Alabama lawmakers pass sweeping abortion ban

Image: The Alabama State Capitol in Montgomery on Nov. 17, 2017.
The Alabama State Capitol in Montgomery on Nov. 17, 2017. Copyright Drew Angerer Getty Images file
By Doha Madani and Elisha Fieldstadt and Annie Rose Ramos with NBC News U.S. News
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The bill's sponsor in the Alabama House says it's specifically designed to get the US Supreme Court to "revisit their decision on Roe vs. Wade."


The Alabama state Senate on Tuesday approved a bill essentially banning abortion in the state, a move specifically aimed at challenging more than 40 years of federal abortion protection under Roe v. Wade. The bill would make it a felony for a doctor to perform or attempt an abortion during any stage of pregnancy.

The House approved a version of the bill that had an exception for the mother's health, passing 74-3, then a Senate committee added an exception for rape and incest. Republicans in the Senate, however, suddenly tabled the rape and incest exemptions last week, leading to swift and vocal opposition from Democrats.

Shouting erupted as Democratic Sen. Bobby Singleton, other Democrats and at least one Republican objected to the motion being gaveled through without a roll call vote.

"You've got 27 men over on the other side ready to tell women what they can do with their bodies," Singleton said. "You don't have to procedurally just try to railroad us."

The session was adjourned after Senate President Pro Tem Del Marsh, a Republican, suggested the lawmakers take the weekend to cool down.

Singleton put up an amendment to make exceptions in the case of rape and incest again on Tuesday night. Four Republicans joined the seven Democrats present to vote for the exceptions, but the measure failed in a roll call vote. Singleton then accused proponents of the legislation of having "raped the state of Alabama with this bill."

"You don't care anything about babies for real. You just kicked them in the stomach and you aborted them yourselves," Singleton said Tuesday. "You just aborted the state of Alabama with your rhetoric with this bill. You just aborted the state of Alabama and all of you should be put in jail for this abortion you just laid on Alabama."

During Tuesday's debate on the bill in the Senate, Democratic State Senator Vivian Figures introduced an amendment to require legislators who voted in favour of the ban to pay the legal fees in the inevitable court challenges, and then another to make vasectomies a felony.

Both of the amendments were rejected by roll call vote.

The bill easily passed the Senate 25-6. It now goes to Gov. Kay Ivey, a Republican, who has not indicated whether she will sign it. If she does, it would be the strictest abortion law in the country.

Sen. Doug Jones, D-Ala., called the bill an "extreme attack" on women's freedoms in a video statement posted to his Twitter Monday.

"These are Republican legislators who are overwhelmingly men, are so extreme and so callous that they would support a bill that denies a woman a constitutional right that they've had for decades," Jones said. "They would take that right and make their doctors and healthcare providers criminals."

With the new conservative majority on the Supreme Court, lawmakers across the country are pushing for tougher abortion laws to challenge the high court's 1973 Roe v. Wade ruling.

Alabama House Rep. Terri Collins, who sponsored the bill, told NBC News Tuesday evening that legislators wanted to keep the bill's text as clean as possible, specifically to address the language in Roe v. Wade, which talked about a baby being "in utero."

"This bill's purpose is to hopefully get to the Supreme Court and have them revisit the actual decision, which was is the baby in a womb, a person?" Collins said. "And we believe technology and science shows that it is. You can see that baby issue develop all the way through now."

Georgia's Republican Gov. Brian Kemp recently signed legislation banning abortions once a fetal heartbeat can be detected.

"Heartbeat abortion" bans have also been signed into law in Mississippi, Kentucky, Ohio this year. Lawmakers in Tennessee, Missouri, South Carolina, Florida, Texas, Louisiana and West Virginia are considering similar proposals.

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