U.S.

Alabama Legislators Refuse to Fund Mother and Child Health Care as They Ban Nearly All Abortions

Alabama’s Senate approved legislation on Tuesday that would ban nearly all abortions in the state at every stage of pregancy, but refused to consider amendments that would take provide health care for the mothers who were denied abortions.

State Senator Linda Coleman-Madison proposed an amendment to the bill that would require the state to provide free prenatal and medical care for mothers who had been denied an abortion by the new law. Her amendment was struck down by a vote of 23-6.

“The sin to me is bringing a child into this world and not taking care of them,” Coleman-Madison said. "The sin for me is that this state does not provide adequate care. We don’t provide education. And then when the child is born and we know that mother is indigent and she cannot take care of that child, we don’t provide any support systems for that mother.”

State Senator Vivian Davis Figures proposed three amendments to the bill, one which would require a Medicaid expansion to provide funding for mothers and their young children, another that would require those who voted for the bill to pay for the legal costs of defending it in court and a third to make it illegal for a man to get a vasectomy.  All of the amendments were voted down.

The new abortion laws do not grant exceptions for cases of rape or incest and doctors who perform abortions in-state would face up to 99 years in prison. The change sets up a direct challenge to Roe v. Wade, the 1973 landmark Supreme Court case that granted women their constitutional right to terminate a pregnancy.

Planned Parenthood Protest Supporters of Planned Parenthood dressed as characters from "The Handmaid's Tale," hold a rally as they protest the US Senate Republicans' healthcare bill outside the US Capitol in Washington, DC. SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images

The measure was approved by the Alabama House last month and now sits on the desk of Republican Governor Kay Ivey. Through a spokesperson, Ivey said she would withhold comment until she had a chance to review the entire bill, which was passed late Tuesday night by a vote of 25-6 with one abstention. In the past, Ivey has been a vocal supporter of anti-abortion bills that included banning exceptions for rape and incest, so it does appear likely that she will sign the legislation into law. Once signed, there will be a six month period before the laws are enacted.

The bill was originally introduced by Alabama Representative Terri Collins, and was intended to introduce a strong legal challenge to Roe v. Wade.

Collins said she would be open to having states go back and add exceptions for cases of incest and rape later, but needed to make this bill as strict as possible to effectively challenge the precedent.  

“I’ve answered many emails from people who have poured out their hearts with real stories that were true,” Collins said in a press conference. “My goal with this bill is not to hurt them in any way. My goal with this bill, and I think all of our goal, is to have Roe vs. Wade turned over, and that decision be sent back to the states so that we can come up with our laws that address and include amendments and things that address those issues."

There were only four women in the 35-member Senate, and two of them opposed the bill.

The vote took place just days after the Supreme Court overturned a 40-year-old precedent to rule in a 5-4 decision. The court overturned the ruling in Franchise Tax Board of California v. Hyatt, which said that states have sovereign immunity from lawsuits in other states. In his dissent, Justice Stephen Breyer said that this ruling made him worried that the court would try to roll back abortion precident next. The justice made reference to Planned Parenthood v. Casey and wrote that "today's decision can only cause one to wonder which cases the Court will overrule next."

Alabama Senator Doug Jones said that he refused “to believe that these Republican men represent the views of most Alabamians,” on Twitter. “Their action is both unconstitutional and shameful. The people of Alabama deserve to be on the right side of history—not the side of extremists. Women deserve better.”

Democratic Senator and 2020 presidential candidate Elizabeth Warren did not mince words. “They’re trying to overturn Roe v. Wade. It’s wrong. And we are going to fight back,” she wrote.

Other presidential candidates, including South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg also weighed in.

“Alabama just passed a cruel attack on women’s health, autonomy, and freedom, and last week, Georgia enacted a ban on abortions before most women even know they are pregnant. So far this year, twenty eight states have introduced, passed, or signed restrictive abortion bills into law,” he wrote in an email to supporters. “Abortion is a woman's decision—one she must have the freedom to make, and lawmakers have the responsibility to protect. Our next president must stand up to protect American freedoms. And let me clear: reproductive freedom is an American freedom.”

Others made an explicit link between Alabama’s legislation and President Donald Trump. “Today, the state of Alabama became the latest example of how Donald Trump’s extremist agenda has emboldened Republican lawmakers across the country to put women’s lives at risk,” wrote Democratic National Committee Chair Tom Perez. “With Trump in the White House and Brett Kavanaugh on the Supreme Court, abortion bans in state legislatures have skyrocketed nationwide in a shameful effort to overturn Roe v. Wade.”

Earlier this month, Georgia passed a six-week abortion ban, a law that would make abortion illegal before many women even know they’re pregnant.

Only 18 percent of Americans believe abortion should be illegal in all instances, according to a Gallup poll. Nearly six in 10 Americans believe that abortion should be legal in all or most cases, according to Pew.

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