The U.S state of Alabama is one signature away from enacting a near-total ban on abortions after the state Senate passed a controversial bill that makes performing the procedure a felony offense.
Under the Human Life Protection Act, doctors who perform an abortion at any stage of pregnancy could face a minimum sentence of 10 years in prison. The only exception in the legislation is in cases where the life of the pregnant woman is at risk.
The bill passed on Tuesday, 25 to 6.
Before the vote, the Republican-controlled Senate rejected an amendment that would have allowed abortions for pregnancies caused by rape and incest.
“Women in this state didn’t deserve this,” said Senate Minority Leader Bobby Singleton in a fiery speech on Tuesday evening. “The state of Alabama ought to be ashamed of itself.”
The Senate’s passage of the bill came just days after chaos broke out on the Senate floor over the legislation. Last Thursday, Republican and Democratic lawmakers engaged in a screaming match after some GOP lawmakers attempted to remove the exemptions for rape and incest without holding an official vote. Ultimately, the Democrats’ resistance was not enough.
The upheaval over the rape and incest exemptions led to the Senate vote being postponed until Tuesday.
The Human Life Protection Act notes that Alabama has never repealed a state law criminalizing abortion, but because of the 1973 U.S. Supreme Court decision in Roe v. Wade, that law is unenforceable.
State Rep. Terri Collins (R), who sponsored the new legislation, has been outspoken about her intent to change that.
“This bill is very simple,” she told The Washington Post. “It’s not about birth control or the morning after the pill. It’s about not allowing abortion once the woman is pregnant. The entire bill was designed to overturn [Roe v. Wade] and allow states to decide what is best for them.”
Eric Johnston, who drafted the legislation as president of the Alabama Pro-Life Coalition, said he was confident the governor would sign the bill. It is his hope that the law will be challenged, he said, and will eventually be reviewed by the Supreme Court.
He applauded the legislature for not adding any exceptions to the bill.
“It is a traumatic event, and I don’t want to diminish how serious it is,” he said, referring to rape and incest. “But if we are arguing personhood then it does not matter how a child is conceived.”
Reproductive rights groups immediately protested the bill’s passage, calling the measure blatantly unconstitutional. It is believed to be the strictest abortion restriction in the country.
“In passing this atrocious bill, Alabama’s state legislators have shown their complete disregard for the U.S. Constitution and the needs of their constituents,” said Katherine Ragsdale, CEO of the National Abortion Federation, in a statement. “Anti-choice politicians have once again demonstrated that they would rather advance their extreme personal agenda than ensure the safety and well-being of their constituents.”
Alexa Kolbi-Molinas, senior staff attorney at the ACLU Reproductive Freedom Project, said the state should expect a lawsuit if the bill is signed into law.
“Alabama’s bill is the anti-abortion opposition’s true agenda on full display — ban abortion, punish women, jail doctors, and shame people seeking care,” Kolbi-Molinas said. “We will not stand by while politicians endanger the lives of women and doctors for political gain.”
Allison Coleman, 31, a sexual assault survivor from Birmingham, Alabama, watched the debate on the abortion ban in an overflow room at the statehouse. Her name was brought up by Democrats an example of the type of victim who would be denied an abortion under the new legislation.
Coleman told HuffPost that she was inspired by the passion of the Alabama Democrats, but “horrified and alienated by the heartlessness of the right.”
Alabama has only three abortion clinics left in the state.
This has been updated throughout.