This week, lawmakers in Alabama approved a measure to ban almost all abortions in the state.
The new law is a direct challenge to Roe v. Wade – the landmark case from 1973, in which the US Supreme Court recognised a woman’s constitutional ‘right to privacy’, protecting a pregnant woman’s choice to have an abortion or not.
Now, however, lawmakers in Alabama have seemingly gone against this ruling, banning abortions at almost every stage of pregnancy and criminalising the procedure – meaning any doctor who carries out an abortion could face years in prison.
The only exception to the new ruling is for cases where the mother’s life is at risk, but not in situations where pregnancy has resulted from rape or incest.
The Alabama senate is made up of 27 Republicans and eight Democrats. Of the 27 Republicans, 25 voted to the pass the bill and two did not vote. There are only four women in the Alabama senate, who are all Democrats.
Bobby Singleton, the Democratic minority leader, said, via The Guardian:
You’ve got 27 men over on the other side ready to tell women what they can do with their bodies.
Opponents to the bill have promised to challenge it in federal court if it becomes law. Even supporters of the legislation expect a lower court to block it before then.
Supporters of the bill, however, hope the case will be used to question the Roe v. Wade ruling. As Eric Johnston, who founded the Alabama Pro-Life Coalition and has spent years trying to ban abortion, told the NY Times: ‘Until now, there was no prospect of reversing Roe’.
On the other hand, Democrats and abortion-rights activists have the new bill is incredibly dangerous, as it would drive those seeking abortions to have illegal and life-threatening procedures, carried out by non-professionals, thereby endangering the lives of countless women.
Senator Linda Coleman-Madison, a Democrat and one of the four women in the 35-member senate, said:
We want abortions to be safe, and we want them to be few, but it should be legal, because there will be abortions.
The people who have the wherewithal will fly out of state. Not everyone can afford to do that.
Other states to pass similar bills include Ohio, Mississippi, Kentucky, Iowa and Georgia, who have all voted on the ‘heartbeat bill’, which restricts women from having abortions after six weeks of their pregnancy.
In Ohio, the story of an 11-year-old who was allegedly raped by a 26-year-old a number of times, leaving her pregnant, recently came to light as, under the new bill, she would not be able to have an abortion, CBS News reports.
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