Keeping 2 Exceptions Out of Alabama Abortion Bill Was Key

Because the eye is on the prize: the Supreme Court
By Newser Editors,  Newser Staff
Posted May 15, 2019 12:59 PM CDT
If She Signs Alabama's Abortion Bill, What Next?
In this Nov. 17, 2017, file photo, Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey speaks to the media in Montgomery, Ala.   (AP Photo/Brynn Anderson, File)

For now, we wait. CNN reports Gov. Kay Ivey is not expected to receive the abortion bill passed by the Alabama state Senate until this afternoon. Then the clock starts ticking: She has six days to sign it if she plans to do so. It would then be six months before it kicks in. The bill makes performing an abortion at any stage of pregnancy a felony punishable by up to 99 years or life in prison, with the sole exception being for women whose health is at serious risk. notes Ivey has in the past been in favor of "pro-life positions" that, like this bill, don't allow exceptions for rape or incest. A selection of reaction to the bill's passage:

  • GOP State Rep. Terry Collins sponsored the bill, and his motivation was clear: "This bill is about challenging Roe v. Wade," he said. At CNN, Chris Cillizza writes that the bill will have to get in line. The Alabama law would be the nation's toughest, but it has been preceded in recent weeks by new legislation in Ohio and Georgia. What the Supreme Court will actually consider next is a Louisiana law that would require doctors who are performing abortions to have admitting privileges at a hospital within 30 miles. A ruling on that is expected "in the summer of 2020—right in the heart of the presidential campaign," writes Cillizza.
  • "There’s no way to guarantee which state-level bill will eventually make its way to the Supreme Court, or whether the sitting justices would reverse Roe in a single decision," write Emma Green for the Atlantic. Sure, there are now five conservative justices on the bench. But they "may hesitate to fully knock down Roe. Precedent is a powerful legal principle, allowing attorneys to advise their clients and facilitate consistency in how laws are enforced over time."

  • But "the Supreme Court has taken a relatively lax attitude toward respecting long-standing precedents, including overturning a 40-year-old precedent just this week," writes B. Jessie Hill for the Guardian. That said, "to avoid the appearance that the court is a political body whose decisions are driven by changes in personnel rather than legal principle, it might just let stand [any] lower-court decisions striking down the 'heartbeat' bans." And it can do so "without explanation or justification."
  • At the National Review, Alexandra DeSanctis doesn't hold much hope for the bill's chance of success with the courts "given the current framework of abortion-rights jurisprudence instantiated by Roe v. Wade and Planned Parenthood v. Casey. But the scathing media coverage that these pro-life laws receive—compared to laws that allow abortion for any reason, even after fetuses are developed enough to survive outside the womb—is telling."
  • Much has been made about the bill's lack of exceptions for cases of rape or incest. In a piece for the Washington Post, Joyce White Vance writes that's intentional. "If abortion is permissible in those instances, a fetus is not entitled to the full protection any other person would receive," writes the former US attorney for Alabama. "That helps explain why the bill’s sponsors are willing to fight so desperately to keep exceptions for rape and incest out of it, even though many conservatives support those measures. The bill is not about introducing policies that could reduce abortions ... It is a measure that would permit a presumably willing Supreme Court to create a pro-birth rule, declaring a fetus a person from the moment of conception, with all of the attendant consequences, intended and unintended."
(More Alabama stories.)

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