Alabama this week outlawed abortion after signing into law the most restrictive abortion bill in the the country.
The new law, which would become enforceable in six months, imposes a near blanket ban on abortions, and carries stiff penalties for those caught violating it.
The law also offers no exception for rape or incest victims because, as Republican lawmaker Clyde Chambliss said: “When God creates the miracle of life inside a woman’s womb, it is not our place as human beings to extinguish that life.”
But what does the new law really mean, who are the people behind it and what do people have to say about it?
What will happen in Alabama?
Women will be banned from having an abortion at any stage of pregnancy, from the moment of conception.
Under the law, abortion would only be legal if the woman’s life is at “serious” risk.
But lawmakers rejected a proposal to add exceptions for cases of rape and incest, meaning that a woman or child who is raped or abused and becomes pregnant will be made to carry and give birth to her rapist’s baby.
Women who have abortions will not be prosecuted under the measure, but doctors could be charged with a felony and face up to 99 years in prison for performing the procedure.
What have other US states done?
In recent months a wave of “heartbeat” bills, which ban abortion once a foetal heartbeat can be detected, has been sweeping the country.
The bills ban the procedure as early as six weeks into pregnant, before many people know they are pregnant.
The first one passed in North Dakota in 2013, but they began gathering steam last year, with Iowa passing its version in May.
This year, Kentucky, Ohio and Georgia have all passed heartbeat bills.
Some of the bills have exceptions for cases of rape and incest, others do not.
In Georgia, the law recognises the foetus as a “natural person” which deserves “full legal recognition”, meaning that anyone who harms them could be punished as they would for any other crime against a person.
It has led to worries that women could be investigated or prosecuted for seeking an abortion or even having a miscarriage, the symptoms of which are the same as an induced abortion.
Yesterday, the Missouri state Senate passed a bill banning abortion at eight weeks’ gestation, also with no exceptions for rape or incest.
Under the bill, which now goes back to the state House, abortion would only be legal in cases of medical emergency.
However, none of these laws are in effect year as all have either been challenged in court or will be challenged soon.
Who voted for the Alabama ban?
Every single State senator who voted to ban abortion in Alabama was a Republican man.
The bill was passed by 25 votes to six, with three senators not voting or not present, and one abstaining.
The six no votes were all Democrats, while only two Republicans who didn’t vote for the ban were either not present or didn’t vote.
Among the Republicans who voted yes was senator Clyde Chambliss, one of the bill’s chief sponsors.
Chambliss provoked ridicule when, during a debate on the bill, he said that women could end her pregnancy as long as she did not know she was pregnant.
The National Abortion Federation tweeted: “How can someone know they need to make an appointment if they don’t know they’re pregnant?
“This bill is absurd.”
Later, when replying to a senator who told him he doesn’t know what a woman goes through when she’s pregnant, Senator Chambliss said: “Senator, I don’t know if I’m smart enough to be pregnant, so I appreciate the wisdom of our heavenly father.”
What has been the reaction?
Alabama Democratic state Senator Bobby Singleton said the bill “criminalises doctors” and was an attempt by men “to tell women what to do with their bodies”.
Kamala Harris was one of several Democratic presidential hopefuls to react to the ban, tweeting: “It’s a direct effort to criminalize women for their health care decisions. This is unacceptable.”
And the National Organization for Women called the ban “unconstitutional” and said it was “a transparent effort to drum up political support for anti-abortion candidates in upcoming elections”.
Meanwhile, movement to boycott Alabama has gathered pace since the abortion ban was signed into law on Tuesday.
Yesterday officials in several other US states called for economic retaliation and online flyers urged people not to buy anything in or from Alabama.
Peter Franchot, Maryland’s Democratic financial officer, said he would advise his state’s $52billion pension fund not to invest in Alabama, and urged other states to follow suit.
“The radical anti-abortion bill signed into law yesterday by the Governor of Alabama is a malicious assault on the rights and protections of women,” he said.
“I can work to ensure that Maryland’s taxpayer dollars are not used to subsidise extremism.”
And Jena Griswold, Colorado’s Democratic secretary of state called for a boycott of Alabama.
Meanwhile the hashtags #BoycottAlabama gained momentum online, with activist calling for boycotts of products ranging from Mercedes-Benz cars to broiler chickens that are produced in the state.
What do women think?
Women have been sharing stories of how they terminated their pregnancies following Alabama’s abortion vote, using the hashtag #youknowme.
One woman described her abortion experience at the age of 22: “Very scared, unstable relationship, grieving my moms death the year before.
“Prayed on my knees the morning of. Cried and cried and cried. Noregrets #YouKnowMe.”
Another wrote: “I was sixteen. I had been raped by a school volunteer.
“The fetus had caused internal bleeding and I was fifteen minutes from dying.
“I was a Sophomore in high school…dying because of the choice of one man. It was either me or the fetus that was going to die anyway.
The BBC also asked women in Alabama for their views about the ban. Here are some:
“Let a woman chose what she’s going to do with her body. It’s not his body, it’s her body.”
“It goes back to the concept of bodily autonomy. I as a human being have a right to exist and a right to live.
“A group of cells doesn’t have the same rights as a human being.”
“I struggle. I do believe that life starts at conception but I’m hurt for women who have to make that decision.
“I don’t agree with abortion, but there are situations where you might want to consider.
“What if a nine-year-old gets pregnant and can’t take away with her baby.
“That is one situation where I think they should have a right to decide what they want to do.”
Meanwhile, famous American women have also been giving their opinions on the ban.
Lady Gaga wrote on Twitter : “It is an outrage to ban abortion in Alabama period, and all the more heinous that it excludes those have been raped or are experiencing incest non-consensual or not.
“So there’s a higher penalty for doctors who perform these operations than for most rapists?
“This is a travesty and I pray for all these women and young girls who will suffer at the hands of this system.”
Glee star Jane Lynch said: “The goal isn’t to save every fertilised egg.
“The goal is to control women. I used to think there was a chance they actually believed the “life begins at the moment of conception” line – the more fool I.”
Comedian Chelsea Handler tweeted: “Of those 25 men who voted to ban abortion in Alabama, I’d like to know how many of them have ever been pregnant.
“Or have gotten pregnant as a result of rape. I’d like to know how many of those men know exactly what it is like to be a woman. The answer is zero.”
And Barbara Streisand wrote: “The retrograde Alabama criminalizes abortion even in the case of rape and incest. Voted for overwhelmingly by GOP men. Handmaid’s Tale from the GOP.
What happens now?
The bill will not take effect for another six months, during which abortion services will still be available in Alabama.
Supports of abortion rights have promised to challenge the measure in court, a legal battle which could stop the restrictions entirely, or at least substantially delay them.
Staci Fox, the president of Planned Parenthood Southeast Adovocates, said: “Banning abortion is bad enough. Imprisoning doctors for providing care goes beyond the brink.
“Alabama politicians will forever live in infamy for this vote and we will make sure that every woman knows who to hold accountable.
“In the coming days, we will be mounting the fight or our lives – we will take this to court to ensure abortion remains safe and legal.”
On Wednesday Governor Ivey acknowledged that “at least for the short term” Alabama’s law might be “unenforceable” and could take years for any court challenges to be resolved.
Top news stories from Mirror Online
- EDITORIAL: Extreme abortion laws become the new normal
- The Alabama Abortion Law Is Not Going to Overturn Roe
- Readers on abortion laws, trade deals, socialism
- A Man Is Suing an Abortion Clinic on Behalf of a Fetus
- Alabama Lawmakers Try To Ban Almost All Abortions In The State
- Abortion law: Jameela Jamil, Milla Jovovich detail past
- McCarthy: Alabama abortion law 'goes further than I believe'
- Capital Beat: Here’s where New Hampshire stands on abortion laws
- Alabama abortion law too extreme, Utah Sen. Mitt Romney says