Last night, the state senate in Alabama overwhelmingly approved an abortion bill which would enact the strictest abortion laws in the nation. The bill passed the Alabama house earlier this month. The ball is now in governor Kay Ivey’s court. She has six days to sign or veto the bill.
From the text of the Alabama Human Life Protection Act:
This bill would make abortion and attempted abortion felony offenses except in cases where abortion is necessary in order to prevent a serious health risk to the unborn child’s mother.
The bill goes on to say that the mother would not be criminally charged, but rather, the doctor performing the illegal abortion would face felony charges and possible imprisonment. It’s been widely reported that the maximum sentence would be 99 years.
Something which is noteworthy is that the citizens of Alabama passed Amendment 2 last November which stated:
an amendment to the Constitution of Alabama of 1901, as amended; to declare and otherwise affirm that it is the public policy of this state to recognize and support the sanctity of unborn life and the rights of unborn children, most importantly the right to life in all manners and measures appropriate and lawful; and to provide that the constitution of this state does not protect the right to abortion or require the funding of abortion.
This amendment overwhelmingly passed by over 280,000 votes which just under 60 percent of the voters in Alabama affirming the right to life of the unborn being enshrined in the state constitution. Based on that fact, this new bill is consistent with that state constitutional amendment (and with the will of the people of Alabama).
In responses, I see the familiar talking points. People arguing that this is an assault on women’s health and women’s rights. I see the arguments about how this will lead to high risk “back alley” abortions, how the society is taking a step backwards. That it’s men who are imposing this bill (although if the bill goes into effect, it will be the female governor of Alabama who signs it into law AND the citizens of Alabama voted in November to uphold the sanctity of life and the rights of the unborn).
I feel like opponents of the bill do not engage in conversations about sexual ethics and effective ways to be proactive in avoiding unwanted pregnancies before they happen.
In talking about how this law undermines a woman’s rights, it ignores the rights of an unborn baby to live. As we’ve grown in scientific knowledge, we have even greater insights into fetal development and how unique a baby is as its growing in the womb. It’s a human life, totally separate from the mother.
People who are pro-life are not trying to punish women. People who are pro-life just don’t believe an unborn baby should be punished by not getting to live their lives.
If the bill were to be signed into law, it sets up a challenge against the 1973 SCOTUS Roe v Wade decision. As President Trump has nominated two Supreme Court justices in his presidency, this is seen as establishing a conservative block on our nation’s highest court.
Eric Johnston is the founder and president of the Alabama Pro-Life Coalition. He’s also the person who drafted the bill. Johnston said, ““Until now, there was no prospect of reversing Roe.” This approach does go against what many other states have done. Other states have pursued incremental changes in abortion law and increased restrictions. With this new bill, Johnston said “why not go all the way?”
If signed into law, the new legislation would not go into effect for six months.
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Josh Benner has a Master of Divinity from Trinity Evangelical Divinity School. He has served churches in Minnesota and Illinois. He enjoys writing about faith and culture. He lives with his wife Kari in St. Louis.