Alabama Abortion Bill Passes Both Houses, Sets Up Challenge to Roe v. Wade

On Tuesday night, Alabama's State Senate passed an extremely strong bill restricting abortion and applying harsh penalties to abortionists who kill unborn babies. The Human Life Protection Act, H.B. 314, will go to the desk of Gov. Kay Ivey (R-Ala.). If signed, it will set up a direct legal challenge to Roe v. Wade (1970), the Supreme Court decision striking down state restrictions on the practice of killing unborn babies in their mothers' wombs.

Liberal media outlets like The New York Times have reported what the bill does: It makes abortion illegal in all cases except: where there is a serious health risk to the life of the mother; an ectopic pregnancy; or if the unborn child has a lethal anomaly. The lack of provisions allowing for abortion in cases of rape and incest is particularly noteworthy. The bill also makes it a felony for an abortionist to kill an unborn baby outside these parameters, and an abortionist may face up to 99 years in prison for the crime. The mother who undergoes abortion may not be charged.

Most media outlets did not delve into the legal defenses for the bill, nor the way in which it threatens Roe v. Wade. Pro-life Americans will likely appreciate the legal arguments defending the life and dignity of unborn babies.

"This state's statute criminalizing abortion ... has never been repealed. It has remained unenforceable as a result of the U.S. Supreme Court decision in Roe v. Wade ... and its progeny, which struck down as unconstitutional a Texas statute criminalizing abortion and which effectively repealed by implication and made unenforceable all other state statutes criminalizing abortion," the bill begins. It goes on to present legal and medical reasons why Alabama should be allowed to protect human life in the womb.

On November 6, 2018, Alabama approved a constitutional amendment affirming the public policy of the state to recognize and support the sanctity of unborn life and the rights of unborn children. The amendment made it clear that the Constitution of Alabama does not include a right to abortion or require public funding for the practice. Current state law defines a person for homicide purposes to include an unborn child at any stage of development, regardless of viability.

The law cites the Declaration of Independence, which presents the natural law claim that "all men are created equal." The bill argues, "the self-evident truth found in natural law, that all human beings are equal from creation, was at least one of the bases for the anti-slavery movement, the women's suffrage movement, the Nuremberg war crimes trials, and the American civil rights movement. If those movements had not been able to appeal to the truth of universal human equality, they could not have been successful."

The bill faults abortion advocates for speaking "to women's rights" but ignoring "the unborn child, while medical science has increasingly recognized the humanity of the unborn child."

"Recent medical advances prove a baby's heart starts to beat around six weeks. At about eight weeks, the heartbeat can be heard through an ultrasound examination," the bill explains. "Ultrasound imaging shows the developing child in utero. As early as six weeks after fertilization, fetal photography shows the clear development of a human being."

Then the bill compares the death tolls of horrific evils throughout history and the death toll of abortion. "It is estimated that 6,000,000 Jewish people were murdered in German concentration camps during World War II; 3,000,000 people were executed by Joseph Stalin's regime in Soviet gulags; 2,500,000 people were murdered during the Chinese 'Great Leap Forward' in 1958; 1,500,000 to 3,000,000 people were murdered by the Khmer Rouge in Cambodia during the 1970s; and approximately 1,000,000 people were murdered during the Rwandan genocide in 1994. All of these are widely acknowledged to have been crimes against humanity."

"By comparison, more than 50 million babies have been aborted in the United States since the Roe decision in 1973, more than three times the number who were killed in German death camps, Chinese purges, Stalin's gulags, Cambodian killing fields, and the Rwandan genocide combined," the bill declares.

"The cases of Roe v. Wade and its progeny have engendered much civil litigation and legislative attempts to rein in so-called abortion rights. Roe v. Wade attempted to define when abortion of an unborn child would be legal. Judges and legal scholars have disagreed and dissented with its finding," the bill concludes.

While the restrictions in the bill are notable, this legal and philosophical argument is the true heart of the legislation. Alabama's legislature is directly aiming for the Supreme Court on this bill, and these arguments about human life are arguably far more important than the specific limitations on abortion.

Indeed, the science of fetal development has progressed by leaps and bounds since Roe v. Wade. The age of viability outside the womb has gone down considerably, and successful surgeries to save the lives of unborn babies have been carried out in utero.

The Alabama law is intended to shock the conscience, to challenge Roe v. Wade, and to educate Americans on just how heinous the killing of defenseless babies in the womb truly is.

Naturally, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) expressed her outrage over the bill, tweeting a New York Times article with an image of protesters in the garb of handmaids from The Handmaid's Tale.

"I think we raped women last night," Democrat Alabama state Sen. Bobby Singleton told CNN Wednesday. "We made women of Alabama the model of the new Roe vs. Wade. I think this is a horrible bill."

Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), a 2020 presidential candidate, has spoken out firmly against the bill, saying she will fight to make sure "women have a voice" in government. Yet the sponsor of the bill is a woman, and if Kay Ivey signs it, the bill will be signed by a woman.

The key issue isn't women's rights, but the rights of an unborn baby.

"The passage of this pro-life law is a landmark victory for the people of Alabama who, like most Americans, overwhelmingly reject the extreme status quo of abortion on demand imposed nationwide by Roe v. Wade," Marjorie Dannenfelser, president of the Susan B. Anthony List, said in a statement. "Across the nation there is growing momentum, informed by science and compassion, and spurred on in reaction to abortion extremism in New York and Virginia, to recognize the humanity of the unborn child in the law."

"It is clearer than ever that Roe is far from being settled law in the eyes and hearts of the American people, and this is increasingly reflected in state legislatures. The American people want a fresh debate and a new direction, achieved by consensus and built on love for both mothers and babies.  The time is coming for the Supreme Court to let that debate go forward," Dannenfelser concluded.

Democrats will fight tooth and nail against this bill, demonizing it as "turning back the clock" and threatening women. In reality, the bill is designed to challenge Roe v. Wade, and it presents very strong arguments in favor of states being allowed to restrict the heinous practice of abortion.

Follow Tyler O'Neil, the author of this article, on Twitter at @Tyler2ONeil.