MONTGOMERY, Ala. — Alabama's abortion ban that took effect this summer allows no exemptions for pregnancies resulting from rape and incest. Democrats in the Alabama Legislature are seeking to change that but face impossible odds without some Republican support.
Sen. Vivian Davis Figures, D-Mobile, filed legislation Tuesday to allow exemptions for rape and incest. Similar legislation is planned in the Alabama House of Representatives to repeal the ban or add exemptions. But Republicans hold lopsided majorities in both chambers, meaning the bills are doomed without garnering some GOP support.
Figures told The Associated Press in a statement that a victim of rape and incest would again be traumatized “if she does not have a choice and she is forced to have a child that was fathered by a rapist or a family member via an incestuous act.”
“Politicians have no business playing doctor or forcing a child to give birth by her rapist,” said
Democratic Rep. Mary Moore of Birmingham agreed. “Politicians have no business playing doctor or forcing a child to give birth by her rapist,” she said.
Alabama lawmakers in 2019 approved a n ear-total abortion ban, but it did not take effect until this summer when the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe. v. Wade, the decision that had guaranteed the nationwide right to an abortion. A federal judge soon after lifted the injunction that had blocked the Alabama ban.
Some Republican lawmakers in 2019 described the strict ban as a legal strategy to challenge Roe as lawmakers in conservative states hoped to get the issue before a more conservative Supreme Court. Republican Rep. Terri Collins, the sponsor of the 2019 ban, said at the time that lawmakers could come back and write a new bill, and debate exemptions, if Roe was overturned.
Collins told The Associated Press earlier this year that she wanted to have conversations with fellow Republicans to gauge if members want to keep the law as is or make changes. On Wednesday, Collins said that she was focused on her education bills at the moment.
“I think it’s an issue that our members will bring forth on what they want to do,” House Speaker Nathaniel Ledbetter said Wednesday when asked about possible revisions to the abortion ban.
Ledbetter noted that a majority of Alabama voters in 2018 voted to put anti-abortion language in the Alabama Constitution. The constitutional amendment saying Alabama recognizes “the rights of the unborn child" was approved by 59% of voters.
“I feel good about where we’re at. We’re for life,” Ledbetter said, adding that lawmakers are working on bills to make adoption easier.
Eric Johnston, an abortion opponent who helped write the 2019 ban, has argued that the constitutional amendment would prevent lawmakers from adding exceptions.
Democrats argue that Republicans went too far with the ban.
“It is time they understood that they made a crucial mistake. Women want access to safe abortions near them. ... It should be their decision made with their doctor,” Figures wrote in a statement.