The Alabama Senate, burning the midnight oil after a long and acrimonious debate over reproductive rights, passed H.B. 314 Tuesday night, sending the most stringent anti-abortion bill in the country to the governor’s desk—and setting up what supporters hope will be a legal challenge to abortion rights that will wend its way to the Supreme Court.
Governor Kay Ivey, who has yet
to comment on the Alabama Human Life Protection Act, is widely expected to sign it into law.
The bill, passed 25-6 with one abstention, makes abortion at all stages of pregnancy a Class A felony, permitting emergency exceptions only when the life of the mother is imperiled. While the legislation shields women who receive abortions from criminal penalties, doctors who perform the procedure could face decades in prison—the minimum sentence in the state for a class A felony
is 10 years.
Republican-leaning legislatures across the country, galvanized by the changing composition of the Supreme Court, have passed seven bills
this year that enfeeble abortion rights, but Alabama’s is noteworthy for banning the procedure outright.
In a statement, Alabama’s Lt. Governor, Will Ainsworth, said
he hoped to see the Supreme Court reconsider Roe v. Wade, the landmark 1973 decision that legalized abortion rights in the United States.
“Now that President Donald Trump has supercharged the effort to remake the federal court system by appointing conservative jurists who will strictly interpret the Constitution, I feel confident that the U.S. Supreme Court will overturn Roe and finally correct its 46-year-old mistake,” he said.
If Governor Ivey signs the bill, organizations like the ACLU stand poised
to challenge the ban in court, all but ensuring the law may never go into effect.
Fearing that a more conservative Supreme Court could one day overturn Roe, pro-choice organizers have increasingly turned their focus to the states.
Last month, the Kansas Supreme Court overturned
a ban on a procedure widely used in second-trimester abortions, declaring the State Constitution protects abortion rights. Elsewhere, Democratic-leaning legislatures, including
in New York, Virginia, and Vermont
, have sought to pass bills that make it easier for women to get late-term abortions.
Along with recent “heartbeat” bills
that effectively prohibit abortion after six weeks, H.B. 314 has received muted pushback from some pro-life conservatives, with several
arguing that moving too quickly
to ban abortion outright could undermine the pro-life movement and inspire a backlash
from moderate and liberal voters.