By CAROLINE BECK, Alabama Daily News
MONTGOMERY, Ala. – The Alabama House of Representatives approved on Tuesday legislation to criminalize almost all abortions performed in Alabama.
Seventy-four Republican House members voted for the bill, and three Democrats voted against it. Many other Democrats had already left the chamber in protest when the vote was taken.
House Bill 314 makes performing an abortion a Class A felony, but women who seek or have abortions would not be criminally liable. The only exceptions in the bill are if there is a serious health risk to the woman or if the fetus has a “lethal anomaly.”
The bill now goes to the Senate.
Bill sponsor Rep. Terri Collins, R- Decatur, said the bill is designed as a challenge to Roe v. Wade, the landmark U.S. Supreme Court decision, to redefine when life begins.
“When I was pregnant with my first child, my grandmother went with me to have the ultrasound,” Collins said on the House floor while introducing the bill. “When we saw that little hand on the screen, we waved at it because we knew it was a person,”
“Is that baby in the womb a person? I believe our [state] law says it is, and our people say it is, and our technology says it is,” Collins said.
There is no exception for rape or incest in Collins’ bill. An amendment to add those exemptions was offered by the House Minority Leader Anthony Daniels, D- Huntsville, but was tabled by Republicans.
Attempting to perform an abortion would be a Class C felony, punishable with one to 10 years in prison and a $15,000 fine. Several groups have said they will sue to stop the law if it’s enacted.
Rep. Merika Coleman, D- Birmingham, offered an amendment that would make any expenses incurred by the state for court challenges to the bill deductible from the pay of legislators who voted for the bill.
“If you believe in this piece of legislation so much, then put your money where your mouth is,” Coleman said. “Don’t have the taxpayers foot an additional bill, they already pay your salaries. Put your money where your mouth is.”
The amendment was rejected.
Coleman said she does supports life too, but thinks this bill is only protecting birth.
“There are some people who just support birth, not life, because after a child is born there needs to be more done to ensure that child has a happy and successful life,” Coleman said.
The bill passed amid a frenzied State House. House Democrats at first worked to delay the flow of legislation to prevent the bill from coming up, and later staged a walk-out to protest the bill.
Activists opposing the bill were removed from the House gallery after attempting to paint the word “dumb” on the glass separating the seats from the chamber. At least one protester was arrested.
Last year, Alabama voters approved a constitutional amendment declaring the policy of Alabama is “to recognize and support the sanctity of unborn life and the rights of unborn children, including the right to life ….” It also says it is the policy of the state “to ensure the protection of the rights of the unborn child in all manners and measures lawful and appropriate.” The measure passed with 59 percent support.
Rep. Randy Wood, R-Anniston, said that he supports the bill and that there may be exceptions to the law added later for cases of rape or incest.
“We want this bill to be as clean as possible so it will get before the court without any complications,” Wood said. “We can always go back and add those exceptions later.”
Rep. Barbara Boyd, D-Anniston, said she believes the Legislature should address health care and other issues rather than abortion.
“We are about four weeks away from the end of the (legislative session),” Boyd said. “We should be dealing with things that are important to the people, like Medicaid and the sales tax on groceries, not politics. I’ve been here for six terms, and sometimes you need to stand up for what is right no matter even if you are just one person.”
Rep. Jamie Kiel, R-Russellville, said he voted in support of the bill because state law already protects the life of the unborn.
“In Alabama, if a person kills a pregnant woman, that person will be charged with double homicide,” Kiel said. “That’s because two people were killed. Yet it is legal for a pregnant mother to kill her own child. We need to be consistent. A baby is a person in both instances and should be protected.”
Sorrell based his vote on moral and legal grounds.
“I believe all life is created by God and is precious to God,” Sorrell said. “My vote today was in defense of those who are incapable of defending themselves. This bill brings the definition of life in line with existing Alabama law regarding homicides and assaults pertaining to a fetus in utero at any stage of development.”
Rep. Rich Wingo, R-Tuscaloosa, said he was heavily involved in creating this legislation and was motivated to push the bill because of his home county’s involvement in abortions.
“In Tuscaloosa County, there are over 3,500 abortions in that facility every year,” Wingo said. “There are more abortions in Tuscaloosa County than there are births. That’s the voice that needs to get out in Tuscaloosa.”
Tuscaloosa has one of the state’s three abortion clinics.
Rep. Chris England, D-Tuscaloosa, argued that there are already other state abortion laws working their way through the courts that could result in Roe v. Wade being challenged. He participated in the organized walk out with fellow House Democrats and did not vote.
“You know they how say the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result? Well here we are again with an unconstitutional bill, and we’re going to get the same result,” England said.
Rep. Danny Garrett, R-Trussville, said now it is the right time for the Roe v. Wade to be revisited.
“Forty years after Roe v. Wade passing, it’s time for the Supreme Court to reconsider abortion,” Garrett said. “I’ve heard that people say this bill is extreme, but it’s in reaction to another extreme we are seeing in other places across the country.”
Rep. Neil Rafferty, D-Birmingham, said legislators should be focused on the growing problems of infant mortality rates and healthcare problems the state already is dealing with.
“In the midst of a healthcare crisis — provider shortages, restricted access to care, high infant mortality rates, high maternal mortality rates, staggering health disparities — we are focusing on using taxpayer resources to go and fight a battle that has been lost time and time again,” Rafferty said. “This is the real moral crisis of Alabama.”
Staci Fox, president and CEO of Planned Parenthood Southeast, said the organization is ready to lobby against the bill in the Senate.
“(Tuesday’s) floor debate made it crystal clear what Alabama lawmakers think about women,” Fox said in a written statement. “It also revealed just how callous and flagrant they can be. They voted overwhelmingly to reject any exception for rape or incest.”
The state’s current law bans abortion after 20 weeks of pregnancy unless the pregnancy puts the mother at risk of death or serious harm.
There were 6,768 abortions performed in Alabama in 2017, according to the Alabama Department of Public Health.
How they voted
Speaker Mac McCutcheon, R-Huntsville
Rep. Wes Allen, R- Troy
Rep. Alan Baker, R-Brewton
Rep. Mike Ball, R-Madison
Rep Chris Blackshear, R-Phenix City
Rep. K.L. Brown, R-Jacksonville
Rep. Chip Brown, R-Hollingers Island
Rep. Jim Carns, R-Birmingham
Rep. Steve Clouse: R-Ozark
Rep. Terri Collins, R-Decatur
Rep. Danny Crawford, R-Athens
Rep. Will Dismukes, R-Prattville
Rep. Dickie Drake, R-Leeds
Rep. Brett Easterbrook, R-Fruitdale
Rep. Corley Ellis, R-Columbiana
Rep. Tracey Estes, R-Winfield
Rep. Allen Farley, R-McCalla
Rep. David Faulkner, R-Vestavia
Rep. Joe Foust, R-Fairhope
Rep. Bob Fincher, R-Woodland
Rep. Matt Fridy, R-Montevallo
Rep. Danny Garrett, R-Trussville
Rep. Victor Gaston, R-Mobile
Rep. Lynn Greer, R-Rogersville
Rep. Tommy Hanes, R-Scottsboro
Rep. Corey Harbison, R-Cullman
Rep. Jim Hill, R-Moody
Rep. Mike Holmes, R-Wetumpka
Rep. Steve Hurst, R-Munford
Rep. Reed Ingram, R-Montgomery
Rep. Gil Isbell, R- Gadsden
Rep. Ron Johnson, R-Sylacauga
Rep. Mike Jones, R-Andalusia
Rep. Sam Jones, R-Mobile
Rep. Jamie Kiel, R- Russellville
Rep. Wes Kitchens, R-Arab
Rep. Nathan Ledbetter, R-Rainsville:
Rep. Paul Lee, R-Dothan
Rep. Craig Lipscomb, R-Gasden
Rep. Joe Lovvorn, R-Auburn
Rep. Rhett Marques, R-Enterprise
Rep. Jimmy Martin, R-Clanton
Rep. Steve McMillan, R-Bay Minette
Rep. Arnold Mooney, R-Birmingham
Rep. Parker Moore, R- Decatur
Rep. Becky Nordgren, R- Gadsden
Rep. Ed Oliver, R-Dadeville
Rep. Phillip Pettus, R-Green Hill
Rep. Bill Poole, R-Tuscaloosa
Rep. Chris Pringle, R-Mobile
Rep. Rex Reynolds, R-Huntsville
Rep. Kerry Rich, R-Albertville
Rep. Proncey Robertson, R-Mount Hope
Rep. Connie Rowe, R-Jasper
Rep. Howard Sanderford, R-Huntsville
Rep. Chris Sells, R-Greenville
Rep. Ginny Shaver, R-Leesburg
Rep. Randall Shedd, R- Cullman
Rep. Harry Shiver, R-Stockton
Rep. Matt Simpson, R-Daphne
Rep. Andrew Sorrell, R- Muscle Shoals
Rep. Jeff Sorrells, R-Hartford
Rep. Kyle South, R-Fayette
Rep. Scott Stadthagen, R- Hartselle
Rep. David Standridge, R-Hayden
Rep. Shane Stringer, R-Mobile
Rep. Rodney Sullivan, R-Tuscaloosa
Rep. Allen Treadaway, R-Morris
Rep. Tim Wadsworth, R-Arley
Rep. April Weaver, R- Alabaster
Rep. David Wheeler, R- Vestavia Hills
Rep. Andy Whitt, R-Harvest
Rep. Ritchie Whorton, R-Scottsboro
Rep. Margie Wilcox, R-Mobile
Rep. Rich Wingo, R-Tuscaloosa
Rep. Debbie Wood, R-Valley
Rep. Randy Wood, R-Anniston
Rep. Mary Moore, D-Birmigham
Rep. John Rogers, D-Birmingham
Rep. Rod Scott, D-Fairfield
Rep. Louise Alexander, D-Bessemer
Rep. Barbara Boyd, D-Birmingham
Rep. Napoleon Bracy, D-Mobile
Rep. Prince Chestnut, D-Selma
Rep. Adline Clarke, D-Mobile
Rep. Merika Coleman, D-Birmingham
Rep. Anthony Daniels, D-Huntsville
Rep. Barbara Drummond: D-Mobile
Rep: Chris England, D-Tuscaloosa
Rep. Barry Forte, D-Eufaula
Rep. Juandalynn Givan, D-Birmingham
Rep. Jeremy Gray, D-Opelika
Rep. Dexter Grimsley, D-Newville
Rep. Laura Hall, D-Huntsville
Rep. Kirk Hatcher, D-Montgomery
Rep. Rolanda Hollis, D-Birmingham
Rep. Ralph Howard, D-Greensboro
Rep. Thomas Jackson, D-Thomasville
Rep. Kelvin Lawrence, D-Hayneville
Rep. A.J. McCampbell, D-Livingston
Rep. Thad McClammy, D-Montgomery
Rep. Tashina Morris, D-Montgomery
Rep. Neil Rafferty, D-Birmingham
Rep. Pebblin Warren, D-Tuskegee