Alabama’s Republican governor signed into law on Thursday a ban on nearly all abortions, creating the most restrictive abortion law of any state in the U.S.
“To the bill’s many supporters, this legislation stands as a powerful testament to Alabamians’ deeply held belief that every life is precious and that every life is a sacred gift from God,” Gov. Kay Ivey said in a statement. Ivey has long identified as anti-abortion.
By Wednesday, state legislators had given final approval to the bill and it was sent to Ivey.
The legislation makes performing an abortion a felony at any stage of pregnancy with almost no exceptions.
In Alabama and other conservative states, anti-abortion politicians and activists emboldened by the addition of conservative justices to the U.S. Supreme Court hope to ignite legal fights and eventually overturn the landmark 1973 decision Roe v. Wade, putting an end to the constitutional right to abortion.
According to Ivey, the new ban “closely resembles an abortion ban that has been a part of Alabama law for well over 100 years.”
That longstanding statewide ban, however, had been rendered “unenforceable as a result of the U.S. Supreme Court decision in Roe v. Wade,” Ivey said in her statement.
“Roe v. Wade has ended the lives of millions of children,” Alabama Republican Sen. Clyde Chambliss said in a statement. “While we cannot undo the damage that decades of legal precedence under Roe have caused, this bill has the opportunity to save the lives of millions of unborn children.”
Democrats didn’t shy away from blasting their GOP counterparts.
“The state of Alabama ought to be ashamed of herself. You ought to be ashamed. Go look in the mirror,” Sen. Bobby Singleton said “Women in this state didn’t deserve this. This is all about political grandstanding.”
The bill would make performing an abortion a felony punishable by up to 99 years or life in prison for the abortion provider. The only exception would be when the woman’s health is at serious risk. Under the bill, women seeking or undergoing abortions wouldn’t be punished.
Kentucky, Mississippi, Ohio and Georgia have approved bans on abortion once a fetal heartbeat is detected, which can occur in about the sixth week of pregnancy. The Alabama bill goes further by seeking to outlaw abortion outright.
Alabama senators rejected an attempt to add an exception for rape and incest. The amendment was voted down 21-11, with four Republicans joining Democrats in seeking the amendment.
Supporters had argued that exceptions would weaken their hope of creating a vehicle to challenge Roe. Collins said that the law isn’t meant to be a long-term measure and that lawmakers could add a rape exception if states regain control of abortion access.
“It’s to address the issue that Roe. v. Wade was decided on. Is that baby in the womb a person?” Collins said.
Democrats criticized the ban as a mixture of political grandstanding, an attempt to control women and a waste of taxpayer dollars.
During debate, Singleton pointed out and named rape victims watching from the Senate viewing gallery. He said that under the ban, doctors who perform abortions could serve more prison time than the women’s rapists.
In a statement, Staci Fox of Planned Parenthood Southeast said, “Today is a dark day for women in Alabama and across this country. … Alabama politicians will forever live in infamy for this vote and we will make sure that every woman knows who to hold accountable.”
Outside the Statehouse, about 50 people rallied and chanted, “Whose choice? Our choice.” Several women dressed as characters from the “The Handmaid’s Tale,” which depicts a dystopian future where fertile women are forced to breed.
The bill would take effect in six months. Critics have promised a swift lawsuit. Randall Marshall, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Alabama, said a complaint is being drafted.