The Alabama State Senate passed a bill Tuesday, May 14, to make abortion and attempted abortion a felony offense for the abortion provider—except in cases where abortion is needed to prevent a serious health risk to the mother.
The woman who receives an abortion will not be criminally liable. According to the bill (pdf), those who successfully perform an abortion would be charged with a class A felony and face a punishment of 10-99 years in prison. Those who attempt to perform an abortion would be charged with a class C felony and face 1-10 years in prison.
The Republican-led Senate voted to pass the legislation—House Bill 314, or The Alabama Human Life Protection Act—in a 25 to 6 vote. Republicans hold 27 of 35 Senate seats.
The bill passed after four-and-a-half hours of debate, according to AL.com. No Democrats voted for the bill.
On the day, Democrats had unsuccessfully pushed for an amendment that would create exceptions for instances of rape and incest. The amendment was voted down 21-11. Four Republicans voted for the rape and incest exception.
The bill now heads to Gov. Kay Ivey, a Republican, who has not confirmed whether she will sign the bill into law.
“The governor intends to withhold comment until she has had a chance to thoroughly review the final version of the bill that passed,” deputy press secretary Lori Jhons said in a statement after the vote.
If the bill becomes law, it would take effect in six months. Critics have promised a swift lawsuit. Randall Marshall, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Alabama, said a complaint is being drafted.
The ACLU and Planned Parenthood “will file a lawsuit to stop this unconstitutional ban and protect every woman’s right to make her own choice about her healthcare, her body, and her future,” the ACLU of Alabama said in a statement after the vote.
“The state of Alabama ought to be ashamed of herself. You ought to be ashamed. Go look in the mirror,” Sen. Bobby Singleton (D-Greensboro) said, according to the Associated Press. “Women in this state didn’t deserve this. This is all about political grandstanding.”
But Sen. Clyde Chambliss (R-Prattville), who sponsored the bill in the Senate, said that all unborn children deserve protection, AL.com reported.
“Human life has rights, and when someone takes those rights, that’s when we as government have to step in,” Chambliss said according to the Guardian. “When God creates that life, that miracle of life inside the woman’s womb, it’s not our place as humans to extinguish that life. That’s what I believe.”
Challenging Roe v. Wade
Rep. Terri Collins (R-Decatur) sponsored the bill and introduced it about six weeks ago. She said that the goal was to pass the bill in a form that would be able to challenge the 1973 Roe v. Wade ruling in the strongest way.
The Roe v. Wade ruling in 1973 made it legal to have an abortion nationwide by prohibiting states from banning abortions prior to when the fetus is deemed “viable,” that is, potentially able to live outside its mother’s womb.
In Roe v. Wade, the U.S. Supreme Court said that if unborn children are persons, then they have the right to life. The decision concluded that unborn children are not persons, and acknowledged that the case to prohibit states from banning abortions would “collapse” if “the fetus is a person,” because then its “right to life would then be guaranteed” by the Constitution.
According to AL.com, Collins said that if the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, states could then later decide what exceptions to allow. Collins said that if Roe v. Wade is overturned, she would support a rape and incest exception.
“I’ve answered many emails from people who have poured out their hearts with real stories that were true,” Collins told AL.com. “My goal with this bill is not to hurt them in any way. My goal with this bill, and I think all of our goal, is to have Roe vs. Wade turned over, and that decision be sent back to the states so that we can come up with our laws that address and include amendments and things that address those issues.”
“Roe v. Wade has ended the lives of millions of children,” Chambliss said in a statement, AP reported. “While we cannot undo the damage that decades of legal precedence under Roe have caused, this bill has the opportunity to save the lives of millions of unborn children.”
After the bill passed, Lieutenant Governor Will Ainsworth expressed his support.
“With liberal states approving radical late-term and post-birth abortions, Roe must be challenged, and I am proud that Alabama is leading the way,” Ainsworth wrote on Twitter.
Alabama’s state motto is “We Dare Defend Our Rights,” and today we have taken a strong step toward defending the rights of the unborn. With liberal states approving radical late-term and post-birth abortions, Roe must be challenged, and I am proud that Alabama is leading the way. pic.twitter.com/9femod4YTG
— Will Ainsworth (@willainsworthAL) May 15, 2019
Chambliss was asked about the legal costs the state would incur if the bill becomes law and is challenged in court.
“Life is a gift of our Creator and we must do everything that we can to protect life,” he responded, AL.com reported. “And if it is a couple of million dollars, that is a small, small price for those lives.”
During the 2018 midterms in Alabama, 59 percent of voters had expressed support for a policy amendment to make it clear that citizens do not have a right to abortion, and their states are not obliged to fund abortions. That amendment was approved.
On May 7, Georgia Governor Brian Kemp signed into law a “Heartbeat Bill” that prohibits abortions after a heartbeat is detected in an embryo, which is about six weeks into a pregnancy. In doing so, Kemp became the fourth governor in the country to sign such a bill within the past year, joining the governors of Kentucky, Mississippi, and Ohio. Iowa enacted a similar bill last year.
The Associated Press contributed to this report