The Alabama bill would make it a crime for doctors to perform abortions at any stage of pregnancy, unless the woman's life is in danger. A doctor caught performing an abortion would face up to 99 years in prison; attempted abortion would carry a sentence of up to 10 years. Patients would not be held responsible in any case.
During debate, Democrats, who are outnumbered in the chamber 77-28, attempted to add an amendment that would create exceptions for cases of rape and incest to no avail. They also proposed an amendment that would redirect salaries of legislators who vote in favor of the bill to pay for the enormous costs of the inevitable legal challenge, CNN reported.
"[W]e have so many problems that exist in the state of Alabama, from only 32% of the children in Alabama have access to pre-K [to being] one of the few states that did not expand access to healthcare. And we spend our time dealing with legislation that we know is going to be unconstitutional?" said Rep. Anthony Daniels (D-Huntsville), the state house minority leader, at a Tuesday afternoon press conference. "We wasted about $1.7 million before on similar pieces of legislation. You would think that we would learn from our mistakes, but we've chosen to go down the same road again."
The bill's sponsor, state Rep. Terri Collins (R-Decatur), acknowledged that a legal challenge is the point, saying that the bill is designed as "a vehicle to revisit the constitutionally flawed Roe v. Wade decision," according to WKRG in Montgomery, AL.
The latest Alabama bill is just one part of a nationwide strategy to eliminate abortion rights in America, Elizabeth Nash, senior state issues manager for the Guttmacher Institute, told Refinery29. In total, 19 states have put forth total or six-week abortion bans since 2013, despite the fact that abortion bans are unconstitutional. "Because of the shift in the balance of power at the U.S. Supreme Court, conservative politicians from across the country are looking to send the Court multiple opportunities to undermine or overturn abortion rights," Nash said.
The American Civil Liberties Union of Alabama has vowed to challenge the bill should it become law. Likewise, reproductive rights groups have decried the bill as "dangerous" and "extreme."
"The anti-choice politicians who push these bills must be willing to own the truth about their agenda: It's one that absolutely devastates women and families, holds grave health consequences, and is also wildly out of touch with the vast majority of Americans who support legal access to abortion and Roe v. Wade," Amanda Thayer, deputy national communications director for NARAL Pro-Choice America, told Refinery29. "It's no surprise that Terri Collins mentions nothing about women here — it's symbolic of just how much they would like to erase women from the conversation altogether."
Caught in the crossfire are the women of Alabama, who already face extreme obstacles in accessing abortion and reproductive healthcare. There are only three abortion-providing clinics statewide, and women seeking to terminate a pregnancy must also go through state-mandated counseling and a 48-hour waiting period before they can access the procedure.