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Performing abortions in Alabama could soon be punishable by up to 99 years in prison

The Alabama House is voting on a bill that would make almost all abortions illegal.

by Carter Sherman
Apr 30 2019, 5:22pm

Alabama state legislators want to ban almost all abortions — and impose criminal penalties for doctors who perform them.

The state House is expected to vote Tuesday on a bill that would outlaw abortion in all circumstances, except when the pregnancy will lead to a “serious health risk” to the mother. Should the bill pass, the law would make no exceptions for rape or incest. And if an Alabama physician performs a successful abortion, they could be charged with a Class A felony and face up to 99 years in jail. A woman seeking an abortion would not be criminally or civilly responsible.

If the bill becomes law, it would be one of the strictest anti-abortion restrictions in the United States. The legislation already has 67 co-sponsors in the 105-member House. In the 35-member, Republican-dominated Senate, which still needs to vote, 11 senators have co-sponsored a version of the bill.

The proposed law would also undoubtedly unleash a wave of litigation, since its restrictions clearly conflict with Roe v. Wade, the 1973 Supreme Court decision that legalized abortion nationwide. But that’s kind of the point: Republicans want the Supreme Court to eventually take up the case.

“I think fighting to overturn what I believe was a bad decision that allowed people to kill unborn children is worth a fight,” Republican state Rep. Terri Collins, the bill’s sponsor, told the Associated Press.

“This is aimed to get them to please reconsider and look at that decision,” she later said.

Now that the Supreme Court is controlled by conservatives, thanks to the addition of Justice Brett Kavanaugh last fall, anti-abortion advocates believe that their opportunity to topple Roe is closer than ever. Republicans across the country have pushed increasingly strict legislation, including bills to ban abortion after just six weeks of pregnancy, before many people even know they’re pregnant.

The ACLU of Alabama, however, pointed out that a legal battle over this ban could cost Alabama hundreds of thousands of dollars, while Planned Parenthood Southeast pegged the price as closer to millions of dollars. “It is my opinion this will be a waste of taxpayer dollars that could ultimately go to addressing those real issues," Democratic state Rep. Neil Rafferty told the Montgomery Advertiser.

The text of the introduced bill also compares abortion in the United States to the Holocaust, an oft-cited comparison within anti-abortion circles.

“More than 50 million babies have been aborted in the United States since the Roe decision in 1973, more than three times the number who were killed in German death camps, Chinese purges, Stalin's gulags, Cambodian killing fields, and the Rwandan genocide combined,” the bill proclaims.

In the 2018 midterm elections, Alabama voters passed a ballot measure to strip protections for abortion from their state constitution. They also made Alabama the first state in the nation to recognize “the rights of unborn children, including the right to life” in a state constitution.

Cover image: In this Wednesday, July 30, 2014 photo, Reproductive Health Services is shown, in Montgomery, Ala. Reproductive Health Services is the only abortion clinic in Montgomery. (AP Photo/Brynn Anderson)