Gov. Kay Ivey signed what has been called the nation’s strictest abortion law Wednesday evening, banning nearly all abortions in the state.
“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,” Ivey said in a statement. “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.”
However, she also acknowledged that the law is almost the same as an abortion ban that has been on the state’s books for more than 100 years. “As today’s bill itself recognizes, that longstanding abortion law has been rendered ‘unenforceable as a result of the U.S. Supreme Court decision in Roe v. Wade,’” she said in the statement, assuring Alabamians that the state will “continue to follow the rule of law.” Roe v. Wade is the U.S. Supreme Court decision that said states couldn’t limit women’s access to abortions in the first trimester and that regulated how much the states could limit abortion during the second trimester.
“As citizens of this great country, we must always respect the authority of the U.S. Supreme Court even when we disagree with their decisions,” Ivey said in the statement. “Many Americans, myself included, disagreed when Roe v. Wade was handed down in 1973. The sponsors of this bill believe that it is time, once again, for the U.S. Supreme Court to revisit this important matter, and they believe this act may bring about the best opportunity for this to occur.
The Senate gave final approval to House Bill 314 Tuesday in a party line vote, with 25 Republicans voting in favor and six Democrats voting against.
The legislation would give Alabama the nation’s strictest abortion law. Georgia and Mississippi recently passed laws that restrict abortions after a fetal heartbeat is detected. Alabama’s proposal would outlaw abortions when a woman is “known to be pregnant.” Current state law prohibits abortions after 20 weeks, unless there is a health risk to the mother. Performing or attempting to perform abortions is a felony under the legislation now on Ivey’s desk.
Supporters of the bill have been clear about their intentions: to get a legal challenge before the U.S. Supreme Court and have that now-conservative-leaning body revisit Roe v. Wade.
“My goal with this bill, and I think all of our goal, is to have Roe v. Wade overturned and allow states to fashion their (abortion) laws as they would like to have it,” bill sponsor Rep. Terri Collins, R-Decatur, said at a news conference after the bill passed.
“It’s time for Roe v. Wade to be looked at again. Technology and the way we view that baby, it is obviously a person, and it’s time that we address that issue,” she added.
Senators rejected an amendment to the bill that would have allowed abortions in cases of rape and incest. Collins and other supporters opposed the amendment, arguing that any exceptions or qualifications put in the bill would dilute their legal argument about when life should be protected under the law.
In previous years, Collins has sponsored a fetal heartbeat bill similar to what has been passed recently in other states. In it, she allowed for rape, incest and fetal anomaly exceptions and said she wants those in Alabama law – eventually.
“(The heartbeat bill had) numerous exceptions I think the people of Alabama would support, but we can’t have that bill until Roe v. Wade is addressed,” she said.
Democrats fervently opposed the bill during the nearly five hours of floor debate and began an evening filibuster to delay the bill’s passage. Sen. Linda Coleman-Madison, D-Birmingham, argued the proposal would lead higher-income women to seek abortions out of state while low-income women would be forced to seek them from unsafe, illegal facilities.
“Women are going to have abortions,” she said. “The problem is it’s going to be unsafe and inaccessible for those with lesser means.”
Opponents also said the bill will cost the state millions of dollars in legal fees to defend.
Sen. Bobby Singleton, D-Greensboro, who proposed the rape and incest exemption amendment, spoke for hours, accusing Republicans of lacking compassion.
“I know this is all a race to see who can be the first to overturn Roe v. Wade, but be careful what you overturn,” Singleton said. He then introduced three visitors in the Senate gallery he said were rape victims who had abortions.
“There are unintended consequences,” he said about young girls potentially being forced to carry a pregnancy to term. “Is it right for a baby to have a baby after being raped? After incest?”
Sen. Clyde Chambliss, R-Prattville, who is carrying the bill in the Senate, attempted to disarm the sometimes emotionally loaded arguments from opponents. Even if conceived under tragic circumstances, all life is worth preserving, he said.
“All life is precious,” he said. “When God creates the miracle of life, it is not our place to extinguish it.”
Four Republicans supported the rape and incest amendment: Senate President Pro Tem Del Marsh, R-Anniston, Sen. Cam Ward, R-Alabaster, Sen. Jim McClendon, R-Springville, and Sen. Andrew Jones, R-Centre.
Marsh said he was disappointed the amendment failed but supported the final passage of the bill.
“Hopefully, if this goes to the Supreme Court and they overturn Roe v. Wade, we will then get a chance to go back and add these exemptions,” Marsh said.
“I’ve always been pro-life and I want to see us move in a different direction on that, but at the same time there are exceptions we need to consider.”
Among senators representing Jefferson County, Sens. Jim McClendon, R-Springville, Shay Shelnutt, R-Trussville, Cam Ward, R-Alabaster, Dan Roberts, R-Mountain Brook and Jabo Waggoner, R-Vestavia Hills, voted for the bill.
Sens. Rodger Smitherman, D-Birmingham and Linda Coleman-Madison, D-Birmingham voted against it.
Sen. Priscilla Dunn, D-Birmingham, has been absent this session due to illness.
Ward said his support for the exemption for rape and incest was personal.
“I’ve talked with people who testified. With the young women who were raped at 12 and 14 years old, it just gives me pause because I have a 16-year-old myself,” Ward said.
How They Voted
The vote on the bill was 25 in favor, all of them Republicans, and six against, all of them Democrats. Here is how Alabama’s senators voted:
Greg Albritton, R-Atmore Y
Gerald H. Allen, R-Tuscaloosa, Y
Will Barfoot, R-Montgomery Y
William M. Beasley, D-Clayton N
David Burkette, D-Montgomery N
Tom Butler, R-Madison Y
Clyde, Chambliss, R-Autauga County Y
Donnie Chesteen, R-Geneva Y
Linda Coleman-Madison, D-Birmingham N
Priscilla Dunn, D-Bessemer P (not present)
Chris Elliott, R-Fairhope Y
Vivian Davis Figures, D-Mobile N
Sam Givhan, R-Huntsville Y
Garlan Gudger, R-Cullman Y
Jimmy Holley, R-Enterprise area P
Andrew Jones, R-Centre Y
Steve Livingston, R-Scottsboro Y
Del Marsh, R-Anniston Y
Jimmy McClendon, R-Springville Y
Tim Melson, R-Florence Y
Arthur Orr, R-Decatur Y
Randy Price, R-Opelika, Y
Greg Reed, R-Jasper Y
Dan Roberts, R-Mountain Brook Y
Malika Sanders-Fortier, D-23 A
Clay Scofield, R-Guntersville Y
David Sessions, R-Mobile Y
Shay Shelnutt, R-Trussville Y
Bobby Singleton, D-Greensboro N
Rodger Smitherman, D-Birmingham N
Larry Stutts, R-Sheffield Y
Jabo Waggoner, R-Vestavia Hills Y
Cam Ward, R-Alabaster Y
Tom Whatley, R-Auburn P
Jack Williams, R-Wilmer Y
Total Yea: 25
Total Nays: 6
Total Abstains: 1
(P means Pass, for senators not voting or not present)