Alabama’s new abortion law, following the trend of ‘heart-beat bills,’ may finally challenge Roe vs. Wade

“I believe that the law restricts legal abortions too much. The unnecessary restrictions on rape and incest don’t represent the Republican or Conservative community.”

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Last week, Kay Ivey, the Republican Governor of Alabama signed the most restrictive anti- abortion law in recent history. The law bans abortions at every stage of pregnancy without the typical exceptions -– rape and incest – and penalizes doctors convicted of providing these services for up to 99 years.

    The Alabama law comes at a time when other states are considering equally restrictive measures. Several states, including Missouri, Ohio and Georgia, are debating “heartbeat” bills – legislation that would ban abortion as soon as a doctor is able to detect a fetal heartbeat.

   Critics and commentators have said that it is no coincidence that these states are attempting to restrict abortions at the same time. After the Supreme Court turned more conservative over the past year with the appointments of Justices Kavanaugh and Gorsuch, politicians view this as the perfect time to challenge the landmark Roe v. Wade decision. This landmark decision in 1973 ruled that the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution provided a fundamental “right to privacy” that protected a pregnant woman’s liberty to choose whether or not to have an abortion.

    “Until now, there was no prospect of reversing Roe,” said Eric Johnston, founder of the Alabama Pro-Life Coalition, “Given the current leanings of the Supreme Court, making such a measure which does not directly challenge Roe the subject of the court’s next major abortion case would be a wasted opportunity.”

    Under the “The Alabama Human Life Protection Act,” performing an abortion in the state would be a felony. The law defines a fetus as a legal person “for homicide purposes” and compares abortion to the Holocaust and other genocides. The woman who receives the abortion would not be held to criminal charges, but there would be only two reasons she could have an abortion – if the fetus has a “lethal anomaly” which would cause death soon after birth, or if it would “prevent serious health risk” to the mother, but excludes mental illness from consideration of a health risk. Governor Ivey admitted that the Alabama bill is likely unenforceable thanks to the Roe v. Wade decision, but she is hoping that this law helps overturn that ruling.

   While the outcome of the proposed law was never really in question, there was some heated debate in the lead up to final vote. Several Republicans wanted to keep the rape and incest exceptions in the bill.

  However, Senator Clyde Chambliss, a Republican and sponsor of the bill defended the omission of those exceptions. “When God creates the miracle of life inside a woman’s womb,” he said, “it is not our place as human beings to extinguish that life.”

   On the other side, Democrats, including the four women in the state senate, voiced their concerns about the impact this law would have on the women of Alabama. In addition to voicing the fear that this law would push abortions underground and make them more dangerous and disproportionately affect the poor and minority population, many spoke of how the state doesn’t care for suffering women and children.

   “The sin to me is bringing a child into this world and not taking care of them,” said Senator Linda Coleman. “The sin for me is that this state does not provide adequate care. We don’t provide education. And then when the child is born and we know that mother is indigent and she cannot take care of that child, we don’t provide any support systems for that mother.”

   Mirroring Alabama, the passage of this law has launched a national debate on the issue, with younger Americans – who the law would impact the most – weighing in. “I’m a millennial. My fear is that the women of my generation won’t be spurred to action because the idea of having an illegal abortion is such a foreign concept that it doesn’t seem realistic. The problem, of course, is that unsafe, illegal abortions could very well become a reality now.”

   Or another, who succinctly put in into perspective, “I wonder if the Gen-Xers and Millennials really get what’s at stake. They’ve never had to use wire hangers.”

    Even at Eastern, the topic has spurred discussion. One pro-life conservative who asked to remain anonymous, voiced concern about the Alabama law. “I believe that the law restricts legal abortions too much,” the student said. “The unnecessary restrictions on rape and incest don’t represent the Republican or Conservative community.” However, there was support for some of the other legislation moving through the state houses. “I strongly support the Fetal Heartbeat law. I do not believe that a fetus is part of the mother’s body, I believe that it is a separate human and should be endowed with the rights of a separate human.”

   A pro-choice woman had the opposite view. “Whether you are pro-life or pro choice, I think most of us can agree that these 25 men shouldn’t be deciding what women should be allowed to do with their bodies,” she said.

  “Regardless of your stance on abortion, anyone should be able to determine the fate of their own bodies without government intervention,” she said.

   Another student said that women’s bodies are being disregarded and being simply used as pawns in a grand, political scheme in which we cannot own ourselves.  “In this grand debate,” she said, “pro-life politicians are not pro-fetus; they are pro-control. They enjoy the manipulation behind using women’s bodies as marionettes, with every choice being dictated by the hands of government.”

   Based on the new laws it seems like the Supreme Court will once again have to decide the fate of abortion in America.