WASHINGTON – Alabama Democratic Sen. Doug Jones, who is up for re-election next year, slammed his state’s new restrictive abortion law Thursday, calling it “unconstitutional" and “irresponsible’’ and saying it shines a negative spotlight on his home state.
“This bill, frankly, is shameful. It is callous,” Jones told reporters in a phone call. “We need to call this bill what it is. We need to call it what Pat Robertson said it is – extreme. It is the most extreme abortion ban in the country.’’
Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey signed a bill into law Wednesday that would criminalize abortion in nearly all cases. It would only allow exceptions if the mother’s physical or mental health is in jeopardy. Proponents said the aim to challenge Roe v. Wade, the 1973 U.S. Supreme Court decision that struck down state bans on abortion in the first trimester of pregnancy.
Jones said he’s “deeply disappointed with the extreme bill,” which he said uses rape and incest victims as "political pawns.”
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The law, the most restrictive in the country, puts Alabama in the national spotlight again.
Jones' Senate race garnered national attention in 2017 when he pulled off an upset against Republican Roy Moore to win a special election for the seat. Alabama hadn’t sent a Democrat to the Senate in about 25 years. He is one of two Democrats in Alabama’s nine-member congressional delegation.
Jones, a Democrat in a red state, is expected to be in a competitive race in 2020. Opponents are expected to focus on his record in the Senate. Community groups say they are also carefully monitoring his record.
Jones was not alone Thursday in criticizing Alabama’s new law. House Democrats also took aim.
Speaker Nancy Pelosi of California called it a “heartbreaking and unconstitutional assault on basic reproductive freedoms… I don’t want to be a fear monger, but I do believe they’re trying to go on a path that will totally dismantle Roe v. Wade and we have to be vigilant and express our concerns on this.”
Even some Republicans, who oppose abortion, said the Alabama law goes too far.
Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy of California said he has defended his “pro-life position,” but believes there are exceptions including rape, incest, or life of the mother. “That’s exactly what Republicans have voted on in this House,’’ he said.
Republicans in Congress have attempted to move multiple pieces of legislation that would restrict access to abortions, though none have gone as far as the Alabama law. Last year, House Republicans passed a bill that would ban abortion after 20 weeks. The bill failed in the Senate. This year, House Republicans, now in the minority, have failed more than a dozen times to amend various pieces of unrelated legislation with an anti-abortion provision.
Jones said there is little Congress can do to undo the Alabama law and he does not expect lawmakers to try.
“This is a very polarizing issue up here,’’ he said.
Jones said he expects other groups to challenge the law in the courts. That fight, he said, will cost Alabama taxpayers millions.
“I really hope that our state legislature stops playing politics and starts focusing on policies that absolutely strengthen family,” he said.
Jones said there should be more of a focus on health care issues for children and women. He noted that Alabama has one of the highest infant mortality rates in the country and a growing maternal mortality rate.
“That is being overlooked and overshadowed by what has happened in the last couple of weeks," he said.
Contributing: Eliza Collins, Maureen Groppe and Brian Lyman of the Montgomery Advertiser ###
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Alabama Democratic Sen. Doug Jones calls state's new restrictive abortion law 'shameful'