On May 15, Alabama Governor Kay Ivey signed into law a controversial abortion bill that would punish doctors who perform abortions with life in prison. “Today, I signed into law the Alabama Human Life Protection Act, a bill that was approved by overwhelming majorities in both chambers of the Legislature,” said Ivey. “To the bill’s many supporters, this legislation stands as a powerful testament to Alabamians’ deeply held belief that every life is precious and that every life is a sacred gift from God.” Governor Ivey noted in her statement that the new law might be unenforceable due to the Supreme Court’s 1973 Roe v. Wade decision that legalized abortion in all 50 states. But, the new law was passed with the aim of challenging that decision, Ivey said.
The Alabama state Senate passed the bill by a 25-6 with little opportunity for debate. The law only allows exceptions “to avoid a serious health risk to the unborn child’s mother,” for ectopic pregnancy and if the “unborn child has a lethal anomaly.” Democrats re-introduced an amendment to exempt rape and incest victims, but the motion failed on an 11-21 vote. Alabama lawmakers now lead the pack of legislators across several states who are producing measures to restrict abortion, such as Georgia’s recent fetal heartbeat bill. Many women do not yet know for sure that they are pregnant at six weeks into a pregnancy, the earliest a fetal heartbeat can be detected. Republican state senator Clyde Chambliss, who ushered the bill through the chamber, repeatedly referred on the Senate floor to a “window” of time between conception and when a woman knows for sure that she is pregnant. The state senator said he believed that time was between about seven and ten days.
Overall, the reaction to the Alabama abortion law has been mixed, with pro-life activists praising its passage and pro-choice groups similarly condemning it. Yashica Robinson, an obstetrician at the Alabama Women’s Center for Reproductive Alternatives who provides abortion services, said the law would have a “devastating impact” on patients. She said that she was unclear under what circumstances the law would allow an abortion based on “reasonable medical judgment” and health of the mother. Additionally, 2020 Democratic Presidential candidates Jay Inslee, Bernie Sanders, Amy Klobuchar, Cory Booker, Beto O’Rourke, Elizabeth Warren, and Kirsten Gillibrand denounced the legislation as unconstitutional and as “the greatest threat to reproductive freedom in our lifetimes.” On the other hand, anti-abortion organizations groups such as Americans United for Life praised the bill, stating that the Alabama legislature has recognized that abortion is “the extinguishing of a unique human life.” Additionally, President Donald Trump similarly endorsed the law and urged the Republican Party to remain united on the issue of abortion rights.