Abortion, Reproductive Justice

Alabama Prepares for Roe v. Wade Challenge with State Abortion Ban

With the intention of facing opposition that would usher legislation through the halls of the Supreme Court, the Alabama House passed a bill on April 30 that would ban nearly all abortions in the state. “This bill is simply
about Roe v. Wade,” Republican state Rep. Terri Collins said . “The decision that was made back in 1973 would not be the same decision that was decided upon today if you relooked at the issue.”

The bill, HB314, does not make any exceptions for rape or incest and would make it a felony for a doctor to administer or attempt to perform an abortion unless the woman’s health was in serious peril. If convicted,
doctors could face up to 99 years in jail while a woman would not be held criminally liable, NPR reports. During the debate before the final vote, AL.com reports that Rep. Louise Alexander asked Rep. Mike Jones
what actions he would take if his daughters became pregnant through rape. He responded that unless faced with that reality, he does not know how he would respond, “which she said proved her point.”

“Nobody knows what a woman goes through,” Alexander argued. “I know you don’t because you’re not a woman. You don’t know why I would want to have an abortion. It could be because of my health, it could be for
many reasons. My choice is important. I just want to say one thing. Until all of you walk in a woman’s shoes, y’all don’t know.”

Five other states have passed abortion bans which currently have no effect but would be put into practice should Roe v. Wade be overturned. According to a CBS News analysis of such an outcome, abortion in
Arkansas would be “abolished” and would not make exceptions for rape or incest. In Kentucky, performing an abortion would be punishable by up to five years in prison, and like Arkansas, no exceptions would be
made for rape or incest. Louisiana also has a ban which provides no such exceptions, and recently the state proposed a restriction which would require providers to have hospital admitting privileges — an effort
which was temporarily blocked by the Supreme Court in February.

Meanwhile in Mississippi, the state’s abortion ban law allows for exceptions in cases of rape only “if a formal charge of rape has been filed,” and physicians who perform abortions could face up to 10 years in
prison. North and South Dakota also have abortion bans waiting in the wings — with South Dakota passing a law nearly 15 years ago and North Dakota offering exceptions for “a pregnancy that resulted from gross sexual
imposition, sexual imposition, sexual abuse of a ward, or incest.”

Although anti-abortion lawmakers have introduced similar bills year after year for decades, both sides detect a precariousness to the current political climate which has spurred more legislative activity. “The dynamic has
changed,” Alabama Pro-Life Coalition President Eric Johnston said . “The judges have changed, a lot of changes over that time, and so I think we’re at the point where we need to take a bigger and a bolder step.”

“Trigger laws” like these “are getting attention. They’re not just getting introduced and fizzling out like they used to,” observes Elizabeth Nash of the Guttmacher Institute. CBS notes that liberal states are also taking action to prepare for “a post-Roe v Wade world,” citing New York, for example, where the “Reproductive Health Act” was passed in January to protect abortions after 24 weeks when the mother’s health is at risk or the fetus is not viable. States like New Mexico, Virginia and Vermont have also proposed similar laws.

If the Alamaba bill becomes law, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) has vowed to fight back. “The people of Alabama are paying the bill for unconstitutional legislation and we hope that the Senate members will
realize its detrimental impact and stop this bill from becoming law. Otherwise it will be challenged in federal court,” an ACLU statement read.

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