MONTGOMERY, Ala. – The Alabama Senate on Tuesday passed a bill criminalizing abortion in nearly all cases, approving the most sweeping restrictions on the procedure in the United States and almost certainly guaranteeing a legal challenge.
The measure passed the Senate 25-6 after more than four hours of often emotional debate that at one point led to the introduction of spectators who had abortions after being raped. The chamber rejected putting exceptions in for rape and incest on a 21-11 vote.
Gov. Kay Ivey signed the bill into law on Wednesday, saying in a statement that it "stands as a powerful testament to Alabamians’ deeply held belief that every life is precious & that every life is a sacred gift from God."
Sponsored by Republican Rep. Terri Collins, the bill would make it a felony punishable by life or 10 to 99 years in prison to perform an abortion in the state of Alabama. Attempting to perform an abortion also would be a felony, punishable by one to 10 years in prison.
The legislation was drafted by Eric Johnston of the Alabama Pro-Life Coalition and framed as an explicit attempt 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.
The bill, if it becomes law, would allow abortions only if the life of the woman was threatened; if the woman had a mental illness that could result in "her death or the death of her unborn child;" or if the fetus had a fatal anomaly that would result in stillbirth or its death after birth.
"This decision could have an impact on our state as well as our nation," said GOP Sen. Clyde Chambliss, who handled the bill in the Senate. "It could have an impact on millions of as yet unborn children."
Collins’ bill would not allow abortion in the case of sexual assault. The bill’s supporters argue that allowing such exceptions would dilute the bill’s argument for the personhood of the fetus.
Abortion rights groups denounced the bill as an attack on women’s access to health care and have promised to fight the measure.
"The ACLU of Alabama, along with the National ACLU and Planned Parenthood, will file a lawsuit to stop this unconstitutional ban and protect every woman’s right to make her own choice about her healthcare, her body, and her future," the ACLU of Alabama wrote in a statement Tuesday. "This bill will not take effect anytime in the near future, and abortion will remain a safe, legal medical procedure at all clinics in Alabama.”
Democrats sharply criticized the bill as unconstitutional and forcing victims of sexual assault to have their attackers' children. During the debate, Senate Minority Leader Bobby Singleton introduced three women in the Senate gallery who had abortions after sexual assault.
"If you are going to allow a baby to be raped, or a father, or an uncle, or a cousin to have babies by their own family, you couldn't have been thinking this through," he said.
The body rejected the amendment. The rejection led to heated criticism from Singleton.
"You just said to my daughter, 'You don't matter,'" he said. "'You don't matter in the state of Alabama' ... I got to go home and tell her, 'the state of Alabama doesn't care about you, baby.'"
All seven Democrats in the chamber voted for the exceptions for rape and incest. Republican Senate President Pro Tem Del Marsh and Republican Sens. Andrew Jones, Jim McClendon and Cam Ward of Alabaster also voted for the exceptions. All 21 no votes came from Republicans.
Sen. Vivian Davis Figures, D-Mobile, one of four women elected to serve in the 35-member chamber, introduced an amendment that would have criminalized vasectomies. The amendment was defeated 21-5.
Democrats also criticized supporters of the abortion bill for what they said was a lack of care for children after birth.
"The sin to me is bringing a child into this world and not taking care of them," said Sen. Linda Coleman-Madison. "The sin for me is that this state does not provide proper care and proper education."
The measure passed the House overwhelmingly on April 30 after Democrats walked out of the chamber in protest. Earlier that day, House Republicans overwhelmingly voted down a measure that would have added rape and incest exceptions to the bill. But some Senate Republicans expressed reservations about a bill without exceptions for rape and incest.
Republicans in a Senate committee on May 8 added an amendment that included rape and incest provisions in the bill. But the following day, Lt. Gov. Will Ainsworth quickly tabled the amendment as Democrats moved for a roll call on the amendment.
If signed by Ivey, the ban would take effect six months after her signature.
This article originally appeared on Montgomery Advertiser: Alabama Senate approves near-total ban on abortion; sends bill to the governor