On May 14, Alabama’s Senate passed abortion bill HB314, which would criminalize the act of terminating a pregnancy in almost all scenarios.
In a 25-6 vote, the state Senate, which is primarily comprised of Republicans, ruled that performing an abortion at any stage of pregnancy will now be considered a felony punishable by up to 99 years or life in prison for the abortion provider, reported the Associated Press.
The bill only allows exceptions in cases "to avoid a serious health risk to the unborn child's mother," for ectopic pregnancy and if the "unborn child has a lethal anomaly."
Democrats, who only hold eight seats in Alabama’s 35-member Senate, attempted to add an exception in cases of rape or incest; however, the amendment was denied in a vote of 21-11, with four Republicans joining Democrats.
If the bill is signed into law, Alabama would be imposing the most strict legislation on abortions, because it only punishes the provider, not the woman receiving the abortion.
During debate on the Senate floor, Democratic Sen. Bobby Singleton introduced several rape victims who were watching from the Senate viewing gallery. During his address, he noted that under the ban, the medical professionals performing abortions would sometimes serve more time in prison than the men committing rape.
“You don’t care anything about babies having babies in this state, being raped and incest,” Democratic Sen. Bobby Singleton said on the Senate floor. “You just aborted the state of Alabama with your rhetoric with this bill.”
While Alabama’s bill appears to only target the doctors and facilities providing abortions, the legislation could also detrimentally affect communities of color.
In Alabama, nearly 26% of the population is African-American, and the University of Alabama’s Center for Business and Economic research predicts Black women will soon outnumber white women in the next one to two decades.
For many Black women, a move to criminalize abortions is a direct attack on our community.
“Black women know that whenever you criminalize abortion, then it’s Black women who are going to be locked up,” Georgia state Rep. Renitta Shannon told Rolling Stone. “Whenever you don’t cover abortions through insurance, it’s young Black women who are going to suffer — we’re the majority of the minimum-wage earners. All this stuff is connected.”
In other states such as Kentucky, Mississippi, Ohio and Georgia, bills that ban abortion once a fetal heartbeat is detected have been approved. This means at the sixth week of pregnancy, a time before most women know they’re pregnant, women are outlawed from abortion.
Once again, this type of legislation will heavily affect poor, Black women because they are less likely to have the resources to seek an out-of-state abortion, according to a study performed by the Guttmacher Institute,
Additionally, if doctors are no longer able to perform safe abortions in medical facilities, Black women’s health will also be in jeopardy due to the medical risks associated with illegal, or “coat hanger,” abortions.
Jacqueline Ayers, the Vice President of Government Relations & Public Policy for the Planned Parenthood Action Fund released a statement to BET detailing how this bill reflects the lack of resources for Black women.
“Alabama’s abortion ban threatens the health, rights, and lives of Black women across the state. Alabama already suffers from a dire OB-GYN shortage and skyrocketing infant and maternal mortality rates — Black women are dying from cervical cancer, at twice the rate of white women, and from pregnancy and childbirth more than four times as often.
"But in the face of public health crises that are killing our mothers, our sisters, and our friends, Alabama politicians are focused on controlling our health care decisions and jailing our doctors –– instead of saving our lives. Abortion, birth control, breast and cervical cancer screenings, and STI treatment are all part of the full breadth of maternal and reproductive health care. And just like with abortion, Alabama is rolling back access to health care that could address the health care disparities our communities are facing. Planned Parenthood will do whatever it takes to stop these dangerous bans and protect reproductive freedom so that our patients can continue to access the care they need," the statement read.
If the bill becomes law, it would take effect in six months. Critics have promised a swift lawsuit.
Immediately after the bill was passed, Randall Marshall, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Alabama, said a lawsuit against the state is already being drafted.
“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. 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,” Marshall said in a statement.
Outside the Alabama Senate courthouse, upwards of 50 people held a demonstration. Several women dressed as characters from The Handmaid’s Tale, and chanted “Whose choice? Our choice.”
(Photo: Getty Images)