WEATHER AUTHORITY : Heat Advisory View Alerts

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.

Confirmed Cases: 34622

Reported Deaths: 1215
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Hinds269748
DeSoto181818
Madison138236
Jones117349
Harrison104014
Rankin103515
Neshoba102274
Lauderdale94281
Forrest93943
Scott79215
Jackson72717
Washington64310
Copiah63115
Leake61320
Lee58621
Holmes57341
Oktibbeha56828
Wayne55416
Warren55320
Yazoo5436
Grenada5357
Lowndes52613
Leflore52256
Lincoln50935
Lamar5027
Pike47020
Sunflower4528
Lafayette4374
Monroe43635
Covington4195
Panola3996
Bolivar38018
Attala37524
Simpson3733
Newton35710
Adams34019
Pontotoc3266
Tate32313
Marion31312
Claiborne29310
Chickasaw29219
Winston28711
Pearl River27632
Noxubee2758
Marshall2693
Jasper2676
Clay25511
Union23811
Smith23412
Walthall2267
Coahoma2156
Clarke21425
Lawrence1992
Yalobusha1938
Kemper18014
Carroll17311
Tallahatchie1664
Humphreys15910
Montgomery1493
Calhoun1475
Tippah14411
Itawamba1418
Hancock13813
Webster12811
Tunica1193
Jefferson1173
Jefferson Davis1164
Prentiss1123
Greene10810
Amite1063
George1023
Wilkinson959
Tishomingo921
Quitman891
Alcorn852
Perry764
Choctaw754
Stone732
Franklin492
Benton420
Sharkey420
Issaquena101
Unassigned00

Alabama Coronavirus Cases

Confirmed Cases: 49892

Reported Deaths: 1077
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Jefferson6030162
Mobile4418137
Montgomery4339109
Tuscaloosa254448
Madison19078
Marshall186611
Shelby150924
Lee149437
Morgan12205
Baldwin111410
Walker105127
Elmore98919
Dallas9639
Franklin92216
Etowah88214
DeKalb8416
Chambers65727
Russell6570
Autauga65313
Butler64328
Tallapoosa61669
Unassigned58626
Limestone5741
Houston5526
Cullman5395
Lauderdale5376
Lowndes48022
St. Clair4692
Colbert4656
Pike4595
Escambia4528
Calhoun4365
Coffee4074
Covington39911
Jackson3742
Bullock37010
Barbour3672
Dale3621
Talladega3497
Hale33722
Marengo33011
Wilcox2968
Clarke2946
Winston2893
Chilton2872
Sumter28512
Blount2731
Pickens2556
Monroe2492
Marion24514
Randolph2449
Conecuh2277
Perry2091
Bibb2081
Macon2069
Choctaw20212
Greene1928
Henry1433
Crenshaw1273
Washington1277
Lawrence1170
Cherokee1127
Geneva920
Lamar811
Fayette781
Clay742
Coosa621
Cleburne411
Out of AL00
Tupelo
Few Clouds
88° wxIcon
Hi: 95° Lo: 69°
Feels Like: 94°
Columbus
Scattered Clouds
88° wxIcon
Hi: 93° Lo: 69°
Feels Like: 103°
Oxford
Clear
86° wxIcon
Hi: 92° Lo: 68°
Feels Like: 92°
Starkville
Broken Clouds
88° wxIcon
Hi: 91° Lo: 67°
Feels Like: 98°
WTVA Radar
WTVA Temperatures
WTVA Severe Weather