Alabama Republicans Tried to Pass a Blanket Abortion Ban. Then Chaos Erupted.

The bill would be the most restrictive abortion law in the country.

The Alabama state Senate erupted into furor Thursday when some Republicans tried to strip exceptions for rape and incest from a bill that would effectively ban abortion in the state. Lawmakers postponed a vote on the bill until next week after the exceptions were removed without a roll call vote.

The bill, if passed, would be the strictest abortion legislation in the nation, potentially making it a felony for doctors to perform the procedure. The bill directly opposes Roe v. Wade, the 1973 Supreme Court ruling that guaranteed a woman’s right to an abortion until the fetus would be viable outside the womb.

The bill would make it a Class A felony for a physician to perform an abortion, and a Class C felony to attempt to perform one, meaning that a doctor could face up to 99 year in prison for performing an abortion and up to 10 years in prison for attempting one. The text of the bill compares aborted fetuses to Jewish victims of the Holocaust, as well as to victims of several other historical mass murders.

While the bill could send physicians who perform abortions to prison, it would protect women who receive abortions from being held criminally culpable.

Reproductive rights activists were quick to denounce the bill, saying it would harm women and violate the constitution. “These bans are blatantly unconstitutional and lawmakers know it—they just don’t care,” Staci Fox, CEO and president of Planned Parenthood Southeast, said in a statement. “Alabamians are just pawns in this political game to challenge access to safe, legal abortion nationally.”

The Alabama state House voted to approve its version of the bill last month, which would allow exceptions only in cases of “serious health risk” to the mother. Provisions to allow abortions in cases of rape or incest were considered Wednesday in the Senate, and will be debated again next week.

If the Senate approves the bill, Republican Gov. Kay Ivey will need to approve it before it becomes law. She has not publicly stated her opinion on the bill, but Alabama Republicans say they believe she will support it.

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You expect the big picture, and it's our job at Mother Jones to give it to you. And right now, so many of the troubles we face are the making not of a virus, but of the quest for profit, political or economic (and not just from the man in the White House who could have offered leadership and comfort but instead gave us bleach).

In "News Is Just Like Waste Management," we unpack what the coronavirus crisis has meant for journalism, including Mother Jones’, and how we can rise to the challenge. If you're able to, this is a critical moment to support our nonprofit journalism with a donation: We've scoured our budget and made the cuts we can without impairing our mission, and we hope to raise $400,000 from our community of online readers to help keep our big reporting projects going because this extraordinary pandemic-plus-election year is no time to pull back.

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