The Slatest

Alabama Senate Passes Most Restrictive Abortion Law in Country With Eye on Taking Down Roe v. Wade

Pro-choice supporters protest in front of the Alabama State House in Montgomery, Alabama, May 14, 2019.
Pro-choice supporters protest in front of the Alabama State House in Montgomery on May 14, 2019.
REUTERS/Chris Aluka Berry

The Alabama Senate voted Tuesday night 25-to-6 to enact the strictest abortion law in the country, one that would essentially ban the procedure altogether in the state. House Bill 314 makes it a felony for a doctor in the state to perform an abortion, a crime that will be punishable with up to 99 years in prison. The only dissenting votes were six of the chamber’s seven Democratic senators with one abstaining. The bill had already sailed through the Republican-controlled House, but when the Senate took up the bill last week, the chamber descended into chaos after attempts to add amendments to the bill. The amendments were hardly controversial; they carved out exceptions to the abortion ban in cases of rape and incest. On Tuesday, the Senate tried again and rejected by a 21-11 vote attaching an amendment that would allow women and girls who are victims of rape or incest to have an abortion. The lone exception to Alabama’s abortion ban is in cases where the mother’s life is at serious risk as a result of the pregnancy.

The 35-member Alabama Senate is made up of 31 men. These are the 21 members of the Alabama Senate, all Republican, all but one male, who voted to make it against the law for a woman to seek an abortion if she’s been raped or the victim of incest: Tim Melson, Tom Butler, Arthur Orr, Garlan Gudger, Greg Reed, Larry Stutts, Sam Givhan, Steve Livingston, Clay Scofield, Randy Price, Dan Roberts, J. T. Waggoner, Shay Shelnutt, Gerald Allen, Greg Albritton, Will Barfoot, Donnie Chesteen, Clyde Chambliss, Jimmy Holley, Chris Elliott, Jack W. Williams, David Sessions.

The abortion bill will surely get signed into law and it is a near-certainty a federal court will put a hold on the implementation of the law in response to the lawsuits pro-choice groups have already committed to filing in response to the passage of the bill. The reason the federal court will put a hold on the law being carried out is the law specifically and intentionally violates the Constitution of the United States. The authors of the bill know that the bill they’ve crafted and voted for is unconstitutional. While more and more restrictive state laws have popped up around the country of late, what anti-abortion activists have been looking for is a model case to challenge the constitutional right to an abortion enshrined in Roe v. Wade. What Alabama lawmakers want is for their law to be just that case. That’s why the rape and incest amendments affixed to the bill caused such problems last week, because Alabama Republican don’t want a bill that is nuanced or functional—they want one that presents abortion as a yes or no question. Republican lawmakers in the state have said as much on the record. The goal was: a straightforward question they can lob as an alley-oop to the Supreme Court now packed with two Trump-appointees on the bench in Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh.

Democratic Sen. Vivian Davis Figures introduced an amendment that would require the state to expand Medicaid as allowed under the Affordable Care Act; it was voted down. She also, as a form of protest, tabled an amendment that would make it a felony for a man to receive a vasectomy because, she said, it was a matter of fairness as there were no laws governing men’s bodies on the books. It was also voted down.