Alabama advances 6-week abortion ban

Pro-choice activists hold signs in front of the U.S. Supreme Court January 22, 2014 on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C.
Pro-choice activists hold signs in front of the U.S. Supreme Court January 22, 2014 on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C.
Efforts to restrict reproductive rights are ongoing in several states, but no state is being quite as ambitious as Alabama. Yesterday, the Republican-led state House approved four bills on abortion, including one that would prohibit women from terminating an unwanted pregnancy just six weeks after conception.

The bill would make exceptions if the pregnancy endangers the woman's life or if a fetus would be stillborn or die shortly after birth but does not make an exception for rape or incest. An unborn fetus is "a life regardless of the painful, painful circumstances," McClurkin said. Physicians would be required to check for a fetal heartbeat. Doctors who perform an abortion without documenting the heartbeat could be charged with a Class C felony, which carries a penalty of up to 10 years in prison.

In case it's not obvious, women sometimes don't know they're pregnant until after six weeks. In practical terms, then, Alabama state law would expect women to seek an abortion before they might know they want one.
The restrictions still have to be approved by Alabama's Republican-led state Senate and Republican governor, but proponents of the bills are optimistic.
Of course, the likelihood of such proposals surviving a court challenge is poor, though state policymakers appear intent on going forward anyway.
What's more, let's not overlook the other three bills that passed the Alabama House yesterday, which for reproductive-rights advocates, are no less offensive.
My colleague Kate Osborn flagged this Reuters piece that helped summarize the other measures, one of which would lengthen the current waiting period to 48 hours. Another would make it harder for pregnant minors seeking an abortion, empowering parents -- including abusive parents -- to intervene in cases in which young women are seeking permission from a judge.
And then there's the fourth bill.

The [Alabama] House also passed a bill that calls for at least a 48-hour wait for a woman who learns her fetus has a lethal condition and will not survive outside of the womb. Under the proposal, she would be required to learn about perinatal hospice options. She would have to sign a waiver testifying that she opted for the abortion over hospice care.

The cruelty is quite shocking. A woman can learn she's carrying a fetus with a lethal medical condition that would make life impossible, and under this proposal, she'd not only have to be told about perinatal hospice, she'd have to sign paperwork acknowledging her decision.
As one might imagine, the debate among Alabama lawmakers was at times quite unpleasant yesterday. Amanda Marcotte had a good report on the floor fight.