Planned Parenthood readies challenge to near-total abortion ban in Alabama
MONTGOMERY, Ala. — Less than 18 hours after the Alabama Senate gave final legislative approval to a bill that would create one of the most restrictive abortion laws in the country, Planned Parenthood said it was preparing to challenge the legislation in court.
“We will do whatever it takes to stop these dangerous bans so our patients can continue to access the care they need,” said Dr. Leana Wen, president of the Planned Parenthood, said on a conference call on Wednesday.
Planned Parenthood operates clinics in Birmingham and Mobile, which are currently closed for renovations.
The state’s Senate on Tuesday voted 25 to 6 to approve a bill that would make performing an abortion a Class A felony, punishable by life or 10 to 99 years in prison. Attempting to perform an abortion would be a Class C felony, punishable by 1 to 10 years in prison.
The bill, sponsored by Rep. Terri Collins, R-Decatur, would ban the procedure in all cases except when a woman’s life is in danger; when she has a mental illness that could result in her death or the death of her child or when the fetus has a lethal anomaly that could result in stillbirth or death shortly after birth.
There are no exceptions for rape or incest.
The bill still needs a decision from Gov. Kay Ivey, who has been quiet on her intentions. Lori Jhons, a spokeswoman for Ivey, wrote in an email Wednesday morning that their office was still awaiting transmittal of the bill.
“The governor will thoroughly conduct a review before providing any additional comment,” she wrote.
Alabama makes women wait for abortions
Alabama currently requires women seeking an abortion to go through mandated counseling and a 48-hour waiting period.
The bill is part of a broader push by anti-abortion activists to restrict the procedure nationwide. Kentucky, Georgia, Mississippi, and Ohio have all passed laws this year banning abortion at the detection of a fetal heartbeat, which can occur before many women know they are pregnant.
Supporters of Alabama’s bill say it aims to create a challenge to Roe v. Wade, the 1973 U.S. Supreme Court ruling that struck down state bans on abortion in the first trimester of pregnancy.
Both the Alabama House and Senate rejected attempts to amend the bill to allow abortion in cases of rape or incest. Collins argued that those provisions would weaken the legal arguments of the bill on the personhood of the fetus, though she said she would support them in an abortion bill brought to the Alabama Legislature if Roe v. Wade was struck down.
In a statement, Catherine Glenn Foster, the president of Americans United for Life, a Washington DC-based anti-abortion group, wrote that “the violence of abortion is never the answer to the violence of rape.”
“Alabama has renewed the essential conversation about the meaning of justice and morality, one that starts with recognizing what abortion is: The extinguishing of a unique human life,” the statement said.
Abortion rights groups condemned the bill as unconstitutional and an invasion of women’s privacy.
“It’s time to listen to women, not punish us for trying to make critical decisions about our own families and our own lives,” Ilyse Hogue, President of NARAL Pro-Choice America, an abortion rights group, wrote in a statement.
Rep. Terri Collins reacts to the passage on HB314, the near-total ban on abortion bill, in Montgomery, Ala., on Tuesday May 14, 2019. (Photo: Mickey Welsh / Advertiser)
Planned Parenthood calls the bill ‘illegal’
Planned Parenthood’s Wen called the bill “illegal, unethical, and the cost will be women’s lives” on Wednesday’s conference call.
“We have to be clear about what’s happening here,” she said. “These anti-women’s health politicians are passing extreme bills at an unprecedented rate with one goal in mind: to ban all safe, legal abortions.”
If signed, the near-total ban would not take effect for six months. Planned Parenthood representatives did not specify a timeframe for a lawsuit on the conference call but said they would use the time to prepare a challenge.
“These bans are blatantly unconstitutional and we will use every tool at our disposal to challenge them,” said Carrie Flaxman, deputy director of public policy litigation and law at Planned Parenthood Federation of America. “We will see how that plays out in the courts.”
Staci Fox, the president and CEO of Planned Parenthood Southeast, which covers Alabama, Georgia, and Mississippi, said on the Wednesday conference call that Planned Parenthood had seen an influx of calls after Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp signed that state’s fetal heartbeat bill last week.
“The thing I am so worried about are the people who aren’t calling,” she said.
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