Alabama has just passed a law that would ban nearly all abortions in the state. Republican Gov. Kay Ivey signed the controversial bill into law on Wednesday, sparking outrage across the country.
The law, now the most restrictive in the country, would sentence doctors to 99 years or life in prison for performing the procedure, except if the life of the mother or the child are in danger. While the law imposes no criminal charges on the mother, it would effectively outlaw the procedure across the state.
Alabama is only one of several states gearing up for a fight over abortion. Many experts believe this is setting the stage for a Supreme Court challenge to the case that legalized abortion in the first place: Roe v. Wade.
Learn more about this explosive new law and what it could mean for the future of women’s reproductive health.
What the Alabama Bill Means for Abortion
According to the law, pregnant women in the state of Alabama will no longer be able to receive an abortion. The only exceptions would be “to avoid a serious health risk to the unborn child’s mother” or if the “unborn child has a lethal anomaly.” Women would not be prosecuted for having an abortion, but finding a doctor to perform the procedure would be next to impossible.
However, during the signing ceremony, Gov. Kay Ivey admitted that the new law may be hard to enforce due to the legal precedent set by the landmark Supreme Court decision Roe v. Wade in 1973. The outcome of that case legalized abortion across all 50 states, putting it at odds with Alabama’s new law. Ivey wasn’t shy about her party’s intentions to challenge a woman’s right to choose at the Supreme Court.
Ivey released a statement shortly after signing the bill into law: “As citizens of this great country, we must always respect the authority of the U.S. Supreme Court, even when we disagree with their decisions. Many Americans, myself included, disagreed when Roe v. Wade was handed down in 1973. The sponsors of this bill believe that it is time, once again, for the U.S. Supreme Court to revisit this important matter, and they believe this act may bring about the best opportunity for this to occur.”
The Future of a Woman’s Right to Choose
The ACLU and other abortion advocates are gearing up for a legal challenge to Alabama’s new abortion law, setting the stage for a lengthy legal fight that could easily move all the way up to the Supreme Court. President Trump has already appointed two Supreme Court justices during his first two years in office, including Neil Gorsuch and, most recently, Brett Kavanaugh, during a contentious confirmation hearing last fall, thus swinging the politics of the court to the right.
During his confirmation hearing last fall, Kavanaugh referred to Roe v. Wade as an “important precedent of the Supreme Court” that has been “reaffirmed many times” but declined to state specifically whether he would vote to reverse the decision. Most Supreme Court justices and nominees decline to state how they will vote one way or another before a case even makes its way to court, leaving the door open for a contentious court battle.
Alabama isn’t the only state interested in taking the issue of abortion to court. Immediately following the passage of the Alabama abortion law, the Missouri State Senate passed its own bill limiting access to abortion, banning the procedure at just eight weeks into pregnancy, before many women even know they’re pregnant. Missouri Gov. Mike Parson has issued his support for the bill, ensuring its chances of being signed into law.
Other states have looked or are looking to restrict access to abortion as well, including Indiana, Ohio, Georgia, and Kentucky, all of which have restrictive abortion bans of their own. Conservatives clearly see an opportunity to overturn Roe v. Wade now that there are five ultra-conservative justices on the Supreme Court.
These latest moves to block a woman’s right to choose could lead to the undoing of Roe v. Wade, outlawing abortion across much of the U.S. Stay tuned as this issue makes its way to the Supreme Court.