Healthcare

Alabama’s anti-abortion legislation is the most radical ever, and yes, it matters even if you live in another state

What You Need To Know About Alabama’s Abortion Ban — And What Comes Next

You may be waking up to realize that the nation’s most restrictive abortion bill was passed last night.

Alabama lawmakers voted to approve a bill that would ban nearly all abortions in the state.

Recent attention has been focused on the so-called “heartbeat” bills and six-week bans that have passed in Kentucky, Georgia, Mississippi, and Ohio, but the Alabama bill goes much further.

Here’s what you need to know:

This is the most radical anti-abortion legislation ever passed in a state legislature. It classifies abortion as a felony at all stages, with no exceptions for cases of rape or incest. (Republican lawmakers rejected the amendment to allow for exceptions for rape and incest by a vote of 21-11. The entire bill passed the Alabama state Senate 25-6.) Doctors who perform an abortion procedure would receive up to 99 years in prison. Medical providers who attempt an abortion could face 10 years.

The bill does make one exception for cases in which the mother’s health in critical danger, or “at serious risk.”

About this bill, Staci Fox, the president and chief executive of Planned Parenthood Southeast Advocates stated, “Today is a dark day for women in Alabama and across this country. Banning abortion is bad enough. Imprisoning doctors for providing care goes beyond the brink. Alabama politicians will forever live in infamy for this vote and we will make sure that every woman knows who to hold accountable.”

If the bill is signed, this law would not go into effect for another six months. First, the bill will arrive at the desk of Republican Governor Kay Ivey. According to the bill’s sponsor, Rep. Terri Collins, the governor is expected to sign the bill into law, although she hasn’t confirmed publicly that she will do so. Even if she vetoes the bill, Republicans have enough votes to overcome her veto.

This law would immediately be challenged and would likely be blocked by the lower courts, as have other anti-abortion laws. The ACLU has already vowed to fight this ban, just as it has challenged other state anti-abortion laws.

The bill’s supporters don’t expect the law to take effect and even acknowledge its outright unconstitutionality. But these facts about the bill are precisely the point. The anti-choice movement’s current strategy is to attempt to provoke a lawsuit that makes its way to the Supreme Court, where its conservative majority could potentially strike down Roe v. Wade.

“This bill is about challenging Roe v. Wade and protecting the lives of the unborn because an unborn baby is a person who deserves love and protection,” the bill’s sponsor Rep. Terri Collins said last night. “I have prayed my way through this bill. This is the way we get where we want to get eventually.”

Alabama is a deeply conservative state with a history of anti-choice legislation. In 2018, the state amended its constitution (with the support of the vast majority of Alabama voters) to state that the “public policy of this state is to recognize and support the sanctity of unborn life and the rights of unborn children, including the right to life.” The state has also passed requirements for  48-hour waiting periods for abortions, mandatory counseling, and parental consent.

All 25 lawmakers who voted for the Alabama bill last night were white Republican men. (In Alabama, women make up 51% of the state’s population yet only 15% of state’s legislature, one of the worst percentages in the country.) In the other states where abortion bans have recently been passed, men made up overwhelming majorities of the votes approving the bills.

It should be noted that some of the men who voted for this Alabama bill do not appear to have a solid grasp of female biology.

The Daily Beast described the debate last night as “dominated largely by male legislators, many of whom seemed intent on letting the audience know they were not medical professionals.”

For instance, another sponsor of the bill, Senator Clyde Chambliss, during debates on the Senate floor last night, argued that women in Alabama would still be able to obtain abortions once this bill is law. As long as they get one before they know they’re pregnant.

Further elaborating his position, Chambliss also stated: “There’s a window of time when a woman knows she’s pregnant that every option that’s on the table now is available. She has to do something to know whether she’s pregnant or not. It takes time for all the chromosomes to come together.”

In response to Chambliss’ and others’ comments, the National Abortion Federation tweeted back: ““How can someone know they need to make an appointment if they don’t know they’re pregnant? This bill is absurd.”

It’s time to fight.

For those of us concerned with reproductive rights in this country, we need to fight back like we have never before. Here’s a great resource to help us do that. To summarize, we can help in a few main ways. We can:

  • Donate to local reproductive rights organizations in the states affected by these bans
  • Volunteer for one of these organizations, especially as a clinic escort
  • Speak out and condemn these attacks on reproductive freedom in our country by talking to friends, family members, and neighbors about the consequences of this legislation and using social media

These bills are not going away. Restrictions and bans will continue, and the fight is just getting started.