MONTGOMERY, Ala. – Aspirations that the new conservative majority on the U.S. Supreme Court will overturn the decision legalizing abortion nationwide have energized Alabama Republicans to consider a clear-cut case.
It has taken the form of legislation to totally outlaw abortions in the state, except if the health of the mother is at stake. The measure includes no exclusion for rape, incest or other medical condition.
Sponsors of the proposal say the purpose is to get an unambiguous law before the Supreme Court that directly challenges its 1973 Roe vs. Wade decision extending the right to abortion under the U.S. Constitution’s 14th Amendment due process clause.
The Alabama House took the first step Tuesday by approving the broadly restrictive abortion bill on a 74-to-3 vote. The state Senate is expected to follow suit. Republicans hold an overwhelming majority in both chambers. And GOP Governor Kay Ivey strongly opposes abortion.
Legislatures in other conservative Republican states have approved or are considering laws to prohibit abortion after detection of a fetal heartbeat. Medical experts say that can occur as early as six weeks into a pregnancy, often before a woman knows she is pregnant.
Alabama’s proposed law leaves no such flexibility. It is in total conflict with current laws.
Federal judges have so far blocked heartbeat laws from taking effect. Alabama’s version could meet a similar fate, moving the issue up the appeals ladder to the Supreme Court and a possible showdown on Roe vs. Wade.
President Trump’s appointment of conservatives Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court has given anti-abortion forces new hope the court would overturn the landmark decision if confronted with a state law negating it.
“The heart of this (Alabama) bill is to confront a decision that was made by the courts in 1973 that said the baby in a womb is not a person,” said State Rep. Terri Collins, a Republican from Decatur, Alabama.
She said anything other than a blanket ban on abortion would weaken the intent to directly challenge the Supreme Court’s 46-year-old ruling revoking laws that criminalized or restricted access to abortion.
Democrats, who hold only 28 seats in the 105-member Alabama House, protested approval of the proposal by walking out before the vote. Minority Leader Rep. Anthony Daniels said Republicans would allow no exceptions -- “even for rape and incest.”
What, he added, “does this say to women in this state.”