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Alabama abortion ban: Republican state senate passes most restrictive law in US

Law bans abortion except if there is a ‘serious health risk’ to the mother, with no exceptions for rape and incest

WT24 Desk

Alabama’s Republican-controlled state senate passed a bill Tuesday to outlaw abortion, making it a crime to perform the procedure at any stage of pregnancy, The Guardian reports.

The strictest-in-the-nation abortion ban allows an exception only when the woman’s health is at serious risk, and sets up a legal battle that supporters hope will lead to the supreme court overturning its landmark ruling that legalized abortion nationwide.

The measure contains no exception for rape and incest, after lawmakers voted down an amendment Tuesday that would have added such an exception.

The legislation, which passed by a vote of 25-6, makes it a class A felony for a doctor to perform an abortion, punishable by 10 to 99 years in prison. Women would not face criminal penalties for getting an abortion.

It goes further than any other state has to restrict abortion. Other states, including neighboring Georgia, have instituted bans on abortion after about six weeks into pregnancy.

The vote came after a battle broke out over whether to allow legal abortions for women who become pregnant due to rape or incest, an issue that divided Republicans who otherwise supported outlawing abortion.

Last week, chaos erupted on the floor when Republican leaders stripped out the rape exception without a roll call vote, leading the final vote to be postponed. It got a full vote on Tuesday, but ultimately failed.Play Video1:30 Anger erupts in Alabama senate over rape and incest exceptions to abortion bill – video

Lawmakers approved the legislation after a debate that stretched more than four hours, where minority Democrats introduced a slew of amendments in an attempt to block it.

“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 the decision for that woman,” the state senator Vivian Davis Figures told the bill’s proponents.

She introduced amendments that would require the state to expand Medicaid, force legislators who vote for the measure to pay the state’s legal bills, or make it a crime for men to get vasectomies. All failed.

Figures questioned the backers’ resistance to adding an exception for rape and incest. “Do you know what it’s like to be raped?” she said. “Why would you not want a woman to at least have that exception for such a horrific act?”

The bill has already passed the house. It must now be signed by the state’s governor, Kay Ivey.

The legislation is poised for an immediate legal challenge and to be overturned at least by the lower courts.

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. This bill will not take effect anytime in the near future, and abortion will remain a safe, legal medical procedure at all clinics in Alabama,” the ACLU of Alabama said on Tuesday.

“Alabama politicians will forever live in infamy for this vote,” said Staci Fox, the president of Planned Parenthood Southeast Advocates, in a statement. “In the coming days we will be mounting the fight of our lives – we will take this to court and ensure abortion remains safe and legal.”

Backers of the ban are hoping the fight will go all the way to the supreme court, which ruled in the 1973 Roe v Wade case that women must be allowed to get abortions up to the point where the fetus can survive outside the womb.

“Human life has rights, and when someone takes those rights, that’s when we as government have to step in,” said the state senator Clyde Chambliss. “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.”

The bill’s architects resisted the rape exception, saying they wanted a clean ban to present to the courts, and believed exceptions would violate the principle that an unborn child is a human life.

Opponents said the bill’s backers would squander public money defending a ban that will likely be struck down. “Alabama taxpayers are going to be footing the bill for this unconstitutional action,” said the state senator Linda Coleman-Madison. But Chambliss said the cost was worth it if the legislation is able to prevent abortions. “That’s pennies per baby,” he said.

The bill is part of a trend across the US in which Republican-controlled statesare attempting to put new restrictions on abortion, gambling that they will fare better in the courts following the confirmation of new federal judges and supreme court justices picked by the Trump administration.

Opponents predict the legislation will drive doctors to leave Alabama, which already has some of the highest rates of infant mortality and cervical cancer.

Outside the Alabama statehouse, protesters wore costumes from The Handmaid’s Tale and carried signs, one reading: “Alabama does not own me.”Play Video0:21 Pro-choice supporters protest against Alabama’s abortion ban – video

Republicans, who have a super-majority in the chamber, carried the vote by a large margin, but the debate was dominated by Democrats objecting to the legislation, while few supporters spoke out on the floor.

The Senate minority leader, Bobby Singleton, launched a filibuster in an effort to delay the vote, until Republicans approved a motion to end debate. “You just raped the state of Alabama,” he said. “The state of Alabama ought to be ashamed of itself.” The message to women, he added, is: “We’re just going to continue to kick ’em in the gut.”

As the vote was called, he concluded: “I would just like to say to all the women of the state of Alabama, I’m sorry.”

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