Alabama just got one step closer to making abortion a felony in the state, which could soon become the harshest ban in the country.
On May 9, the Alabama House passed the draconian “Human Life Protection Act,” which would make performing abortions at any point during a woman’s pregnancy a felony in nearly all circumstances. The legislation “simply criminalizes abortions,” said Alabama representative Terri Collins, who proposed the bill on April 2.
In its original form, the legislation only allowed one exception — in cases where refusing medical intervention would pose a “a serious health risk to the unborn child’s mother” — which House Democrats attempted to amend to include pregnancies caused by rape or incest. (On April 29, Alabama’s House of Representatives voted 74 to 3.) While House Democrats were unsuccessful, lawmakers in the Alabama Senate Judiciary Committee adopted the amendment on May 8, to the disappointment of Collins. Now, the bill moves on to governor Kay Ivey, who anti-abortion activists expect to sign.
Under the legislation, known as HB314, abortion would be banned once the fetus was “in utero”; were a doctor to perform the procedure, they would be hit with a Class A felony, which carries a prison sentence of 10 to 99 years.
The bill also contains a chain of outrageous anti-abortion talking points, comparing abortion to the Holocaust and other genocides. It bewails that “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.”
With 65 Alabama legislators out of the 105-member House of Representatives signed on as co-sponsors, the bill is a chilling addition to the growing list of extreme anti-abortion legislation being introduced in the South. In just the past year, two states have passed six-week abortion bans — a trend which Georgia will likely soon join, and potentially other states in the near future.
Of course, HB314 will instantly be met with legal challenges if it passes, given that it blatantly violates the precedent set in Roe v. Wade, the landmark 1973 Supreme Court ruling that legalized abortion in the U.S. Even before the bill was introduced, when reports that the Alabama Pro-Life Coalition would be pushing a bill that criminalized abortion, the ACLU of Alabama declared that it was prepared to sue. And, aside from the bill’s egregious infringement on women’s reproductive rights, the executive director of the ACLU of Alabama slammed lawmakers for passing a bill that will potentially cost taxpayers “hundreds of thousands” of dollars to cover the bill’s legal fees.
“These lawsuits are a part of a plan to overturn Roe v. Wade at the Supreme Court,” Randall Marshall said in a statement. “They know they will not win in federal, district, or appeals courts because these bills are flagrantly unconstitutional. However, if a state loses in lower courts, appeals to the Supreme Court and is denied review, then they will owe potentially hundreds of thousands of taxpayer money in attorney fees. None of these states including Alabama can afford to throw money away like that.”
This post has been updated.