The wave of recent state abortion legislation continued Tuesday, as Alabama’s state senate passed the country’s tightest restrictions on the procedure yet. The near-total ban, which supporters expect the state’s Republican governor to sign into law, has an exemption for a mother’s health but none for cases of rape or incest.
The End Goal Is a Supreme Court Review
Alabama’s controversial House Bill 314 passed in the Republican-dominated senate by a 25-to-6 vote. Republican Rep. Terri Collins, the bill’s sponsor, says, “The heart of this bill…addresses that one issue: Is that baby in the womb a person? I believe our law says it is. I believe our people say it is. And I believe technology shows it is.” Collins admits, “This bill is about challenging Roe v. Wade and protecting the lives of the unborn because an unborn baby is a person who deserves love and protection.”
Republicans rejected an attempt to add exemptions for rape and incest, saying this legislation is designed to conflict with the landmark 1973 case legalizing abortion. “While we cannot undo the damage that decades of legal precedence under Roe have caused,” says Republican Sen. Clyde Chambliss, “this bill has the opportunity to save the lives of millions of unborn children.”
Marjorie Dannenfelser, president of the pro-life Susan B. Anthony List, says, “The American people want a fresh debate and a new direction, achieved by consensus and built on love for both mothers and babies. The time is coming for the Supreme Court to let that debate go forward.”
How the Bills Differ
Pro-life groups and lawmakers are encouraged by recent conservative additions to the Supreme Court. This year alone, more than a dozen states have passed tighter abortion restrictions, including “fetal heartbeat” bills like Georgia’s. That law prohibits abortions after six weeks gestation, which critics say is often too soon to realize you’re pregnant.
Georgia’s law includes exemptions for rape and incest, but a woman must file a police report and the pregnancy must be less than 20 weeks along. The legislation doesn’t provide details about penalties.
Alabama’s law, which would go into effect in about six months, makes abortion a Class A felony, with punishments up to 99 years in prison for abortionists. Unlike other states, however, women who have abortions wouldn’t be punished. A bill recently killed in Texas could have subjected abortion seekers to the death penalty.
Opponents Promise to Keep Fighting
Abortion-rights groups say Alabama’s bill is unconstitutional and will be challenged quickly. “Alabama politicians will forever live in infamy for this vote,” says Staci Fox of Planned Parenthood Southeast. “We will make sure that every woman knows who to hold accountable.”
Among their arguments, the state’s Democrats criticize Republicans for not devoting enough funding for social services such as education. “I do support life,” says Democratic Rep. Merika Coleman. “But there are some people that just support birth. They don’t support life.”
Democratic State Sen. Rodger Smitherman described how he and his wife had a baby with a genetic anomaly who died after a few months. “The significance is that I had the choice,” he said. “The legislature did not make the choice for me.”
Outside Alabama’s capitol building, protesters dressed as handmaids warned that women’s autonomy is under threat.