Crime & punishment

Alabama senate passes near-total abortion ban, with no exceptions for rape or incest

Senator Clyde Chambliss (R), center, is seen with other senators during a state Senate vote on the strictest anti-abortion bill in the United States at the Alabama Legislature in Montgomery, Alabama, U.S. May 14, 2019. (REUTERS/Chris Aluka Berry)

The Alabama Senate voted Tuesday night on a bill to make all abortion in the state illegal, allowing doctors who perform the procedure to be charged with a felony offense — punishable by up to 99 years in prison. The ban is now the strictest in the United States.

Other states, including neighboring Georgia, have instituted so-called “heartbeat bills,” that ban abortion after about six weeks into pregnancy.

No exception will be made in Alabama in cases of rape and incest, after lawmakers voted down an amendment that would have added such an exception — with abortions only permitted in the case of a woman’s health being at serious risk. Women will not face criminal penalties for getting an abortion.

The bill is seen as part of a trend across Republican-controlled states to attempt to put new restrictions on abortion, with supporters hoping its passage will spur a legal battle that would lead to the supreme court overturning the landmark Roe v Wade ruling that legalized abortion across the U.S.

Pro-choice supporters in front of the Alabama State House, as the state Senate votes on the strictest anti-abortion bill in the United States, May 14, 2019. (REUTERS/Chris Aluka Berry)

Approval for the bill came after an hours-long debate, during which minority Democrats introduced a range of amendments in an attempt to block it. Senator Vivian Davis Figures introduced amendments that would require the state to expand Medicaid, force legislators who vote for the measure to pay the state’s legal bills, or make it a crime for men to get vasectomies. All failed.

Dr. Yashica Robinson, an abortion provider at one of the state’s three remaining abortion clinics, warned that lawmakers are letting their own spiritual beliefs take precedence over the impact that the ban would have on actual people’s lives. Poor women would be the most severely impacted by the ban, she notes, since the rich can easily afford to travel out of state to obtain the procedure.

“Every woman should have access to the care that she needs, regardless of her zip code,” said Robinson. “It limits physicians in their ability to do whatever is best for their patients … Women know what’s best for them. As physicians, we know what’s best for our patients. I think together we can make that decision.”

The bill has already passed the House and must now be signed by Governor Kay Ivey.

Read the full story at The Guardian and CBS News.

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