Alabama has become the latest US state to move to restrict abortions by passing a bill to outlaw the procedure in almost all cases.
The state’s Republican backers have pushed the legislation, which amounts to a near-total ban on abortion in the state, forward with the express goal of overturning Roe v. Wade, the Supreme Court case legalizing abortion. Alabama lawmakers join legislators in several other states in putting forth legislation to restrict abortion, such as Georgia’s recent fetal heartbeat bill.
After more than four hours of debate, the Republican-led Senate voted 25-6 to pass HB 314, which could lead to doctors being imprisoned with up to 99 years for performing an abortion. The Alabama House passed the bill earlier this month.
The exceptions to the Alabama abortion law
The law only allows exceptions “to avoid a serious health risk to the unborn child’s mother,” for ectopic pregnancy and if the “unborn child has a lethal anomaly.” Democrats re-introduced an amendment to exempt rape and incest victims, but the motion failed on an 11-21 vote.
Republican Gov. Kay Ivey will have six days to sign the legislation, though the bill would not take effect until six months after becoming law. Ivey has not publicly taken a stance on the bill but has previously aligned herself as anti-abortion, lamenting the courts striking down another Alabama abortion law last year.
“As this legislation is still making its way through the legislative process, the governor intends to withhold comment until it makes its way to her desk for signature,” Ivey spokeswoman Lori Jhons said in a statement.
American Civil Rights Union of Alabama Executive Director Randall Marshall said that his organization would join with the national ACLU, Planned Parenthood, and Planned Parenthood of Southeast to challenge the bill in court within “a few weeks” should it become law.
The bill’s consideration Tuesday made frequent reference to the chamber’s dramatic vote last week to drop an amendment that would have made exemptions to abortions performed for instances of rape or incest.
Time frame for women to be able to make an abortion
Republican State Sen. Clyde Chambliss, who ushered the bill through the chamber, emphasized in his introduction that the bill impacts women who are “known to be pregnant” and would provide “every female that’s pregnant or thinks they’re pregnant, and the male who was involved, it gives them that window of time – this bill does not change that window of time.”
In a news release, Chambliss touted that his bill outlaws surgical abortions as soon as a pregnancy can be medically determined. Speaking on the Senate floor, Chambliss repeatedly referred to a “window” of time between conception and when a woman knows for certain that she’s pregnant. The state senator said he believed that time was between about seven and 10 days.
“She has to take a pregnancy test, she has to do something to know whether she’s pregnant or not,” he said.
“You can’t know that immediately, it takes some time for all those chromosomes and all that.“
What does the abortion bill mention in case of rape or incest?
Many women don’t yet know for certain that they’re pregnant even at six weeks into a pregnancy — the earliest a fetal heartbeat can be detected.
When Democratic state Sen. Rodger Smitherman asked what would happen under the bill to a young girl who was a victim of incest and found out she was pregnant, Chambliss said that he hoped that the bill would result in young women learning to seek physical and mental help quickly if they are abused.
“What I hope is, if we pass this bill, that all young ladies would be educated by their parents, their guardians that should a situation like this occur, you need to go get help — you need to do it immediately,” Chambliss said.
“Then also they can get justice in the situation,” he added. “If they wait, justice delayed is justice denied.”
Democrats are against the abortion law
Democratic state Sen. Vivian Figures told Chambliss that a rape victim’s trauma “is not your business.”
“You don’t have to raise that child, you don’t have to carry that child, you don’t have to provide for that child, you don’t have to do anything for that child. But yet you want to make that decision for that woman, that that’s what she has to do.”she told Chambliss.
Figures proposed amendments to have legislators who backed the bill pay for the anticipated legal fees accrued by subsequent legal challenges, to expand Medicaid in anticipation of the bill’s impact on low-income women, and to make having a vasectomy a class A felony, as the bill would designate performing an abortion. All three motions failed.
Eric Johnston, head of the Alabama Pro-life Coalition and the drafter of the initial legislation, told CNN that while the amendment to exempt rape and incest victims is “sympathetic” and “deals with very difficult issues,” it would upend the law’s legal standing.
“Regardless of how the conception takes place, the product is a child, and so we’re saying that that unborn child is a person entitled to protection of law,” he added. “So if, be it a rape or incest conception, then it would be impossible to ask a judge which of these is protected by law and which is not.”