As America debates whether abortion is a constitutional right or a moral wrong, Alabama is cracking down on abortion hard. It has a proposal that would ban almost all abortion procedures in the state — and that's not even the brink of it. What's in Alabama's abortion bill, you ask? Well, it's pretty much a straight-up ban.
The bill, which is called the Human Life Protection Act, makes abortion and attempted abortion felony offenses, with the only exception being if there's a health risk to the mother of the unborn child. "This bill would make abortion and attempted abortion felony offenses except in cases where abortion is necessary in order to prevent a serious health risk to the unborn child's mother," the synopsis begins. According to NPR, while women would not be criminally liable, doctors could face up to 99 years in prison for conducting or attempting to perform an abortion. The bill was approved by the state House on April 30, but then the state Senate added exemptions for rape and incest.
A final vote on the proposal was scheduled for May 9, but it was pushed back to May 14 when the chamber erupted into chaos after legislators attempted to remove exemptions for cases of rape or incest without holding a procedural vote.
You can watch the eruption here. (FYI: There's a lot of shouting, in case you want to turn your volume down.)
While other states, like Georgia, have enacted de facto bans that place such harsh limits on abortion that they would be effectively inaccessible, most have avoided outright bans. While the 1973 landmark Supreme Court case Roe v. Wade established a legal right to abortion, states do have the right to regulate abortion, provided it doesn't cause an "undue burden" on patients. However, some advocates have been attempting to push those laws as far as they can, hoping that a legal challenge will make it to the Supreme Court and allow the court's conservative majority to overturn Roe.
In a statement following Thursday's clash, Lt. Gov. Will Ainsworth made it clear that the state's goal is to reverse the Supreme Court's decision. The statement said in part:
It's important that we pass this statewide abortion ban legislation and begin a long overdue effort to directly challenge Roe v. Wade. ... Now that President Donald Trump has supercharged the effort to remake the federal court system by appointing conservative jurists who will strictly interpret the Constitution, I feel confident that the U.S. Supreme Court will overturn Roe and finally correct its 46-year-old mistake.
The proposal likely will see a legal challenge. The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) said in a statement to The New York Times that it will argue the state unlawfully restricted access to abortion.
"Passing bills that they know will be struck down in federal court are a waste of millions of taxpayer dollars that could be going to address the urgent needs in our communities," the statement reads. "Ignoring those needs in favor of scoring political points is an irresponsible use of their power and privilege."
Alabama follows behind Georgia, which passed a controversial abortion bill on May 7 that bans the procedure after a fetal heartbeat is detected. It says that women cannot receive an abortion after six weeks of pregnancy — before many even know they are pregnant. Troublingly, the Georgia bill also leaves pregnant individuals open to prosecution for miscarriages, or even if they attempt to obtain a legal abortion in another state.
Ohio, Kentucky, and Mississippi also signed anti-abortion laws in 2019. However, Kentucky's law was immediately challenged by the ACLU and then blocked a federal judge, with the judge saying that the proposal was potentially unconstitutional.
Sounds like Alabama may be in for a similar fight. We'll see.