After Georgian heartbeat law, national abortion debate moves to Alabama

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Conservative governors and lawmakers are using highly restrictive new abortion laws to restore abortion in what they believe to be the friendliest U.S. Supreme Court in decades.

Sixteen states have adopted or are working to ban abortion after a doctor detects what they call “a fetal heartbeat in the womb”, usually around six weeks, before many women know it. ‘they are pregnant. This includes Georgia, where Republican Gov. Brian Kemp signed a “heartbeat bill” on Tuesday.

Separately, the Alabama Senate is set to vote this week on legislation that could become the country’s toughest abortion law, making abortion a felony.

Comprehensive coverage of the abortion debate in Alabama

In contrast, lawmakers in a growing number of states are rushing to amend state constitutions to provide a safety net for the possible overturning of Roe v. Wade, the 1973 Supreme Court ruling that legalized abortion.

Vermont passed a bill on Tuesday that would enshrine the right to abortion in the state constitution, with similar legislation in the works in 12 other states, including New Mexico, Nevada and Rhode Island.

With the end of the state’s legislative season in sight, politicians on both sides of the political spectrum are bracing for the issue to be taken to the Supreme Court.

Tom McClusky, chairman of the March for Life Education and Defense Fund, which opposes abortion, said the bills banning abortion after six weeks “lay the groundwork for pushing the envelope even further. life ”and that the anti-abortion movement turn to the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court. John Roberts Jr. and Judge Brett Kavanaugh to resolve the debate that has divided America for decades.

“What we would like to do is change the culture so that no family facing this situation thinks about the option of abortion,” he said.

The American Civil Liberties Union and other critics, including medical lobbies, have called for a ban on abortions after six weeks – which have been overturned by at least two courts – draconian, unscientific and part of a a deliberate strategy to pass increasingly sweeping laws in the hope of getting the issue before the US Supreme Court. They vowed to take legal action against the legislation – and also vowed electoral clawback.

Leana Wen, president of the Planned Parenthood Action Fund, said in an interview that Georgia’s legislation is part of a larger landscape of nearly 300 anti-abortion bills introduced so far this year in 36 states. Many of them contain far-reaching provisions, such as one in Georgia that would allow authorities to investigate women who miscarry and one in Texas that would allow the death penalty for those who undergo or perform an abortion.

“These are extremely dangerous times for the health of women across the country,” Wen said.

Georgia, which previously banned abortion after 20 weeks of pregnancy, is the fourth state to enact a six-week ban in 2019. Similar “heartbeat” bills are in the works in 10 other states – Missouri , Tennessee, Florida, Illinois, Louisiana, Maryland, Minnesota, New York, South Carolina and West Virginia – according to the Guttmacher Institute. A federal judge has already blocked Kentucky law. Other courts have struck down similar laws recently enacted in Iowa and North Dakota.

Signing the bill in Georgia on Tuesday, Kemp said he was keeping his promise to enact “the country’s toughest abortion bill.”

“Georgia is a state that values ​​life,” Kemp said before signing the Life Act. “We stand up for those who are unable to speak for themselves.”

Doctors who oppose the legislation say what appears to be a heartbeat at six weeks is simply a vibration of developing tissue that couldn’t exist without the mother. This vibration is a medical term called “embryonic heart activity”.

The Georgia bill grabbed national headlines after actress and women’s rights activist Alyssa Milano hand-delivered a letter to Kemp’s office last month in protest. The letter was signed by 50 celebrities who have vowed to boycott the state, which has a growing television industry, if the bill is enacted.

Like some other versions, Georgian law provides exceptions for incest, rape, and situations of medical futility or where the mother’s health is at stake. But unlike others, Georgia’s asserts that a fetus is a “person”. natural “and a” human being “once a heartbeat is detected.

The ban passed by the Alabama House last week intentionally excludes exceptions for victims of rape or incest to improve their chances of accessing the Supreme Court, the state representative said. Alabama, Terri Collins, R.

However, the Alabama Senate Judiciary Committee on Wednesday passed an amendment allowing abortions for pregnancy caused by rape or incest. The amendment, by Senator Tom Whatley, R-Auburn, was carried on a voice vote.

The entire Senate will consider the amendment again when the bill reaches the Senate floor on Thursday.

The law also criminalizes abortion, and doctors would face a prison sentence of up to 99 years if found guilty.

Alabama state senators are expected to debate the legislation next week, and while some have expressed concern about the “no exceptions” clause, they understand that is Collins’ strategy. Republicans control the Alabama Senate, holding 27 of 35 seats, and Gov. Kay Ivey is expected to support the bill, though spokeswoman Lori Jhons said the governor was abstaining from comment as the bill was progressing in the Senate.

Opposition to the bill was fierce, and Democratic lawmakers protested ahead of the final vote. During the debate, they questioned the motive for an abortion ban in a state that has refused to expand Medicaid.

“I support life, but there are people who just support birth; they don’t support life, ”said Democratic State Representative Merika Coleman of Birmingham. “Because after the birth of a child, certain things have to happen. We have to make sure that this child has adequate health care.

Last month, the Kansas Supreme Court ruled that the state’s constitution fundamentally protects abortion rights, blocking a state law that sought to restrict a common procedure.

At least nine states besides Kansas have constitutions that specifically protect a woman’s right to abortion, according to State High Court decisions: Alaska, California, Florida, Iowa, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Montana, New Jersey and New Mexico. Other states, including Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Maine, Maryland, Nevada, New York, Oregon, and Washington have legal protection for abortion rights, according to the Center for Reproductive Rights.

In January, New York lawmakers passed legislation removing barriers for women seeking abortions later in pregnancy, and Virginia decided to do the same, sparking outrage from conservatives.


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