HUNTSVILLE, Ala. — The sponsor of the bill that would create the most restrictive abortion law in the country – on the floor of the Alabama House Tuesday – wants it set the stage for a court challenge to the 1973 Roe vs. Wade decision that legalized abortion in the U.S.
Alabama Rep. Terri Collins, R-Decatur, says it’s time for Roe to be overturned. Her bill would make it a felony for anyone to perform an abortion in Alabama. There are no criminal penalties in the bill for a woman who gets an abortion.
The measure includes an exception for abortions to protect the life of the mother, but no exceptions in cases where the child was conceived through rape or incest.
“Alabamians voted last fall on Amendment 2 to make that part of our constitution, that we are a pro-life state,” Collins said. “It seemed the right time to not just take a bite out of this with the heartbeat bill, but to actually just say, ‘In Alabama, it’s against the law.’”
But Randall Marshall, executive director of the ACLU of Alabama, said if the measure is passed by the legislature and signed by the governor it will be challenged in federal court and struck down.
“Really this is pointless and is not going to achieve the objective that they want,” Marshall said.
He added that the bill’s sponsors are being more honest than in previous efforts, where a woman’s health was cited. Marshall said the sponsors are clear, they want to deny abortion rights to women in Alabama.
House Speaker Mac McCutcheon said the measure isn’t political grandstanding.
“We even added into our constitution, the identity of being a pro-life state,” he said. “So Alabama, as a whole in the state, is a pro-life state. What we as a state are doing, is trying to address the national problem.”
Tuesday’s debate included arguments by Democrats that any litigation the bill spurs should be funded out of legislator salaries. Another proposed amendment creating rape and incest exceptions was defeated.
The ACLU’s Marshall said supporters of the bill hoping it will lead to a landmark could ruling are likely to be disappointed.
“The notion that this bill is going to get passed, signed by the governor, and get to the Supreme Court, when there are already 14 other cases in the pipeline, that’s just not the way the judicial system works,” he said.
McCutcheon said Alabama – which is sure to draw fire from outside critics if legislators approve the bill – is on the right side of history.
“Right now it’s a national issue that’s going on out there,” he said. “But at the end of the day, this is really about supporting the wishes of the people in Alabama.”