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Alabama Senate passes United States' toughest abortion bill

Saul Loeb, AFP | In this file photo taken on January 18, 2019, anti-abortion activists participate in the "March for Life," an annual event to mark the anniversary of the 1973 Supreme Court case Roe v. Wade.

The Alabama senate passed the most restrictive abortion bill in the United States on Tuesday that bans any termination of pregnancy and could punish doctors who perform the procedure with life in prison.

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

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

Unlike measures in other states, Alabama would punish only the abortion provider, not the woman receiving the abortion.

Under the bill, performing an abortion is considered a crime that could land doctors who perform it in prison for 10 to 99 years. Abortions would only be legal if the life of the mother is in danger or the fetus has a fatal condition.

Bill sponsor Rep. Terri Collins said she expects Gov. Kay Ivey to sign the ban into law. Ivey has not publicly commented on what she’ll do.

The largest human rights defense organization in the United States, the ACLU, promised to file a lawsuit to block its implementation, saying the vote showed “how little they (conservative lawmakers) regard bodily autonomy.”

'Bill punishes rape victims'

“This bill punishes victims of rape and incest by further taking away control over their own bodies and forcing them to give birth,” it added.

Alabama Lieutenant Governor Will Ainsworth, who also presides over the state senate, greeted the bill’s passage as a “strong step toward defending the rights of the unborn.”

“With liberal states approving radical late-term and post-birth abortions, Roe must be challenged, and I am proud that Alabama is leading the way,” he added.

The bill’s backers have expressly said they want to bring the case to the Supreme Court.

Now that the court has a conservative majority in the wake of President Donald Trump’s election, some Republicans want to overturn the landmark 1973 Roe v Wade ruling that recognized women’s right to abortion.

“You just raped the state of Alabama yourself,” state senate Democratic leader Bobby Singleton said after senators eliminated an amendment seeking exceptions to the abortion ban.

“You’re saying to my daughter you don’t matter in the state of Alabama... It’s ok for men to rape you and you’re gonna have his baby if you get pregnant,” he added, his voice sometimes breaking with emotion.

Several conservative states are weighing harsh anti-abortion laws, intending some of them to be challenged and reach the Supreme Court.

States with liberal majorities, however, are seeking safeguards to the right to abortion in their own constitutions.

This year alone, 28 of the 50 US states have introduced more than 300 new rules to limit abortion, according to a report by the Guttmacher Institute, which defends women’s rights.

(FRANCE 24 with AFP)

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