While efforts to raise the minimum wage or institute paid sick leave generally advance (or die) at a seemingly glacial pace, when it comes to passing sweeping abortion restrictions, conservative state legislatures tend to move quickly.
Anti-choice lawmakers in the Alabama House of Representatives on Tuesday advanced four abortion restrictions in a single session, including a ban on abortion at six weeks or earlier.
The four measures include a proposal to extend the mandatory waiting period from 24 to 48 hours, impose burdensome requirements on minors seeking a waiver to obtain abortion care without parental consent, a measure to include coercive anti-choice counseling about hospice care for non-viable fetuses to women seeking to terminate doomed pregnancies, and a ban on abortion when a fetal heartbeat can be detected.
The last measure -- which would criminalize nearly all abortions before most women even realize they are pregnant -- was the most hotly contested during the session, according to a report from the Montgomery Advertiser.
An identical measure in North Dakota has been blocked by a federal judge. (A 12-week ban in Arkansas has also been blocked from being enforced.)
If Alabama passes its six-week ban, it will in all likelihood face the same fate, leading Democratic opponents of the measure to ask their Republican colleagues why they're so keen on wasting taxpayers' money on legal challenges against a doomed bill.
“Why would you waste Alabama state taxpayer money doing the same thing to get the exact same answer when someone else is already doing it?” Democratic Rep. Chris England told the Advertiser.
Rep. Marcel Black, another Democrat, also noted that Alabama taxpayers were on the hook for hundreds of thousands of dollars after the state parroted other extreme legislation from other states. Black said the state had already been down this "trail" when it passed a measure modeled after Arizona's SB 1070, parts of which opponents argued sanctioned racial profiling and would have attempted to deny undocumented immigrants the ability to access basic utilities, like water, heat and electricity. Several provisions of that law were struck down in federal court -- a fate Black anticipates for the abortion measures.
Another Democratic opponent, Rep. Pebblin Warren, moved from the question of constitutionality to the simpler matter of what's right for the people of Alabama.
“There are so many young girls out here trying to give themselves abortions,” Warren said. “It’s frightening because of things like this. We’re legislating so much that they don’t feel comfortable going to anyone.”