Alabama this week signed the most aggressively anti-abortion law in recent American history. If enacted, the law would only permit abortions only if the mother’s life is at risk or if the fetus cannot survive, but not in cases of rape or incest.
Alabama is not alone. After a series of conservative appointments to the U.S. Supreme Court, a growing number of states have moved to drastically restrict access to abortion. Over the past few months, several states, including Missouri, Ohio and Georgia, have pursued “heartbeat” bills – legislation that would ban abortion as soon as a physician is able to detect a fetal heartbeat.
None of these new laws have yet gone into effect, and abortion is still legal in every state. Ivey herself admitted that the Alabama bill is likely “unenforceable” thanks to the 1973 Roe v. Wade Supreme Court decision, which asserted that Americans have a fundamental right to an abortion until a fetus is viable. However, these bills are designed to provoke the Supreme Court to make a ruling that will weaken abortion protections, or to even overturn the landmark ruling.
Ivey acknowledged that she disagrees with Roe, and said in a statement that pushing the Supreme Court to reconsider the ruling was a major reason legislators pursued the law.
“The sponsors of this bill believe that it is time, once again, for the U.S. Supreme Court to revisit this important matter, and they believe this act may bring about the best opportunity for this to occur,” Ivey said.
Here are the details of the most restrictive legislation that has been signed, or is pending approval.
Alabama abortion law details
Under the “The Alabama Human Life Protection Act,” performing an abortion in Alabama would be a felony. The legislation, which Governor Ivey signed into law on Tuesday, defines a fetus as a legal person “for homicide purposes” and compares abortion to the Holocaust and other genocides. The woman who receives the abortion would not be held “criminally culpable or civilly liable.”
If the law goes into effect, there would be only two reasons a person in Alabama could have an abortion – if the fetus has a “lethal anomaly” which would cause death soon after birth or a stillbirth, or if it would “prevent serious health risk” to the mother. The legislation also specifies that it isn’t enough for the mother to have an “emotional condition” or mental illness – a second doctor would need to agree that the mother has a “serious mental illness” that could cause her or the fetus to die.
The law would take six months to go into effect, and Planned Parenthood and the ACLU have both declared that they will fight it in court. On Tuesday night, Planned Parenthood Action Fund President Dr. Leana Wen stated that her organization will do “whatever it takes” to stop the law from taking effect.
“We are in for the fight of our lives, for our patients’ lives,” Wen said.
PLEASE REMEMBER: 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. #mybodymychoice #HB314 pic.twitter.com/vVohsiR5Md
— ACLU of Alabama (@ACLUAlabama) May 15, 2019
Georgia abortion law details
Georgia Governor Brian Kemp signed a law on May 7 that would ban abortion as soon as physicians can detect a heartbeat. A fetus’s heartbeat can be detected as early as six weeks, before some women become aware that they are pregnant. Physicians would be required to determine if there is a heartbeat before performing an abortion.
Physicians would be permitted to perform an abortion up to 20 weeks into a pregnancy in cases of rape or incest, but only if the victim has filed an official police report. A fetus could also be aborted if the pregnancy is determined to be “medically futile” – if the fetus “has a profound and irremediable congenital or chromosomal anomaly that is incompatible with sustaining life after birth.”
The bill also includes provisions that a mother can request alimony and child support to care for the fetus; parents could also claim the fetus as a “dependent minor” in order to receive a tax deduction for the unborn child.
Missouri abortion bill details
Governor Mike Parson is expected to sign a bill that would ban abortion in Missouri after eight weeks of pregnancy. Doctors who perform later abortions would face five to 15 years in prison, although people who receive abortions would not be prosecuted.
Parson said Wednesday that he was hoping that the legislature would pass the bill quickly so that the state could make a “bold stand for life.”
“Until the day we have no abortions in this country, I will never waver in the fight for life,” Parson said.
Missouri Stands for the Unborn https://t.co/HWMxd0pkje
— Governor Mike Parson (@GovParsonMO) May 15, 2019
Missouri’s bill includes backup provisions if the courts do not uphold the eight-week cutoff, which it describes as the “fetal heartbeat standard.” Depending on court rulings, abortion could instead be halted at 14, 18 or 20 weeks of pregnancy. After 20 weeks, the fetus would be termed the “late-term pain-capable unborn child.”
“This is the type of legislation that is designed to withstand a challenge and to actually save lives in our state,” said Missouri Republican House Speaker Elijah Haahr.
The legislation added other restrictions to limit abortion, such as requiring minors to have the consent of at least one parent; to prohibit abortion on the basis or sex or race, or because the fetus is believed to have Downs Syndrome. The legislation would also double the amount of malpractice insurance required for abortion providers.
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