NOEL KING, HOST:
Alabama is poised to put into place one of the most restrictive abortion bans in the country. Alabama's state Senate passed the bill last night. It prohibits nearly all abortions at every stage of pregnancy. The only exception to the ban is if the mother's life is at serious risk or what the bill calls a fetal anomaly. To say this bill is controversial would be an understatement. NPR's national correspondent Debbie Elliott is in Alabama. She joined us earlier.
Good morning, Debbie.
DEBBIE ELLIOTT, BYLINE: Good morning.
KING: So if passed, this would be one of the most restrictive laws in the country. What does it say exactly?
ELLIOTT: Well, it criminalizes abortion. This, if it becomes law, would make it a felony for doctors to perform an abortion, and they could face up to 99 years in prison if they're convicted. Women, however, would not be held criminally liable for having an abortion. The no-rape/incest exception was a sticking point in last night's Senate debate. And some Republicans even broke with the party vote in order to protect victims of rape and incest. Here's Senator Cam Ward.
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CAM WARD: Well, I just - I've heard testimony from both a 12-year-old and a 14-year-old who were both raped incestually (ph) by a relative. And I have - a father of daughters, and it just gives me pause. It gives me a lot of pause hearing those stories, hearing what they went through not to have those exceptions on there. And I know there's a legal argument otherwise, but I just personally believe that there should be those exceptions.
ELLIOTT: Now, that legal argument otherwise - you know, sponsors say they've wanted this very clean bill with no amendments because they're trying to establish legal human rights for a fetus. Now, this is a direct challenge to Roe v. Wade, the Supreme Court's landmark ruling that established a woman's right to abortion. That was in 1973.
KING: So their agenda is pretty clear. Now, this bill in Alabama easily passed the state legislature. It's now up to Governor Kay Ivey to sign it. Is there any chance that she just won't sign it?
ELLIOTT: Doubtful - she says she's going to review it. She's not, you know, said what she's going to do yet. But she's very likely to sign it. She's a conservative politician. She has taken anti-abortion positions in the past. And even sponsors of the legislation say they expect her support. So, you know, even during the debate, Democrats sort of conceded that this was a done deal. They tried to fight the bill. They don't have the votes with the Republican supermajority in control of the Alabama Legislature. But they certainly railed against this bill and slowed things down a little bit.
One of only a handful of women senators in the chamber, Democratic Senator Linda Coleman-Madison, you know, called out Republicans for what she said was kind of - they advocate for a small government on one hand, yet they're supporting this bill. And I'll quote her now. She said, you know, now you're in my womb. I want you out. It was a very dramatic moment.
KING: Debbie, other states have recently also passed restrictive abortion laws - maybe not as restrictive as Alabama's - but Georgia, Mississippi, Ohio. Is this part of a coordinated nationwide effort?
ELLIOTT: Yeah, you're seeing a wave of these laws, particularly in the South and Midwest - laws, for example, that ban abortion once a fetal heartbeat can be detected. Courts have already found some of those unconstitutional. Now Alabama's legislation, as you say, even more restrictive - certainly up for a challenge. The ACLU of Alabama has put the state on notice that it will sue. Republican State Senator Clyde Chambliss, who sponsored the bill, says that's the whole point.
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CLYDE CHAMBLISS: What this bill is designed to do is to go to the Supreme Court and challenge that particular precedence that said, in 1973, that abortion is legal, on demand, essentially any time, anywhere, for any reason.
ELLIOTT: Anti-abortion groups say they believe the makeup of the Supreme Court now, with two of President Trump's appointees, makes this the right time to take on Roe.
KING: NPR's national correspondent Debbie Elliott.
Debbie, thanks so much.
ELLIOTT: You're welcome.
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