On Tuesday evening, the Alabama Senate approved a bill that would effectively ban all abortions, even with pregnancies caused by rape or incest. Rather than the "heartbeat bill" approach other states are taking which bans abortions after six weeks into the pregnancy, House Bill 314 bans abortions at the moment of conception, with the exception of a pregnancy that poses a life-threatening risk to the mother's life.
The bill would allow for doctors who perform an abortion to receive felony charges and face up to 99 years in prison. Even an attempted abortion could land the medical provider at risk for up to 10 years. HB314 is clearly in staunch opposition to Roe v. Wade, which recognizes a woman's constitutional right to end a pregnancy.
The bill now moves to the desk of Alabama Governor Kay Ivey (R), who is known to have anti-abortion beliefs. While we're yet to receive comment from Governor Ivey's camp, it is widely expected she will sign the bill into law.
Senator Greg Reed (R), gave a statement following the vote explaining that the bill “simply recognizes that an unborn baby is a child who deserves protection — and despite the best efforts of abortion proponents, this bill will become law because Alabamians stand firmly on the side of life.” But the obvious question remains: what about the rights of the woman who is pregnant? What about Roe v. Wade?
The extremity of the measure comes with the intent of it to go to the Supreme Court in the hopes that it can overturn Roe v. Wade once and for all, taking a black and white approach rather than other state's more lenient anti-abortion measures. When commenting on the bill, Alabama Pro-Life Coalition founder Eric Johnston asked, "Why not go all the way?"
Democratic Senators took to the floor to propose an amendment that would allow abortions for cases of rape and incest, but it was rejected. In court, Senator Bobby Singleton said, “You just said to my daughter, you don't matter. You don't matter in the state of Alabama." And I wholeheartedly agree.
Thankfully, numerous people and organizations have vowed to fight against the bill. The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) has announced their decision to sue, as has Planned Parenthood.
In addition to its disgusting disregard of a woman's rights, it also poses more objective issues like a financial burden to the state. According to AL.com, the last time Alabama lost an abortion case they had to pay $1.7M to the ACLU, which is "enough money for 33 classroom teachers. Or 41 state troopers. Or 50 prison guards." In fact, since 2013, Alabama has paid a total of $3.72M to the ACLU after lawsuits related to laws on abortion, immigration, and same-sex marriage. To give a little more perspective, in one year the $1.7M alone could fund 298 tax credit scholarships, 38,000 naloxone kits that work to reverse overdoses caused by opioids, and 267 Medicaid enrollees in Alabama.
I think it's common knowledge that even if the bill is signed into law, women will continue to seek abortions illegally, leading to the issue of safety, especially for those living in poverty. Senator Linda Coleman-Madison (D) said, “We want abortions to be safe, and we want them to be few, but it should be legal, because there will be abortions."
Alabama's measure is not only morally wrong, but grotesquely disappointing. Call me naive for asking this, but you have to wonder why. Why are they so vehemently pushing for this law? Why is the attack on women's rights still happening to this degree? What impact does one woman's completely private and personal decision have on these Senators? And why is this where we're still putting our time, energy, and money?
While today we live with the disheartening knowledge of the current state of this bill, we must stay steadfast in our fight against it. This is not a time to shy away in dread and utter disgust, but continue to push forward for change. Somehow we must keep the faith, otherwise the battle is already lost.
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