Legislative Lowlights: Alabama GOP to Make Abortion a Criminal Act (Updated)
In Louisiana, Democrats continued to join Republicans to push through anti-choice laws.
UPDATE, May 15, 6:48 p.m.: Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey (R) signed the bill criminalizing abortion care into law.
UPDATE, May 15, 8:51 a.m.: The Republican-dominated Alabama Senate on Tuesday passed legislation that criminalizes abortion care.
Rewire.News tracks anti-choice and anti-LGBTQ legislation as it works its way through state legislatures. Here’s an overview of the bills we’re watching.
Tennessee became the seventh state to add a “trigger law” on the books that would criminalize abortion if Roe v. Wade falls; lawmakers in Louisiana advanced a handful of anti-choice measures; and an “abortion reversal” measure is making its way through the Nebraska legislature.
The state senate judiciary committee last Wednesday advanced HB 314, which would make abortion and attempted abortion felony offenses. Except in cases in which abortion is necessary to prevent a serious health risk to the pregnant person, the “Human Life Protection Act” would make abortion a Class A felony—punishable by up to 99 years in prison. An attempted abortion would be a Class C felony, punishable by one to ten years in prison. The measure—which passed the state house last month—was amended by the committee to include an exception for pregnancies that are the result of rape or incest. GOP legislators stripped the exception from the bill on Thursday, causing the debate to be postponed after a shouting match broke out among lawmakers.
The measure—which supporters admit is designed to challenge Roe v. Wade—is scheduled for debate and a possible final vote on Tuesday.
The state house last week passed two measures targeting abortion providers. Lawmakers approved HB 133, which would revise the definition of “abortion” in the state’s Outpatient Abortion Facility Licensing Law to make it applicable to medication abortion as well as surgical procedures. More than two dozen Democratic lawmakers joined Republicans last Monday to pass the measure in a 91-1 vote. State Rep. Neil Abramson (D-New Orleans) was the sole “no” vote. And in a 90-2 vote, state house members last Tuesday passed HB 484, which would establish additional requirements for physicians, administrators, and owners of abortion facilities regarding their patient’s medical records. State Reps. John Bagneris (D-New Orleans) and C. Denise Marcelle (D-Baton Rouge) were the only “no” votes.
Both measures are now pending in the state senate health and welfare committee.
The state senate judiciary committee last week advanced HB 425, which asks Louisiana voters to approve a constitutional amendment that says nothing in the state constitution secures the right to abortion or requires its funding. The proposal is similar to an amendment approved by voters last year in West Virginia. Similar ballot measure proposals are being considered in Iowa and Oklahoma. The committee attached an amendment stating that Louisiana citizens “retain the right through their elected state representatives and state senators to enact, amend, or repeal statutes regarding abortion, including, but not limited to circumstances of pregnancy resulting from rape or incest, or termination of pregnancy to save the life of the mother.”
The measure—which passed the state house last month—is scheduled for final passage in the state senate on Tuesday.
In a 22-16 vote on Tuesday, Republicans in the state senate passed measures that would prohibit the safest, most common method of second-trimester abortion. Senate Bills 229 and 230 would make performing a “dismemberment abortion”—a non-medical term used to describe dilation and evacuation (D and E) procedures—into a felony unless it’s necessary to save the life of the pregnant person. Mississippi and West Virginia prohibit the procedure, but similar bans have been blocked or temporarily enjoined by courts in eight states. Similar bans were signed into law this year in Indiana and North Dakota. The measure in North Dakota won’t take effect unless a federal court declares the ban constitutional, and the ban in Indiana is scheduled to take effect in July—though a legal challenge has already been launched.
The GOP-led state house is expected to vote on identical measures—HB 4320 and HB 4321—Tuesday afternoon.
Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer has vowed to veto any anti-abortion legislation that reaches her desk.
Democratic Gov. Steve Bullock vetoed two anti-abortion measures last week: a law that would have banned abortion at 20 weeks, and a measure that would have made it a felony to deny “medically appropriate and reasonable medical care” to infants “born after” a failed abortion.
Bullock—who announced a run for the presidency this week—vetoed another measure earlier this month that would have required abortion providers to inform patients of the opportunity to view ultrasound images of the fetus and listen to the fetal heart tone.
In a 37-9 vote last Tuesday, lawmakers in the Nebraska Unicameral overcame a filibuster to advance LB 209, which would require abortion providers to inform their patients that it may be possible to “reverse”a medication abortion. Abortion “reversal” has been widely criticized by the medical community—according to the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, the practice is “not based on science.” Yet lawmakers in seven states (Arkansas, Idaho, Kentucky, North Dakota, Oklahoma, South Dakota, and Utah) have enacted laws regarding the unproven treatment. A similar law in Kansas was vetoed last month.
Nebraska is the only state with a single house legislative structure. The full legislature will need to hold two more votes before the bill can head to the governor’s desk.
GOP Gov. Bill Lee on Friday signed SB 1257 into law, which would trigger a statewide abortion ban if conservatives on the U.S. Supreme Court overturn Roe v. Wade. The “Human Life Protection Act” would make it a Class C felony—punishable by up to 15 years in prison—to perform or attempt to perform an abortion. Tennessee is the seventh state (after Arkansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, South Dakota, and North Dakota) to have a “trigger law” on the books that would criminalize abortion if the Supreme Court strikes down Roe v. Wade.
Lawmakers in the state senate last Tuesday passed SB 1033, which would prohibit certain selective abortions and require perinatal palliative care information for patients carrying a fetus with a life-threatening disability. The measure would force pregnant people to carry a nonviable pregnancy to term by removing current law allowing abortions in the third trimester when the fetus has a “severe and irreversible” abnormality, or where “the fetus is not a viable fetus.”
The bill would prohibit a person from performing an abortion if they know the patient is seeking the abortion due to the race, ethnicity, or sex of the fetus—a policy based on the racist assumption that certain populations exhibit a preference for sons over daughters. The measure would also prohibit abortion if the patient is seeking it because the fetus has or may have Down syndrome or any other disability—a policy used to pit reproductive rights against the rights of those with disabilities. State Sen. Eddie Lucio (D-Brownsville) joined GOP lawmakers to pass the measure in a 20-11 vote.
The measure is now pending in the state house.