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Back alleys are filthy, narrow roads which run through the middle of city blocks behind businesses, where deliveries are made and garbage trucks pick up their trash. The term back alley may also be used in a metaphorical sense to describe a place where people go to obtain things that are either illegal or otherwise prohibited as a result of moral panic.
The back alley provides a wealth of services, and many people survive using them.
Before 1973 and after 2022 in the US, abortion procedures were provided in the metaphorical back alley, leading to the terms back alley abortion and backstreet abortion. The lack of a legal abortions alternative drove people to seek medical assistance from unregulated and often poorly trained practitioners. In 2010, in the United States, the Republican-controlled House declared through its policies and attempted legislation that the country desired a return to the good old days of the Back Alley. Sadly, the Senate felt that hospitals and doctors' offices would somehow provide better care at a better price.
The illegality of drugs, such as marijuana, leads people to purchase their supplies from the back alley pharmacy. Some sufferers of chronic conditions report that marijuana improves their quality of life, but the availability of medical marijuana is limited, and opposed by the right wing (as well as many left-wing) elements who worry that marijuana is a gateway drug, thus leading cancer patients to graduate to heroin, and perhaps join motorcycle gangs. There are no statistics to support this, but it's reasonable to assume that California and many other states are currently being overrun by roaming gangs of multiple sclerosis sufferers. In Texas, where marijuana is illegal, motorcycle clubs are known to have lovely little Sunday shindigs after church.
Legal and social prohibitions on homosexuality lead some to seek love and sex in the back alley (pun
not totally intended). Right-wing social commentators, such as Sean Hannity, view overt homosexuality as a threat to traditional marriage. Unfortunately the citizens of Massachusetts and several other states have conspired against Hannity and the wingnut brigade by experiencing a drop in divorce rates—despite the legalization of same-sex marriage.
Heterosexual prostitution also occurs in the (usually metaphorical) back alley, of course.
- Education for Choice's explanation of illegal abortion practices
- Drug Policy Alliance Network: Medical Marijuana
- Officers warned about more bikers possibly heading to Texas after brawl By Eliott C. McLaughlin & Holly Yan (Updated 11:49 AM ET, Wed May 20, 2015) CNN.
- Marriage somehow survives the introduction of same-sex marriage