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Alabama just passed a near-total abortion ban

CBS News logo CBS News 15/05/2019 Kate Smith

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(Video by: Time)

The Alabama State Senate just passed a near-total abortion ban in a 25 to 6 vote. The legislation provides no exceptions for rape or incest.

The bill now heads to Governor Kay Ivey, a Republican. If she signs it, the bill will become law. Up until Tuesday she has withheld public comment on the legislation.

© svega The legislation -- House Bill 314, "Human Life Protection Act" -- bans all abortions in the state except when "abortion is necessary in order to prevent a serious health risk" to the woman, according to the bill's text. It criminalizes the procedure, reclassifying abortion as a Class A felony, punishable by up to 99 years in prison for doctors."It's a sad day in Alabama," said Senate Minority Leader Bobby Singleton in the debate leading up to the vote. "You just said to my daughter, you don't matter, you don't matter in the state of Alabama."After the bill passed, Lieutenant Governor Will Ainsworth voiced his support for the measure."With liberal states approving radical late-term and post-birth abortions, Roe must be challenged, and I am proud that Alabama is leading the way," Ainsworth tweeted on Tuesday night.

Alabama's ban is the latest in an onslaught of state-level anti-abortion measures that activists hope will be taken up by the Supreme Court and potentially overturn Roe v. Wade, the landmark 1973 decision that protects a woman's right to the procedure. Last week, Georgia Governor Brian Kemp signed into law the state's so-called "fetal heartbeat" bill, a measure that will prohibit abortions after a heartbeat is detected in an embryo, which is typically five to six weeks into a pregnancy, and before most women know that they're pregnant. The state was the sixth to pass such a law, and the fourth this year alone.

Clyde Chambliss sitting on a table: Senator Clyde Chambliss (R) waits to speaks during a state Senate vote on the strictest anti-abortion bill in the United States at the Alabama Legislature in Montgomery © CHRISTOPHER ALUKA BERRY / REUTERS Senator Clyde Chambliss (R) waits to speaks during a state Senate vote on the strictest anti-abortion bill in the United States at the Alabama Legislature in Montgomery Abortion rights advocates have promised to challenge Alabama's controversial legislation if Ivey signs the bill into law.

"We will not stand by while politicians endanger the lives of women and doctors for political gain," wrote Alexa Kolbi-Molinas, a senior staff attorney at the American Civil Liberties Union's Reproductive Freedom Project, in an email to CBS News following the vote. "Know this, Governor Ivey: If you sign this dangerous bill into law, we will see you in Court"But the bill's sponsor, Representative Terri Collins, said that's the point. The state lawmaker called the bill a "direct attack" on Roe v. Wade and anticipates that the bill will be contested by abortion rights advocates, like the ACLU, and potentially make its way to the high court.

"The heart of this bill is to confront a decision that was made by the courts in 1973 that said the baby in the womb is not a person," Collins said last week when the Alabama House debated the legislation. "This bill addresses that one issue. Is that baby in the womb a person? I believe our law says it is."The legislation will take effect six months after Ivey gives the bill her signature.

Senator Vivian Davis Figures (D) speaks during a state Senate vote on the strictest anti-abortion bill in the United States at the Alabama Legislature in Montgomery, Alabama, U.S. May 14, 2019.  REUTERS/Chris Aluka Berry © Thomson Reuters Senator Vivian Davis Figures (D) speaks during a state Senate vote on the strictest anti-abortion bill in the United States at the Alabama Legislature in Montgomery, Alabama, U.S. May 14, 2019. REUTERS/Chris Aluka Berry Alabama state lawmakers also compare abortions in the U.S. to the Holocaust and other modern genocides in the legislation, prompting Jewish activists and abortion rights groups to rebuke the legislation as "deeply offensive."

Singleton proposed an amendment that would have carved out an exception for victims of rape and incest. During debate he introduced three women who were victims of rape and told his colleagues, "They didn't ask for what they got. It happened. And now they're having to live with it."

The amendment ultimately failed, with 21 Senators voting against the rape and victim exception and 11 voting in favor of it. 

Gallery: Anti-abortion March for Life rally (Photo Services)

Republican Senator Clyde Chambliss argued that the ban was still fair to victims of rape and incest because those women would still be allowed to get an abortion "until she knows she's pregnant," a statement that garnered a mixture of groans and cackles from the chamber's gallery."In a state that has some of the worst health outcomes for women in the nation-such as the highest rate of cervical cancer -- Alabama is putting women's lives at an even greater risk," said Dr. Leana Wen, President of the Planned Parenthood Action Fund, in an statement emailed to CBS News on Tuesday night. "Politicians who say they value life should advocate for policies to solve the public health crises that are killing women, not dismantle what little access to health care Alabamians have left."

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