By Kim Chandler
MONTGOMERY, Ala. (AP) — Alabama’s Senate passed a near-total ban on abortion Tuesday, sending what would be the nation’s most stringent abortion law to the state’s Republican governor.
The GOP-dominated Senate voted 25-6 to make performing an abortion at any stage of pregnancy a felony punishable by up to 99 years or life in prison for the abortion provider. The only exception would be when the woman’s health is at serious risk.
Senators rejected an attempt to add an exception for rape and incest. The amendment was voted down 21-11, with four Republicans joining Democrats.
“You don’t care anything about babies having babies in this state, being raped and incest,” Democratic Sen. Bobby Singleton said on the Senate floor after the amendment’s defeat. “You just aborted the state of Alabama with your rhetoric with this bill.”
Bill sponsor Rep. Terri Collins said she expects Gov. Kay Ivey to sign the ban into law. Ivey has not publicly commented on what she’ll do.
The lopsided vote suggests a veto could be easily overcome. Ivey spokeswoman Lori Jhons said in a statement after the vote that “the governor intends to withhold comment until she has had a chance to thoroughly review the final version of the bill that passed.”
Supporters said the bill is designed to conflict with the U.S. Supreme Court’s landmark 1973 Roe v. Wade decision legalizing abortion nationally, because they hope to spark a court case that might prompt the justices to revisit abortion rights.
“It’s to address the issue that Roe. v. Wade was decided on. Is that baby in the womb a person?” Collins said.
Supporters had argued that exceptions would weaken their hope of creating a vehicle to challenge Roe. Collins said that the law isn’t meant to be a long-term measure and that lawmakers could add a rape exception if states regain control of abortion access.
“Roe v. Wade has ended the lives of millions of children,” Republican Sen. Clyde Chambliss said in a statement after the bill’s passage. “While we cannot undo the damage that decades of legal precedence under Roe have caused, this bill has the opportunity to save the lives of millions of unborn children.”
Emboldened by conservative justices who have joined the Supreme Court, abortion opponents in several states are seeking to challenge abortion access. Kentucky, Mississippi, Ohio and Georgia have approved bans on abortion once a fetal heartbeat is detected, which can occur in about the sixth week of pregnancy.
The Alabama bill goes further by seeking to outlaw abortion outright. Unlike measures in other states, Alabama would punish only the abortion provider, not the woman receiving the abortion.
Democrats, who hold eight seats in Alabama’s 35-member Senate, criticized the ban as a mixture of political grandstanding, an attempt to control women and a waste of taxpayer dollars.
During debate, Singleton pointed out and named rape victims watching from the Senate viewing gallery. He said that under the ban, doctors who perform abortions could serve more prison time than the women’s rapists.
In a statement, Staci Fox of Planned Parenthood Southeast said, “Today is a dark day for women in Alabama and across this country. … Alabama politicians will forever live in infamy for this vote and we will make sure that every woman knows who to hold accountable.”
Outside the Statehouse, about 50 people rallied and chanted, “Whose choice? Our choice.” Several women dressed as characters from the “The Handmaid’s Tale,” which depicts a dystopian future where fertile women are forced to breed.
If the bill becomes law, it would take effect in six months. Critics have promised a swift lawsuit. Randall Marshall, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Alabama, said a complaint is being drafted.
Associated Press writer Blake Paterson in Montgomery contributed to this report.