Sit back, because the State of Alabama is about to take you on a wild ride of law and irony. On Tuesday night, Alabama’s State Senate passed an abortion ban 25 to 6. House Bill 314, which is obviously unconstitutional under current legal standards, provides for no exceptions even in the case of rape or incest, and is the latest in a string of misguided laws positioned to challenge the standards set out in Roe v. Wade.
Don’t just take my word for it. The bill, right on its face, is pretty clear about its intent:
a) This state’s statute criminalizing abortion, Section 13A-13-7, Code of Alabama 1975, has never been repealed. It has remained unenforceable as a result of the U.S. Supreme Court decision in Roe v. Wade, 410 U.S. 113 8 (1973) and its progeny, which struck down as unconstitutional a Texas statute criminalizing abortion and which effectively repealed by implication and made unenforceable all other state statutes criminalizing abortion.
HB 314 criminalizes abortion as a Class A felony; doctors who perform them can be jailed for up to 99 years, and the only exception for women is if their own health is in mortal danger.
The bill notes that a woman who “receives an abortion will not be held criminally culpable or civilly liable for receiving the abortion.”
None of this is a surprise. We already knew that states like Alabama are hell-bent on eradicating reproductive freedom. But this bill is next-level.
Its very language is nothing short of bizarre. HB 314 specifically mentions the Jewish people killed during the holocaust, Russians killed in Soviet gulags, Chinese murdered during the “Great Leap Forward,” victims of the Khmer Rouge, and Rwandan genocide. Then, it says that Roe v. Wade is worse than all of those things combined.
For those of you who don’t read statutes all day, let me just interject here. This is not normal. Criminal laws are usually dispassionate and antiseptic; they list the elements of crimes, but do not make sweeping grandstands to justify their content. And they definitely don’t cite longstanding Supreme Court precedent and say it’s worse than the holocaust. These people have gotten completely carried away.
Offensive as what the Alabama bill says, what’s worse is what it doesn’t say. It doesn’t provide an exception for a woman who is pregnant as the result of rape or incest. It also doesn’t set out a time frame for pregnancy and abortion. The bill simply bans all abortions, regardless of when in the pregnancy they are performed, and who (including a woman herself) performs them.
Like Georgia’s “Heartbeat Bill,” Alabama’s bill goes shockingly far to punish women, all in the name of the Declaration of Independence. In Alabama, the unborn are part of “all men [who] are created equal,” which is especially interesting given Alabama’s history with that particular concept. The whole thing would be laughable if it weren’t such a serious matter.
And we’re still not done.
The lawmakers actually congratulated themselves–inside the text of the bill– for taking the next step in the anti-slavery movement, the women’s suffrage movement, the civil rights movement and the prosecution of war crimes.
Outside Alabama, the public reception for HB 314 has not been exactly complimentary.
Plenty are taking notice of this disastrous attack on women purporting to be a human rights campaign, and it doesn’t look like anyone is buying that whole holocaust analogy.
Alabama just passed a near-total ban on abortion.
No exceptions for rape or incest.
Doctors could face 99 years in prison for providing abortions.
This is a war on women, and it is time to fight like hell. https://t.co/lhwlbyeQsl
— Kirsten Gillibrand (@SenGillibrand) May 15, 2019
In Alabama, the penalty for getting an abortion after you are raped is more severe than the penalty for raping someone.
— ALT DOJ (@ALT_DOJ) May 15, 2019
HB 314 is not only unconstitutional – it’s a radical attack on women across Alabama and America. We won’t back down when it comes to fully protecting Roe v. Wade, fighting dangerous efforts to roll back reproductive health care and defending a woman’s right to access an abortion.
— Beto O’Rourke (@BetoORourke) May 15, 2019
Access to reproductive health services, including abortion, is not a crime. It is the personal and fundamental choice of a woman.
The decision in Alabama infringes on rights that have already been protected and we will continue to protect them in New York.
— NY AG James (@NewYorkStateAG) May 15, 2019
It’s now up to Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey (R) to decide whether to sign the bill into law. It has been noted that proponents of the bill expect and welcome a fight, in the hopes that the Supreme Court will once again take up Roe v. Wade.
[Image SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images]
This is an opinion piece. The views expressed in this article are those of just the author.