Alabama Senate passes near-total abortion ban

Alabama sent the most restrictive abortion bill in the country to the governor's desk Tuesday night, with the state's Senate passing legislation that could p...

Posted: May 15, 2019 9:17 AM
Updated: May 15, 2019 5:17 PM

Alabama sent the most restrictive abortion bill in the country to the governor's desk Tuesday night, with the state's Senate passing legislation that could punish doctors who perform abortions with life in prison.

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 would slap doctors with up to 99 years in prison for performing an abortion. The Alabama House passed the bill earlier this month.

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.

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."

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."

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," she told Chambliss. "But yet you want to make that decision for that woman, that that's what she has to do."

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 inecst conception, then it would be impossible to ask a judge which of these is protected by law and which is not."

Staci Fox, president of Planned Parenthood Southeast, told CNN before the chamber's vote that "even the authors of this bill know that it is blatantly unconstitutional and wouldn't stand up in court."

"We've seen the continual chipping away year after year in Alabama and efforts get bolder and bolder each year," Fox said. "I think with the President and now Kavanaugh on the court, the politics in Alabama just feel emboldened to take this egregious swipe at women's health care."

But in the larger legal landscape, Marshall cast doubt on whether this bill would ever take on Roe, citing how the case would take several years to get to the Supreme Court while several other states have already passed so-called heartbeat bills effectively banning abortion.

"There are already 14 cases nationwide in the pipeline, two of which are currently at the Supreme Court of the United States," he said. "The notion that somehow this is going to be the vehicle for the Supreme Court to reconsider Roe v. Wade is really misplaced."

This story has been updated.

Mississippi Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 259117

Reported Deaths: 5668
CountyCasesDeaths
DeSoto17331186
Hinds16373328
Harrison13731199
Rankin10854217
Jackson10557187
Lee8922141
Madison8335166
Jones6483112
Forrest6038120
Lauderdale5965187
Lowndes5425118
Lafayette503193
Lamar490865
Washington4826124
Bolivar4024109
Oktibbeha397681
Panola374680
Pontotoc369855
Monroe3591105
Warren3569100
Union348063
Marshall347769
Neshoba3413152
Pearl River3329103
Leflore3059107
Lincoln299386
Sunflower288271
Hancock282559
Tate274362
Alcorn267454
Itawamba265260
Pike264679
Scott250847
Prentiss248252
Yazoo247356
Tippah244450
Copiah243949
Coahoma242254
Simpson238368
Leake232966
Grenada220671
Covington215072
Marion215073
Adams207870
Wayne203232
Winston202667
George201939
Newton195044
Attala194659
Tishomingo191661
Chickasaw185744
Jasper174438
Holmes169168
Clay161335
Tallahatchie148235
Stone145921
Clarke141762
Calhoun137621
Smith122725
Yalobusha119134
Walthall112836
Noxubee111423
Greene111029
Montgomery110136
Carroll105321
Lawrence103217
Perry102831
Amite98826
Webster93924
Tunica87421
Claiborne86625
Jefferson Davis85827
Benton83323
Humphreys83324
Kemper78420
Quitman6969
Franklin67115
Choctaw61213
Wilkinson58825
Jefferson55419
Sharkey44017
Issaquena1596
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Alabama Coronavirus Cases

Cases: 429655

Reported Deaths: 6283
CountyCasesDeaths
Jefferson63040956
Mobile30794557
Madison27486201
Tuscaloosa20996268
Montgomery19352315
Shelby18833120
Baldwin16653184
Lee12749102
Morgan12389119
Etowah11861176
Calhoun11292201
Marshall10290113
Houston8746156
Limestone813276
Cullman8125106
Elmore7999104
DeKalb776599
Lauderdale768698
St. Clair7651121
Talladega6309108
Walker5954174
Jackson586341
Colbert539873
Blount537683
Autauga525755
Coffee450456
Dale402981
Franklin369948
Russell340711
Chilton338966
Covington332668
Escambia326043
Dallas308896
Chambers293170
Clarke287833
Tallapoosa2641107
Pike255230
Marion248953
Lawrence246649
Winston229535
Bibb218847
Geneva205446
Marengo202829
Pickens197531
Hale179542
Barbour176036
Fayette172928
Butler170858
Cherokee161930
Henry156523
Monroe149818
Randolph142135
Washington139126
Clay127645
Crenshaw121544
Cleburne119023
Lamar119021
Macon118637
Lowndes112036
Wilcox105121
Bullock101128
Perry99019
Conecuh95720
Sumter89626
Greene76623
Coosa61015
Choctaw51624
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