Alabama Governor Kay Ivey signed a bill on Wednesday that would effectively ban abortion in the state, with no exceptions for rape or incest, prompting an outcry from abortion rights activists across the country and setting up a challenge to Roe v. Wade that could result in a Supreme Court battle.
The bill, which passed the Alabama Senate on Tuesday and the House last month, would ban abortion at every stage of pregnancy, with exceptions only if the mother’s life is threatened. It also would make abortion a felony, and doctors could face up to 99 years in prison if convicted.
Ivey has been a vocal opponent of abortion rights. She released a statement about her decision on Wednesday, saying that the 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.” She noted that an abortion ban has been part of Alabama law for 100 years, and “at least for the short term, this bill may be similarly unenforceable” in light of Roe v. Wade.
Ivey said that while it is necessary to respect the Supreme Court’s authority, “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.”
Abortion rights in the United States
Questions about the future of abortion rights in the United States became a focus after the retirement last year of Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy, who was often a pivotal swing vote on the Court and who consistently voted to uphold abortion rights during his tenure. And in the face of a newly conservative majority on the Supreme Court, both abortion rights activists and anti-abortion advocates have been preparing for the possibility that Roe v Wade—the landmark 1973 case that effectively legalized abortion nationwide––could soon be overturned.
The Alabama lawmakers who co-sponsored the anti-abortion bill framed it as an opportunity to take down Roe. “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,” Alabama state Rep. Terri Collins, who sponsored the bill, said Tuesday night, according to the Washington Post. “This is the way we get where we want to get eventually.”
“Roe v. Wade has ended the lives of millions of children,” Alabama state 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.”
Abortion advocates are planning to take action
Abortion advocates have indicated that they are ready to take action to stop the law from being implemented. The Alabama ACLU announced on Twitter Wednesday that it will file a lawsuit alongside the national ACLU and Planned Parenthood to halt the legislation. They noted that the law would take six months to take effect, regardless- which means that abortion is still legal in Alabama.
Planned Parenthood Action Fund President Dr. Leana Wen said in a statement on Tuesday night that her organization will do “whatever it takes” to stop the legislation.
“We are in for the fight of our lives, for our patients’ lives,” Wen said.
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