HUNTSVILLE, Ala.(WHNT)-A bill that would dramatically curb the number of abortions in Alabama moved toward its final hurdle in the state legislature this week, and could get an up-or-down vote as soon as Wednesday night.
HB 490 would outlaw abortions in Alabama after the detection of a fetal heartbeat, which normally happens six to seven weeks after conception. The legislation has already passed the Alabama House by a wide margin, and is eligible for a floor vote in the Senate after being cleared by a committee Tuesday. If passed, it would mark a significant reduction in Alabama's current abortion cutoff line of 20 weeks.
Supporters of the bill said they were optimistic the bill would make it through before the regular legislative session ends Thursday.
"We believe at conception it's a human being, but there's no denying it's a person when their heart is beating," said Christian Coalition of Alabama Executive Director James Henderson. "It wouldn't eliminate abortions. We'd love to see that, but it's a step in the right direction...we look forward to the governor signing it within a week or so."
Pro-abortion groups said the legislation threatened the survival of Huntsville's last remaining abortion clinic, and noted that a similar law already passed in North Dakota was recently put on hold by a federal judge.
"This is not a constitutional law, it will not stand," said abortion advocate Tia Ennis. "Most women are not even aware of the fact that they're pregnant within six weeks, so immediately what you've really done is take away that option."
The bill does make an exception for abortions beyond the detection of a fetal heartbeat if the life of the mother is endangered by her pregnancy. It had not yet come to the Senate floor as of late Wednesday afternoon.