Alabama Senate passes near-total ban on abortion

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MONTGOMERY, Ala. (AP) — Alabama’s Senate passed a near-total ban on abortion Tuesday, sending what would be the nation’s most stringent abortion ban to the state’s Republican governor.

The Republican-dominated Alabama Senate voted 25-6 for the bill that would make performing an abortion at any stage of pregnancy a felony punishable by up to 99 years or life in prison. The only exception would be when the woman’s health is at serious risk.

The measure now goes to Gov. Kay Ivey, who has not said whether she supports the measure.

Supporters said the bill is intentionally 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.

“The question for me — for us — is: When is a person a person?” Republican Sen. Clyde Chambliss said as debate began on the proposed ban.

Senators rejected an attempt to add an exception for rape and incest. The amendment was voted down 21-11, with four Republicans joining Democrats in the seeking the amendment.

“You don’t care anything about babies having babies in this state, being raped and incest,” Democratic Sen. Bobby Singleton said angrily after the amendment’s defeat. “You just aborted the state of Alabama with your rhetoric with this bill.”

The bill’s sponsor and other supporters had argued exemptions would weaken their hope of creating a vehicle to challenge Roe.

An anti-abortion protester with tape over her mouth demonstrates outside the U.S. Supreme Court before the court handed a victory to abortion rights advocates, striking down a Texas law imposing strict regulations on abortion doctors and facilities in Washington June 27, 2016.

(REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque)

Demonstrators hold signs outside the U.S. Supreme Court as the court is due to issue its first major abortion ruling since 2007 against a backdrop of unremitting divisions among Americans on the issue and a decades-long decline in the rate at which women terminate pregnancies in Washington, U.S. June 27, 2016.

(REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque)

Demonstrators hold signs outside the U.S. Supreme Court as the court is due to issue its first major abortion ruling since 2007 against a backdrop of unremitting divisions among Americans on the issue and a decades-long decline in the rate at which women terminate pregnancies in Washington, U.S. June 27, 2016.

(REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque)

Protesters demonstrate in front of the U.S. Supreme Court on the morning that the court took up a major abortion case focusing on whether a Texas law that imposes strict regulations on abortion doctors and clinic buildings interferes with the constitutional right of a woman to end her pregnancy in Washington March 2, 2016.

(REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque)

Anti-Trump demonstrator protests at abortion rights rally in Chicago, Illinois, January 15, 2017.

(REUTERS/Kamil Krzaczynski)

Pro-choice activists celebrate on the steps of the United States Supreme Court on June 27, 2016 in Washington, DC. In a 5-3 decision, the U.S. Supreme Court struck down one of the nation’s toughest restrictions on abortion, a Texas law that women’s groups said would have forced more than three-quarters of the state’s clinics to close.

(Photo by Pete Marovich/Getty Images)

Pro-life activists gather outside the Supreme Court for the National March for Life rally in Washington, DC, U.S. January 27, 2017.

(REUTERS/Aaron P. Bernstein)

Pro-life activists gather for the National March for Life rally in Washington January 27, 2017.

(REUTERS/Aaron P. Bernstein)

Pro-Choice supporters of Planned Parenthood rally outside a Planned Parenthood clinic in Detroit, Michigan, U.S. February 11, 2017.

(REUTERS/Rebecca Cook)

A man holds up a rosary in front of competing demonstrators displaying pro-life and pro-choice signs as the annual March for Life concludes at the U.S. Supreme Court in Washington, DC, U.S. January 27, 2017.

(REUTERS/James Lawler Duggan)

Siberian Husky Tasha wears a “Huskies for Choice” sign while held by her pro-abortion owner Michelle Kinsey Bruns in front of the Supreme Court during the National March for Life rally in Washington January 22, 2016. The rally marks the 43rd anniversary of the U.S. Supreme Court’s 1973 abortion ruling in Roe v. Wade.

(REUTERS/Gary Cameron)

A man stands during an anti-Planned Parenthood vigil outside the Planned Parenthood – Margaret Sanger Health Center in Manhattan, New York, U.S., February 11, 2017.

(REUTERS/Andrew Kelly)

Karen Lieber joined anti-abortion activists protesting in front of Planned Parenthood, Far Northeast Surgical Center in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, U.S., February 11, 2017.

(REUTERS/Charles Mostoller)

Anti-abortion supporters Marian Rumley, Taylor Miller and Sophie Caticchio from Minnesota listen to speeches at the National March for Life rally in Washington January 22, 2016. The rally marks the 43rd anniversary of the U.S. Supreme Court’s 1973 abortion ruling in Roe v. Wade.

(REUTERS/Gary Cameron)

The Franciscan Friars Minor gather between The Supreme Court of the United States and The Capitol Building during the 44th annual March for Life January 27, 2017 in Washington, DC. Anti-abortion advocates descended on the US capital on Friday for an annual march expected to draw the largest crowd in years, with the White House spotlighting the cause and throwing its weight behind the campaign.

(ZACH GIBSON/AFP/Getty Images)

Pro-choice and pro-life activists demonstrate on the steps of the United States Supreme Court on June 27, 2016 in Washington, DC. In a 5-3 decision, the U.S. Supreme Court struck down one of the nation’s toughest restrictions on abortion, a Texas law that women’s groups said would have forced more than three-quarters of the state’s clinics to close.

(Photo by Pete Marovich/Getty Images)

Pro-life activists pray on the steps of the United States Supreme Court on June 27, 2016 in Washington, DC. In a 5-3 decision, the U.S. Supreme Court struck down one of the nation’s toughest restrictions on abortion, a Texas law that women’s groups said would have forced more than three-quarters of the state’s clinics to close.

(Photo by Pete Marovich/Getty Images)

Pro-choice demonstrators at the U.S. Supreme Court cheer as they learn the court struck down the Texas abortion law on Monday, June 27, 2016.

(Photo By Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

View of demonstrators in front of the United Nations as they protest against a proposed abortion ban in Poland, New York, New York, April 17, 2016.

(Photo by Chuck Fishman/Getty Images)

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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.

“Our bill says that baby in the womb is a person,” Republican Rep. Terri Collins, the bill’s sponsor, said Monday.

There would be no punishment for the woman receiving the abortion, only for the abortion provider.

The text of the bill likens abortion to history’s greatest atrocities, including the Holocaust.

Democrats, who hold a mere eight seats in the 35-member Senate, criticized the proposed abortion ban as a mixture of political grandstanding, an attempt to control women and a waste of taxpayer dollars.

“You don’t have to provide for that child. You don’t have to do anything for that child, yet you want to make that decision for that woman,” Democratic Sen. Vivian Davis Figures said. “It should be that woman’s choice.”

The debate became emotional at times as Singleton pointed out and named rape victims watching the debate from the Senate viewing gallery.

Singleton said doctors who perform abortions could serve more prison time, under the proposed ban, than the women’s rapists.

“This is nothing but a political game and women are the pawns,” Staci Fox, CEO and President of Planned Parenthood Southeast. “Let’s be honest, banning abortion does not stop abortion. It stops safe and legal abortion.”

A crowd of about 50 people held a rally outside the Alabama Statehouse, chanting, “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 signed into law by Ivey, the bill 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 to challenge the ban.

Ivey has not publicly said whether she will sign the bill if it’s approved by lawmakers.

“The governor intends to withhold comment until it makes its way to her desk for signature,” deputy press secretary Lori Jhons wrote in an email prior to Tuesday night’s vote.

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