Alabama senate delays final vote on abortion bill; rape and incest exception removed
Saturday, 11 May 2019 () Montgomery, Ala., May 10, 2019 / 07:00 pm (CNA).- The Alabama Senate has delayed a vote on a bill to outlaw abortion, following a disagreement between Republican and Democratic state senators on Thursday over whether an exception for cases of rape or incest should be included in the bill.
The Human Life Protection Act (HB314) would make attempting or performing an abortion a felony offense. Doctors who perform abortion would be charged with a Class A felony and could face between 10 years and life in prison.
The penalty would apply only to doctors, not to mothers, who, according to the bill’s sponsors, would not face criminal penalties for undergoing abortions.
Lt. Gov. Will Ainsworth, who presides over the Alabama Senate, removed the rape and incest exception amendment after a voice vote Thursday, meaning there is no record of how Senators voted— something the Democratic Senators wanted.
“I know this bill is going to pass. You’re going to get your way,” Democratic Sen. Vivian Davis Figures protested.
“At least treat us fairly and do it the right way. That’s all that I ask.”
If the amendment had been added, the bill would have gone back to the House for a vote, leading to a delay, according to CBS News. Still, the president pro tem of the Senate moved to delay vote on the bill until next week to allow the senators to think it over. The Senate reconvenes May 14.
The Alabama House on April 30 passed the bill by a margin of 74-3. That version included an exception that would allow abortions in the case of a “serious health risk” to the mother. The Senate added, and then removed, the exception for rape and incest.
The legislation is designed to be a direct challenge to the 1973 Supreme Court ruling in Roe v Wade, which found a constitutional right to abortion.
Unlike so-called “trigger laws” passed in other states, which would outlaw abortion in the event that the Supreme Court ruling in Roe v Wade is overturned, the Alabama measure would come into effect within a year. Arkansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, North Dakota, South Dakota, and Mississippi all have “trigger laws” on the books.
Supporters of the Alabama bill have said their intention is to use the ensuing court battle to force the Supreme Court to revisit Roe v Wade. If the Human Life Protection Act becomes law, it would face an immediate challenge and likely be prevented from coming into force.
"The heart of this bill is to confront a decision that was made by the courts in 1973 that said the baby in the womb is not a person," sponsor State Rep. Terri Collins (R - Decatur) was quoted as saying by CBS News.
"This bill addresses that one issue. Is that baby in the womb a person? I believe our law says it is."
Republican Gov. Kay Ivey is expected to sign the bill into law.
“Ultimately, [the bill] is going to pass, and Alabama is going to lead the nation in protecting the sanctity of life,” State Senator Clyde Chambliss told the Washington Post.
“Planned Parenthood can try to derail the bill, as they did in spending over a million dollars to unsuccessfully oppose a pro-life ballot measure last fall in Alabama. But the outcome will be the same: Alabamians will stand on the side of life.”
Several states, including most recently Georgia, have also passed so-called “heartbeat bills” which would prohibit abortion after the detection of a fetal heartbeat, which can as early as six weeks into a pregnancy. The Alabama bill would prohibit performing abortions at any stage of pregnancy.
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