Topline: Emboldened by a conservative majority on the Supreme Court, conservatives in Alabama are attempting to reverse Roe v. Wade, the 1973 court decision cementing a woman’s right to terminate a pregnancy. The state is on track to pass the most restrictive abortion law in the country Wednesday in a bill specifically written to make its way up to the highest court.
- The Alabama bill criminalizes abortions at every stage of pregnancy, going further than other states, such as Georgia and Ohio, that have enacted six month abortion bans in recent months.
- There is an allowance for when the mother’s life is at risk, but there is not an exception for rape and incest. “When God creates the miracle of life inside a woman’s womb, it is not our place as human beings to extinguish that life,” said Senator Clyde Chambliss, a sponsor of the bill, defending the rape and incest provisions, according to The New York Times.
- Doctors who preform abortions could be sentenced to up to 99 years in prison. For attempting one, doctors could get a minimum of 10 years. Women who have abortions would not be prosecuted under the law.
- There is not a formal boycott proposed in Alabama in response to the law, but production studios and filmmakers had previously called for a one in Georgia, which has a thriving film industry, over its six-month abortion ban. Actress Alyssa Milano also called for a (much-derided) sex strike in protest of the Georgia bill as well.
What happens next: Although the measure is set to take effect six months from Wednesday, when governor Kay Ivey signed it into law, pro-choice groups, including the ACLU, have already said they plan to sue to block the law from taking effect. Alexa Kolbi-Molinas, a senior staff attorney with the ACLU, said the case could take years before it’s settled.
And as the battle plays out in the courts, abortion services would still be accessible in the state, Kolbi-Molinas said. Although, there are only three abortion clinics left in Alabama after lawmakers have, for years, enacted incremental abortion restrictions making it harder for clinics to operate. These include measures such as strict licensing restrictions or waiting periods.
Kolbi-Molinas said the all-out ban represents an “extreme and unprecedented” change from these previous approaches — and that’s the point.
“Why not go all the way?” said Eric Johnston, president of the Alabama Pro-Life Coalition, according to The New York Times.
Even if the law is blocked by a lower court, which proponents of the bill suspect will be the case, that’s all part of a larger legal strategy. Eventually, through appealing lower court decisions, anti-abortion lawmakers hope the Supreme Court will be forced to consider overturning Roe v. Wade. Although it’s unclear what will happen if the case does make it up to the supreme court. While Justice Brett Kavanaugh said Roe v. Wade was “settled” during the confirmation hearing, the court’s conservative majority has showed a willingness to reverse decades old precedent in recent weeks.
Democrats respond: Pro-choice advocates reacted swiftly after the state legistlature passed the bill. Every major 2020 presidential contender has denounced the law, even former Vice President Joe Biden, who has an uneven track record on the subject, going back to the Senate during the 80s.
Trump hasn’t said anything about the Alabama bill yet, but has quickly become an abortion hard-liner since running for president, despite being pro-choice in the early 90s.