Alabama is the latest Republican-leaning state seeking to enact a strict abortion ban as conservatives take aim at the 1973 U.S. Supreme Court decision that legalized abortion.
Energized by new conservatives on the Supreme Court, abortion opponents in multiple states hope to ignite new legal battles that could prompt the justices to revisit Roe v. Wade.
Alabama lawmakers introduced legislation Tuesday that would make performing an abortion at any stage of pregnancy a felony unless the mother’s health is in jeopardy. That comes after Kentucky and Mississippi approved bans on abortion once a fetal heartbeat is detected, which happens as soon as the sixth week of pregnancy. Other states, including Georgia and South Carolina, could enact similar bans.
The Alabama bill , HB314, goes even further: It would ban all abortions, even those using prescription drugs, as soon as a woman is “known to be pregnant.” It does allow for ending a pregnancy when the fetus has a “lethal anomaly” or to avoid a “serious health risk” to the mother, but there are no exceptions for rape and incest. Any attempt to end a healthy pregnancy would be a felony.
“It simply criminalizes abortion,” said bill sponsor Rep. Terri Collins, a Republican from Decatur, Alabama, said of the Alabama bill. “Hopefully, it takes it all the way to the Supreme Court to overturn (Roe versus Wade.)”
The text of the Alabama bill likens legalized abortion to history’s greatest atrocities, including the Holocaust. The bill has more than 60 co-sponsors in the 105-member Alabama House of Representatives.
Staci Fox, president and CEO of Planned Parenthood Southeast, called it a “death sentence for women across this state.”
“These bans are blatantly unconstitutional and lawmakers know it — they just don’t care. Alabamians are just pawns in this political game to challenge access to safe, legal abortion nationally,” Fox said.
Georgia’s governor is considering whether to sign a law banning abortion once a fetal heartbeat is detected. More than 50 Hollywood actors, including Alyssa Milano, Alec Baldwin and Amy Schumer sent a letter threatening to pull business out of Georgia — a hub for television and movie production— if the ban is enacted.
A South Carolina House subcommittee passed a similar “heartbeat” bill on Tuesday.
Opponents say the Republicans are needlessly launching legal battles that will prove to be expensive and futile.
“Here’s the problem: This bill is unconstitutional,” Vicki Ringer, director of Public Affairs Planned Parenthood South Atlantic, said during subcommittee debate of the South Carolina bill. “You believe that (Justice Neil) Gorsuch and (Justice Brett) Kavanaugh will save you on the Supreme Court. That court has already blocked an abortion bill.”
Collins said she’s not concerned that her bill conflicts with Supreme Court precedent.
The “whole point is to get the courts to relook at this issue,” she said. “I think people are seeing a possibility that the Supreme Court might have a more conservative leaning balance.”
AP writer Christina L. Myers contributed to this report from Columbia, South Carolina.