By TODD STACY, CAROLINE BECK, and MARY SELL, Alabama Daily News
MONTGOMERY, Ala. – The Alabama Senate on Tuesday passed a bill banning nearly all abortions, sending the legislation to Gov. Kay Ivey for her signature.
Bill sponsor Rep. Terri Collins, R-Decatur, said she had spoken to Ivey’s advisers and expects the governor to sign the bill. An Ivey spokeswoman said the governor will withhold public comment before fully reviewing the bill.
The vote for House Bill 314 was along party lines, with 25 Republicans voting in favor, and six Democrats voting against.
The legislation would give Alabama the nation’s strictest abortion law. Georgia and Mississippi recently passed laws that restrict abortions after a fetal heartbeat is detected. Alabama’s proposal would outlaw abortions when a woman is “known to be pregnant.” Current state law prohibits abortions after 20 weeks, unless there is a health risk to the mother. Performing or attempting to perform abortions is a felony under the legislation now on Ivey’s desk.
Supporters of the bill have been clear about their intentions: to get a legal challenge before the U.S. Supreme Court and have that now conservative-leaning body revisit Roe v. Wade, its decision that said states couldn’t limit women’s access to abortions in their first and second trimesters.
“My goal with this bill, and I think all of our goal, is to have Roe v. Wade overturned and allow states to fashion their (abortion) laws as they would like to have it,” Collins said at a news conference after the bill passed.
“It’s time for Roe v. Wade to be looked at again. Technology and the way we view that baby, it is obviously a person, and it’s time that we address that issue,” she added.
Senators rejected an amendment to the bill that would have allowed abortions in cases of rape and incest. Collins and other supporters opposed the amendment, arguing that any exceptions or qualifications put in the bill would dilute their legal argument about when life should be protected under the law.
In previous years, Collins has sponsored a fetal heartbeat bill similar to what’s passed recently in other states. In it, she allowed for rape, incest and fetal anomaly exceptions and said she wants those in Alabama law — eventually.
“(The heartbeat bill had) numerous exceptions I think the people of Alabama would support, but we can’t have that bill until Roe v. Wade is addressed,” she said.
Democrats fervently opposed the bill during the nearly five hours of floor debate, and began an evening filibuster to delay the bill’s passage. Sen. Linda Coleman-Madison, D-Birmingham, argued the proposal would lead higher-income women to seek abortions out of state while low-income women would be forced to seek them from unsafe, illegal facilities.
“Women are going to have abortions,” she said. “The problem is it’s going to be unsafe and inaccessible for those with lesser means.”
Opponents also said the bill will cost the state millions of dollars in legal fees to defend.
Sen. Bobby Singleton, D-Greensboro, who proposed the rape and incest exemption amendment, spoke for hours accusing Republicans of lacking compassion.
“I know this is all a race to see who can be the first to overturn Roe v. Wade, but be careful what you overturn,” Singleton said. He then introduced three visitors in the Senate gallery he said were rape victims who had abortions.
“There are unintended consequences,” he said about young girls being potentially being forced to carry a pregnancy to term. “Is it right for a baby to have a baby after being raped? After incest?”
Sen. Clyde Chambliss, R-Prattville, who is carrying the bill in the Senate, attempted to disarm the sometimes emotionally-loaded arguments from opponents. Even if conceived under tragic circumstances, all life is worth preserving, he said.
“All life is precious,” he said. “When God creates the miracle of life, it is not our place to extinguish it.”
Four Republicans supported the rape and incest amendment: Senate President Pro Tem Del Marsh, R-Anniston, Sen.Cam Ward, R-Alabaster, Sen. Jim McClendon, R-Springville, and Sen. Andrew Jones, R-Centre.
Marsh said he was disappointed the amendment failed, but supported the final passage of the bill.
“Hopefully, if this goes to the Supreme Court and they overturn Roe v. Wade, we will then get a chance to go back and add these exemptions,” Marsh said.
“I’ve always been pro-life and I want to see us move in a different direction on that, but at the same time there are exceptions we need to consider.”
Sen. Tim Melson, R-Florence, voted against the rape and incest exemption amendment, and briefly considered his own amendment to make the law effective immediately after the governor signs it. As passed, it would go into effect six months after Ivey signs it.
“The bill is all about getting it to court, and if the bill is really about stopping abortion and they want to save lives, then why do we wait six months?” said Melson, who is a physician.
Chambliss later explained that the bill’s provision to have it go into effect in six months was included at the request of the Alabama Medical Association to give the health industry time to adjust to the law changes.