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Disagreements over rape or incest exemption delays vote on pending anti-abortion law in Alabama

Alabama's bill is part of a wave of legislation being passed at the state level with a goal of outlawing abortions


Matthew Rozsa
May 9, 2019 10:11PM (UTC)

A controversial anti-abortion bill expected to become law in Alabama was unexpectedly delayed Thursday due to sharp disagreement about some of its key provisions.

A vote was delayed until next week after the Alabama Senate had to table an amendment to their anti-abortion bill that would make performing an abortion a felony punishable by up to 99 years in prison, according to The Washington Post. There was also fierce debate over efforts by some state senators to include a provision that would allow abortions to be performed in cases of rape or incest. The bill that passed through the Alabama House of Representatives had only permitted abortions if the pregnancy endangers the life of a mother.

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Because Alabama is a conservative state run by a Republican governor, Gov. Kay Ivey, the anti-abortion legislation is widely expected to pass regardless of Thursday's setback. Alabama Rep. Terri Collins, also a Republican, has explained her goal is to force a judicial challenge of their bill's constitutionality to the Supreme Court, where Republicans hope the two conservative judges appointed by President Donald Trump — Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh — will side with the three other judges previously-appointed by Republicans — Samuel Alito, John Roberts and Clarence Thomas — to overturn the 1973 landmark Supreme Court decision, Roe v. Wade.

Alabama's anti-abortion bill is part of a wave of legislation being passed at the state level with a goal of outlawing abortions. Most of these would ban the procedure after six weeks — so short into the pregnancy that many women would not even know they are pregnant — and thereby effectively making it impossible to get a legal abortion. Similar laws have already been struck down after being passed by state legislatures in Iowa, Kentucky and North Dakota.

"'6 weeks pregnant' = 2 weeks late on your period," Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., tweeted regarding the Georgia bill. "Most of the men writing these bills don’t know the first thing about a woman’s body outside of the things they want from it. It’s relatively common for a woman to have a late period + not be pregnant. So this is a backdoor ban."

She added, "For context, this kicks in within days of a typical at-home test working. If you were sexually assaulted (stress delays cycle), took a morning-after pill (throws off cycle), or have an irregular cycle, you‘d have no idea. There are a TON of ways this law ignores basic biology."

In terms of Alabama's law, Collins explained after her near-total ban on abortion passed that she wanted to "just keep it at the heart of the issue: Is the baby in the womb a person?"

By contrast, Democratic state Rep. Merika Coleman pointed out that "I do support life, but there are some people that just support birth; they don’t support life. Because after a child is born, there are some things that need to happen. We need to make sure that child has adequate health care."

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Matthew Rozsa

Matthew Rozsa is a breaking news writer for Salon. He holds an MA in History from Rutgers University-Newark and is ABD in his PhD program in History at Lehigh University. His work has appeared in Mic, Quartz and MSNBC.

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Abortion Alabama All Salon Anti-abortion News & Politics Pro-choice Pro-life




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