Alabama made headlines recently with a strict abortion law, which outlawed abortion except in the case of saving the mother's life. Now they are in the headlines again, but for a different reason.
Alabama lawmaker Steve Hurst has proposed a bill to castrate sex offenders, and make them pay for their own surgery. However, it does limit the castration to people who are convicted of 'certain sex offense" against children who are 12 years of age or younger.
Hurst has attempted to pass similar legislation for more than a decade, introducing nearly identical bills seven times since 2006, most of which never made it out of committee. He said he was moved to begin pushing for the legislation after a foster parent advocacy group visited his office some years ago and relayed a "horrible" story of abuse.
Hurst in 2005 agreed to remove castration requirements from legislation setting tougher sentences for sex offenders. Several House members at the time told The Associated Press they feared the castration language would have made the bill unconstitutional. In 2011, Hurst co-sponsored a bill that classified the sexual abuse of a child 6 years or younger as a capital offense, allowing courts to sentence offenders to life without parole.
"I've often wondered what that child went through, physically and mentally, and what kind of shape he's in now," Hurst continued, "They (sex offenders) have marked these children for life. They will never get over it. And if they've marked children for life, they need to be marked for life."
Several states already have laws mandating chemical or voluntary surgical castration, though it's unclear how often the procedures are used. No states have mandatory surgical castration laws.
Chemical castrations allow sex offenders to receive regular injections of a drug that lowers testosterone to pre-puberty levels and reduces libido.
Hurst has considered chemical castration legislation, and might again in the future, but he worries the drugs to induce chemical castration could become less effective over time. He realizes surgical castration may not stop offenders in all cases, but it makes a strong statement.
Civil rights groups like the American Civil Liberties Union argue that castration is a "cruel and unusual punishment."
"Some people have said it's inhumane," Hurst added, "But what's more inhumane than molesting a child?"
Personally I think it's a great idea. Knowing they will be castrated will hopefully deter sickos off from committing the crime in the first place. If they still do it, then they pay the price, literally.
"If you take one step forward, it's better than taking no steps at all," Hurst concluded.