Gov. Kay Ivey signed into law Wednesday a bill banning abortions in the state, a move sure to draw nationwide legal challenges supporters hope will result in the U.S. Supreme Court overturning the landmark Roe v. Wade decision.
Ivey signed the Alabama Human Life Protection Act a day after the Alabama Senate passed it 25-6. The House of Representatives passed it 74-3.
The law imposes a near total ban on abortions in the state by making it a felony for a doctor to perform an abortion at any stage of pregnancy punishable by up to 99 years or life in prison. The only exception lawmakers provided is if the mother’s health is at serious risk. The mother will not be held criminally liable for an abortion under the new law.
“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,” Ivey said in a statement after signing the bill, which will take effect in six months.
“To all Alabamians, I assure you that we will continue to follow the rule of law. In all meaningful respects, this bill closely resembles an abortion ban that has been a part of Alabama law for well over 100 years. As today’s bill itself recognizes, that longstanding abortion law has been rendered unenforceable as a result of the U.S. Supreme Court decision in Roe v. Wade.”
Ivey conceded the new law will likely be unenforceable in the short term but hopes legal challenges to it will reach the U.S. Supreme Court, where a new conservative majority may hear the case and decide to overturn the 1973 Roe v. Wade ruling which gave women the right to an abortion.
“As citizens of this great country, we must always respect the authority of the U.S. Supreme Court even when we disagree with their decisions,” Ivey said. “Many Americans, myself included, disagreed when Roe v. Wade was handed down in 1973. The sponsors of this bill believe that it is time, once again, for the U.S. Supreme Court to revisit this important matter and they believe this act may bring about the best opportunity for this to occur.”
The bill, sponsored by Rep. Terri Collins (R-Decatur) and Sen. Clyde Chambliss (R-Prattville), does not make exceptions for rape or incest and supporters did not want it watered down, feeling the hardline stance will improve the chances of the U.S. Supreme Court eventually hearing the case.
“Roe v. Wade has ended the lives of millions of children,” 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. Life and liberty are not man given; they are given by our Creator. Today, Alabama made clear that we will protect our rights and the rights of our unborn children.
“In 1973, unelected judges on the Supreme Court cut short the vigorous national debate over abortion and imposed a top-down, abortion-on-demand agenda on the entire country. Advances in science since 1973, particularly in ultrasound technology, shows what we know intuitively — a baby in the womb is a person.”
Collins said she hopes the U.S. Supreme Court overturns Roe v. Wade and allows states to determine which exceptions to allow.
“This bill is about challenging Roe v. Wade and protecting the lives of the unborn because an unborn baby is a person who deserves love and protection,” Collins said in a statement.
Critics said defending the law in court will cost the state millions of dollars and deprives women of their legal choices but Chambliss said it would be worth it if abortion rights are overturned.
“If it is a couple of million dollars, that is a small, small price for those lives,” he said.
Planned Parenthood and the American Civil Liberties Union said they would sue to block the bill if it became law.
Three amendments to the Senate bill proposed by Sen. Vivian Davis Figures (D-Mobile) were rejected — she proposed making legislators who voted for the bill responsible for the cost of defending it court, plus requiring the expansion of Medicaid and making it a felony for a male to get a vasectomy.