Get the Daily News Digest in your inbox each morning. Sign Up

Alabama Democrats launch effort to repeal, loosen abortion ban

MONTGOMERY, Ala. – Since the Supreme Court’s landmark Dobbs decision in June of 2022, abortion has been completely banned in Alabama, save for very limited exceptions such as when pregnancy poses a serious risk to a mother’s health. 

This year, three Democratic state lawmakers are hoping to change that, and have filed bills that would either repeal the state’s near ban on abortion, or carve out exceptions in cases of rape or incest.

In 2019, Gov. Kay Ivey signed into law the Human Life Protection Act, a bill sponsored by Rep. Terri Collins, R-Decatur, that made abortion a Class A felony, punishable with up to life in prison. However, the bill would not go into full effect until the precedent set by Roe v. Wade – which generally protected the right of women to receive abortions until the third trimester – was overturned in 2022.

Among those efforts to push back on Alabama’s abortion ban is House Bill 31, sponsored by State House Minority Leader Anthony Daniels, D-Huntsville, which would carve out exceptions to the ban were a pregnancy caused by rape or incest.

Daniels proposed similar exceptions as an amendment in 2019 when the Human Life Protection Act was first being debated, though the amendment was ultimately tabled by Republicans. Collins pushed back against including the exceptions at the time given that the bill was designed, she said, to directly challenge the constitutionality of Roe v. Wade, and that such amendments could complicate that intent.

Another bill that is set to challenge Alabama’s abortion ban is Senate Bill 13, sponsored by Sen. Vivian Figures, D-Mobile, which would amend the state Constitution to enshrine the individual right to an abortion up to the point of fetal viability. The bill defines fetal viability as being the point in which a fetus can survive outside the womb, which generally occurs at around 24 weeks of pregnancy.

If passed in the Legislature, SB13 would then see a referendum placed on the next general election ballot for voters to decide to either adopt or reject the constitutional amendment.

House Bill 45, sponsored by Rep. Chris England, D-Tuscaloosa, would repeal a 1975 state law that bans abortions, the same law that the Human Life Protection Act acted as an amendment to. 

Unlike Figures’ bill, HB45, if passed, would repeal existing law and not modify Alabama’s Constitution, and thereby would not require a referendum for approval.

With Republicans continuing to hold a super majority in the Alabama Legislature, however, along with Ivey’s support for the Human Life Protection Act, Democrats’ efforts to push back on the state’s abortion ban will be an uphill battle.

Nevertheless, recent polling, along with several recent pro-choice ballot measures that saw success in other Republican-controlled states, suggest that were the decision left up to Alabamians by way of a referendum, Democrats could move the needle on abortion rights in the state.

According to a 2023 poll by the Public Religion Research Institute, a majority of Alabamians – 55% – said that abortion should be legal in most or all cases. Just 12% said abortion should be illegal in all cases, including when the life of the mother is at risk, and 37% were in favor of Roe v. Wade being overturned.

Ohio and Kentucky, two states that voted overwhelmingly for Donald Trump in the 2020 election, also saw their voters reject outright abortion bans, with Ohio voters opting to enshrine abortion access into their state’s Constitution in 2023, and Kentucky voters rejecting a constitutional amendment in 2022 that would have denied constitutional abortion protections.

Prior to the overturning of Roe v. Wade, Alabama had just three abortion clinics, significantly less than the 45 it had in 1982. After the decision was overturned, those three remaining abortion clinics were ordered to be shut down by Attorney General Steve Marshall. Marshall also suggested prosecuting those who help women travel out of state for abortions, a suggestion that was shot down by the U.S. Department of Justice just two months later.

Get the Daily News Digest in your inbox each morning.

This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.

Web Development By Infomedia