Alabama Abortion Law Could Become Most Restrictive In The Country The House overwhelmingly passed a bill Tuesday that could become the country's most restrictive abortion ban. It would make it a crime for doctors to perform abortions at any stage of a pregnancy.

Alabama Lawmakers Move To Outlaw Abortion In Challenge To Roe v. Wade

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The Alabama House has passed a bill that would make it a crime for doctors to perform abortions at any stage of a pregnancy, unless the woman's life is threatened. The legislation is part of a broader anti-abortion strategy to prompt the U.S. Supreme Court to reconsider the right to abortion. NPR's Debbie Elliott reports.

DEBBIE ELLIOTT, BYLINE: Republican State Representative Terri Collins defended her Human Life Protection Act during, at times, contentious debate in the Alabama House yesterday.


TERRI COLLINS: This bill is focused on that baby that's in the womb that is a person. That baby, I believe, would choose life.

ELLIOTT: Democratic lawmakers walked out in protest before the final 74-3 vote. During debate, they questioned the motive for an abortion ban in a state that's refused to expand Medicaid. Representative Merika Coleman.


MERIKA COLEMAN: Well, I do support life, but there are some people that just support birth. They don't support life because after a child is actually born, there are some things that need to happen. We need to make sure that that child has adequate health care.

ELLIOTT: Other states, including neighboring Georgia and Mississippi, have passed laws that prohibit abortion once a fetal heartbeat can be detected. But Collins says Alabama's ban would apply even earlier.

COLLINS: When a woman is pregnant, an abortion is no longer legal.

ELLIOTT: The bill criminalizes abortion, meaning doctors would face felony jail time up to 99 years if convicted. The only exceptions are for a serious health risk to the pregnant woman or a lethal anomaly of the fetus. There are no exceptions for cases of rape or incest. A woman would not be held criminally liable for having an abortion.

Collins says the bill follows a constitutional amendment approved by Alabama voters last year that recognizes what it calls the rights of unborn children in direct defiance of the U.S. Supreme Court's landmark decision that protects a woman's right to abortion.

COLLINS: This bill is simply about Roe v. Wade - that the decision that was made back in 1973 would not be the same decision that was decided upon today if you relooked at the issue.

ELLIOTT: Her bill cites abolition, the civil rights movement and women's suffrage as justification for establishing the human rights of a fetus. Alabama is one of more than two dozen states seeking to restrict abortion rights this year, testing federal legal precedent. Alabama Pro-Life Coalition President Eric Johnston says there's a reason there's so much activity right now.

ERIC JOHNSTON: The dynamic has changed. You know, the judges have changed. A lot of changes over that time. So I think we're at the point where we need to take a bigger and a bolder step.

ELLIOTT: By outlawing nearly all abortions. The move is drawing protests from abortion rights advocates.


UNIDENTIFIED PROTESTERS: (Chanting) The people are the future, the past and the present.

ELLIOTT: A coalition called URGE - Unite for Reproductive and Gender Equity - demonstrated outside the Alabama State House last month.

AMANDA REYES: This bill is an awful piece of grandstanding.

ELLIOTT: Amanda Reyes of Tuscaloosa is president of the Yellowhammer Fund, a group that helps women pay for abortions.

REYES: If you make abortion illegal somewhere, that doesn't mean that abortion goes away. It just becomes more difficult and more dangerous to access.

ELLIOTT: The ACLU of Alabama says it will sue if the abortion ban becomes law. It's expected to win final passage in the Republican-majority Alabama Senate. ACLU Executive Director Randall Marshall says the bill is unconstitutional.

RANDALL MARSHALL: There is simply nothing that Alabama can do to interfere with the right of access to abortion because that is a federal right. And the federal Constitution clearly trumps all state law.

ELLIOTT: With two Trump appointees now on the U.S. Supreme Court, anti-abortion forces are optimistic that judicial interpretation could be reversed. Debbie Elliott, NPR News, Montgomery.

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