May 1, 2019; National Public Radio
Yesterday, the Alabama House of Representatives passed by an overwhelming majority a bill that would impose criminal penalties of imprisonment for up to 99 years on doctors who perform abortions at any stage of pregnancy and under any conditions except when the mother’s life is in danger or the baby is judged to have a fatal anomaly. Most observers see it as one of dozens of bills expressly built to test Roe v. Wade in the Supreme Court.
Democratic lawmakers walked out before the vote was taken. This bill, if it becomes law, may be the most restrictive of those launched toward SCOTUS this year. The states of Georgia and Mississippi have passed laws that are similar, but they are based on a fetal heartbeat being audible. In all, around 25 have passed bills that test the boundaries of the law.
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In direct contradiction to federal law, Alabama voters approved a constitutional amendment last year that recognizes the “rights of unborn children.”
ACLU Executive Director Randall Marshall says, “There is simply nothing that Alabama can do to interfere with the right of access to abortion. That is a federal right and the federal constitution clearly trumps all state law.” But anti-abortion advocates believe the dynamics and the makeup of certain courts have changed sufficiently to test that theory.—Ruth McCambridge