began slowing “until it was no longer perceptible for media witnesses.” Whether this was a truly humane method will undoubtedly be debated before the next execution.

art courtesy of CBS News