The former chair of the Alliance for a Pro-Life Alabama, who more recently served as an official in the Alabama State Department of Education, was ousted from the education department last week after being indicted on child sexual abuse charges, the Alabama Political Reporter first reported on Friday. Marty Decole “Cole” Wagner is accused of sexually abusing a child under the age of 12 and was indicted by a grand jury in Montgomery, Alabama, on June 30. An unnamed source familiar with Wagner’s case told the outlet that the child victim in question is actually under 10 years of age.
Per the outlet, Wagner became the chair of the Alliance for a Pro-Life Alabama in 2018 to mobilize voters to vote for a constitutional amendment to recognize fetal personhood and clarify that there’s no right to an abortion in the state. In his capacity as chair, Wagner told the Alabama Political Reporter in 2018 that his role was to “[refute] falsehoods and misinformation that may be disseminated by pro-abortion forces within the state.” The anti-abortion ballot measure was successful, and four years later, shortly after the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, abortion is now banned in the state.
It’s not immediately clear when Wagner joined the state’s education department to work in government relations, but a spokesperson at the department has released a statement calling the allegations against Wagner “serious, tragic and shocking,” adding, “While he was employed by our department for only a few months, Mr. Wagner has been terminated effective immediately.”
Wagner’s former leadership position at the Alliance for a Pro-Life Alabama as a supposed voice for children and families, considering that he now faces child sexual abuse charges, is jarring—but it’s not inconsistent with what we know about the anti-abortion movement. “Pro-life” ideology has always advocated for children and girls to be stripped of bodily autonomy, and since the fall of Roe, anti-abortion leaders have been bending over backwards to justify denying abortion rights to child rape victims.
Prominent anti-abortion activists have characterized pregnant children who are legally below the age of sexual consent as “women” and argued that they would make good parents—all while accusing “the left” and queer people in general of grooming and pedophilia. In April, the head of Cincinnati Right to Life spoke before the state legislature about the gutting case of a 10-year-old rape victim in the state who was forced to travel out-of-state for abortion care because Ohio’s ban doesn’t include a rape exception; Strietmann characterized the 10-year-old as having “a woman’s body” that was “designed to carry life.” We’ve seen time and again how the anti-abortion movement is fundamentally at odds with children’s safety and well-being.
Wagner was released from jail on $60,000 bond. He now faces up to 20 years in prison, as sexual abuse of a child under 12 is a Class B felony in Alabama.