abortion rights

The Most Important Things to Know About the Alabama Abortion Ban

Photo: Elijah Nouvelage/The Washington Post/Getty Images

On Tuesday, 25 white Republican men passed a bill through the Alabama Senate that could effectively ban abortion in the state. The state House approved the bill last week; it will now move to the desk of the state’s Republican governor, Kay Ivey, who is expected to sign it. Here’s what you need to know about this draconian measure.

The bill provides no exceptions for cases of rape or incest.

Unlike some (but not all) recent extreme abortion restrictions that have been proposed or passed, Alabama’s bill contains a provision that bans abortions even in cases of rape and incest. Democrats in the Senate proposed an amendment to the bill that would have provided such exceptions, but the measure failed, 21-11.

The bill does allow for exceptions in cases where the patient’s life is at serious risk.

The bill would severely criminalize doctors who perform abortions.

The bill threatens doctors who perform abortions with prison sentences of up to 99 years, the New York Times reports. Doctors who even attempt to perform an abortion could face up to ten years in prison. The bill does not allow for the prosecution of patients who receive abortions.

The bill would disproportionately affect the state’s poor and minority women.

The Times reports that state Democrats have pointed out the bill’s potential to disproportionately affect poor women and women of color. Wealthy Alabamians would still be able to go out of state to receive abortions, while the poorest in the state, who are disproportionately Latino and black, would be trapped. According to the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, only half of the state’s 67 counties have access to a local obstetrician, and Alabama consistently ranks among the poorest states in the country.

Democratic state senator Linda Coleman-Madison, one of the bill’s few dissenters in the legislature, said that if the ban is implemented, “the people who have the wherewithal will fly out of state. Not everyone can afford to do that.”

Many critics of the bill say it’s part of a constellation of Republican policies that punish and disenfranchise the state’s nonwhite, poor, and female residents, and note that the same lawmakers who preen as “pro-life” have done nothing to address the fact that the state has some of the worst infant- and maternal-mortality rates in the country. Susan Pace Hill, a law professor at the University of Alabama, told the Washington Post, “The antiabortion carnival show currently going on in the legislature is hypocritical grandstanding. They love to champion themselves as defenders of children by fighting to make abortion illegal, but when it comes to education, health care and other concerns, especially of our most vulnerable children, wealthier Alabamians and the Legislature couldn’t care less.”

Will the bill take effect?

First, to be absolutely clear: The near-total ban on abortions in Alabama has yet to take effect. The ACLU has already said it will sue if the bill is signed into law, tweeting, “This bill will not take effect anytime in the near future, and abortion will remain a safe, legal medical procedure at all clinics in Alabama.”

The bill is designed to pose a challenge to Roe v. Wade.

The bill’s sponsors have been explicit about their intention to use this bill to challenge Roe v. Wade, the landmark 1973 Supreme Court decision that legalized abortion throughout the nation. Alabama representative Terri Collins, a sponsor of the bill, said on Tuesday night, “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.”

Collins also said that the purpose of the bill is to “get to the Supreme Court and have them revisit the actual decision.”

What You Should Know About Alabama’s Abortion Ban