Alabama state senators voted on Tuesday to pass the most restrictive abortion law in the United States after days of debate that at times created explosive reactions among lawmakers on the floor of the chamber.

The Red Tea Detox

The bill passed 25-6 in the Senate and 74-3 in the House of Representatives. Both chambers carry a significant Republican majority. 

The bill is one of several similar proposals commonly referred to as a heartbeat bill, so-named as they ban abortion when a fetal heartbeat can be detected, usually around six weeks. Opponents of such bills have stated that some women do not learn they are pregnant until after six weeks and that the proposal effectively eliminates any choice a woman might have as the restriction begins so soon in a pregnancy. 

In Alabama, the bill was passed without exemptions for rape and incest, amendments that other states such as Georgia and South Carolina are considering as their state lawmakers debate similar legislation. Alabama’s bill only allows for an abortion in the case of a medical emergency where the woman’s life is in danger.

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Doctors who conduct abortions outside of those circumstances can also face felony murder charges in Alabama. The felony is classified as Class A, meaning the doctor could be sentenced for life or 99 years in prison. Attempting to perform an abortion would be a Class C felony, resulting in a prison sentence of up to 10 years.

A woman who seeks or undergoes an abortion would not be charged under the Alabama bill.

Earlier in the day, Alabama senators voted to include an amendment that would allow for rape and incest, a measure that was voted down 21-11.

“You don’t care anything about babies for real. You just kicked them in the stomach and you aborted them yourself. You just aborted the state of Alabama with your rhetoric with this bill,” Senator Bobby Singleton (D0-Greensboro) told the Senate after the vote. “You just aborted the state of Alabama yourself. And all of you should be put in jail for this abortion that you just laid on the state of Alabama. “This is just a shame, this is a disgrace this is a travesty.”

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The bill now goes to Republican Governor Kay Ivey, who is generally considered to hold a pro-life position on abortion, for her signature. Ivey told reporters on Friday that she would not decide on whether to sign the bill until she had seen the final version. At the time, the Senate had not decided on a rape and incest amendment.

Had such an amendment passed, the bill would have needed to return to the House for another vote and then go back to the Senate for consideration and a second vote. 

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The bill, like similar ones in Mississippi and Kentucky, is expected to be challenged in court. Alabama previously lost a federal court case related to a 2016 abortion bill that failed to pass and paid the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) $1.7 million. The state has paid the organization $3.72 million since 2013 over similar litigation.

March For Life Pro-choice activists hold signs alongside anti-abortion activists participating in the “March for Life,” an annual event to mark the anniversary of the 1973 Supreme Court case Roe v. Wade, which legalized abortion in the US, outside the US Supreme Court in Washington, DC, January 18, 2019. SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images

This story will be updated with more information.


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