On Wednesday, Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey signed into law a measure that bans abortion at any stage of gestation, except in cases in which the woman's life is in danger. The legislation makes no exceptions for rape or incest, after an amendment to include these cases failed to pass in the state Senate.
Experts say that House Bill 314, which makes performing an abortion a felony offense and would punish health providers with up to 99 years in prison, is unconstitutional and will likely be blocked by the courts. However, that's exactly the goal of state Rep. Terri Collins, who sponsored HB 314. In an interview with the Washington Post, Collins said the goal is to bring the legal challenge that would overturn Roe v. Wade, the 1973 U.S. Supreme Court decision that guaranteed a woman's right to choose.
"This bill is very simple," she said. "It’s not about birth control or the morning-after 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."
HB 314 is part of a larger wave of anti-abortion legislation that has been passing at the state level with the goal of overturning or undermining Roe. More than a dozen states have passed measures banning abortions as soon as a fetal heartbeat is detected, which typically happens at around six weeks of gestation, and four states have signed those bills into law. These fetal heartbeat bans are unconstitutional due to Planned Parenthood v. Casey. And in the first three months of 2019, anti-choice lawmakers in 41 states introduced over 250 bills restricting access to abortion care.
Alabama ranks #46 nationwide when it comes to healthcare, according to a new U.S. News & World Report ranking published this week. Patients seeking an abortion in the state already go through several obstacles in order to obtain this type of care. There are currently only three abortion providers left in the entire state. Abortion care is banned in Alabama after 21.6 weeks of gestation, and women seeking to terminate their pregnancies must undergo a 48-hour waiting period and state-mandated counselling before they can access the procedure.
"[It is] a dark day for women in Alabama and across this country. Banning abortion is bad enough. Imprisoning doctors for providing care goes beyond the brink," Staci Fox, president and CEO of Planned Parenthood Southeast Advocates, said in a statement provided to Refinery29. "Alabama politicians will forever live in infamy for this vote, and we will make sure that every woman knows who to hold accountable." She added: "In the coming days, we will be mounting the fight of our lives — we will take this to court and ensure abortion remains safe and legal. For now, Planned Parenthood's doors are open for the many patients who need access to care."
HB 314 passed in the state Senate 25 to 6 on Tuesday evening. Everyone who voted for the legislation was a white man.