Alabama Lawmakers Pass Bill That Outlaws Abortion Except in Case of Medical Emergency; Heads to Governor for Signature

Alabama state senators voted on Tuesday to pass the most restrictive abortion law in the United States after days of debate that at times created explosive reactions among lawmakers on the floor of the chamber.

The bill passed 25-6 in the state Senate and 74-3 in the state House of Representatives. Both chambers carry a significant Republican majority.

The bill is one of several similar proposals commonly referred to as "heartbeat bills," so-named as they ban abortion when a fetal heartbeat can be detected, usually around six weeks. Opponents of such bills say that some women do not even know they are pregnant at six weeks, and that such legislation eliminates any choice a woman might have had.

In Alabama, the bill passed without exemptions for rape and incest, amendments that other states considering such legislation, such as South Carolina, take into account. Alabama's bill allows abortion only in the case of a medical emergency in which the woman's life is in danger.

Doctors who conduct abortions outside of those circumstances could also face felony murder charges in Alabama. The felony is classified as Class A, meaning the doctor could be sentenced to life or 99 years in prison. Attempting to perform an abortion would be a Class C felony, resulting in a prison sentence of up to 10 years.

A woman who seeks an abortion would not be charged under the Alabama bill.

Earlier in the day, Alabama senators voted to include an amendment that would allow exceptions for rape and incest, a measure that was voted down 21-11.

"You don't care anything about babies for real. You just kicked them in the stomach and you aborted them yourself. You just aborted the state of Alabama with your rhetoric with this bill," state Senator Bobby Singleton, a Democrat representing Greensboro, told the Senate after the vote. "You just aborted the state of Alabama yourself. And all of you should be put in jail for this abortion that you just laid on the state of Alabama. This is just a shame, this is a disgrace this is a travesty."

The bill now goes to Governor Kay Ivey, a Republican, who is generally considered to hold an anti-abortion rights position, for her signature. Ivey told reporters on Friday that she would not decide on whether to sign the bill until she had seen the final version. At the time, the Senate had not included a rape and incest amendment.

Had such an amendment passed, the bill would have needed to return to the House for another vote and then go back to the Senate for consideration and a second vote.

The bill, like similar ones in Mississippi and Kentucky, is expected to be challenged in court. Alabama previously lost a federal court case related to a 2016 abortion bill that failed to pass and paid the American Civil Liberties Union $1.7 million. The state has paid the organization $3.72 million since 2013 over similar litigation.

Minutes after the vote was announced, the ACLU stated its intention to sue Alabama over the bill.

"BREAKING: Alabama's legislature just passed a law that criminalizes doctors and makes abortion illegal. Abortion is NOT a crime—it's a constitutional right. We will sue to stop this law from ever taking effect," the organization tweeted.

PSA: Abortion is still legal in all 50 states.

It’s true that states have passed laws trying to make abortion a crime, but we will sue in court to make sure none of those laws ever go into effect.

— ACLU (@ACLU) May 15, 2019

Earlier on Tuesday, Alabama was ranked 49th among U.S. News & World Report's Best and Worst States to live in list, ahead of Louisiana. Among the categories where the state ranked low were education, in which it ranked 50th; health care, in which it ranked 46th; and opportunity for residents and the econmy, in which it ranked 45th.

March For Life
Pro-choice activists hold signs alongside anti-abortion activists participating in the "March for Life," an annual event to mark the anniversary of the 1973 Supreme Court case Roe v. Wade, which legalized abortion in the US, outside the US Supreme Court in Washington, DC, January 18, 2019. SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images