Alabama lawmakers are set to a hold a public hearing Wednesday on a bill that could make almost all abortions a felony. The measure is slated to be discussed in the House Health Committee and it’s expected to draw large crowds on both sides of the issue.
One of the biggest anti-abortion proposals introduced this year, the measure would make an abortion punishable with 10 to 99 years in prison, though a woman would not be charged for having the procedure under the proposal.
Labeled “HB314”, it would ban any abortion from the start a woman is “known to be pregnant.” There is only one exception for a women’s health, avoiding exemptions for rape and incest.
The bill would be used to directly challenge Roe v. Wade — the landmark 1973 U.S. Supreme Court decision that legalized abortion nationwide. If passed and signed into law, it would most likely be struck down by lower courts. However, the goal is for the case to make it to the Supreme Court for a new judicial showdown.
“The goal of this bill is to address Roe v. Wade,” said Republican Rep. Terri Collins, the House bill’s sponsor. “I believe the Roe v. Wade decision was based on a lack of information that the baby in a womb is a person.”
Randall Marshall, executive director of the liberal American Civil Liberties Union of Alabama, called the measure “one of the most extreme anti-abortion bills in the country, to effectively outlaw abortions in flagrant violation of federal law.”
“They are trying to tee this up as an opportunity for the Supreme Court to reconsider Roe v. Wade and its progeny. There are already cases in the pipeline that will get to the Supreme Court long before this does,” Marshall added.
The measure comes after Alabama voters wrote anti-abortion language into the state constitution, declaring the state recognizes the “rights of unborn children.” Around 59 percent of voters approved the constitutional amendment in November.
With a conservative majority on the Supreme Court, the bill joins a list of several others across the U.S. intended to challenge Roe v. Wade. Recently, states such as Ohio and Mississippi passed laws prohibiting abortion once a fetal heartbeat is detected, and states like Georgia and South Carolina are soon to follow suit. Other states like Missouri and Iowa have pushed laws limiting abortions after a certain time or requiring an ultrasound before an abortion.
Organizations like the ACLU have already filed lawsuits to stop the measures.