Alabama’s bill to impose a total abortion ban, passed by the male-dominated state Senate on Tuesday night, is so extreme that in some cases, it would impose harsher penalties on doctors who perform the procedure than those who actually commit rape or incest.
The bill would penalize providers with jail time of 10 to 99 years for providing abortions, making it the harshest abortion ban in the country. The legislation does not include exceptions for victims of rape or incest, after senators voted down an amendment prior to the final vote that would create those exceptions. In other words, the bill would essentially compel people who become pregnant as a result of rape or incest — including minors or people with mental disabilities — to carry their pregnancies to term.
Under current Alabama law, meanwhile, those charged with rape in the first degree face a similar punishment to the penalty doctors would face under the abortion ban: between 10 to 99 years in prison. Those who commit rape in the second degree face no more than 20 years in prison. Those charged with sexual abuse or incest face less than 10 years in prison. It is also important to note that most allegations of rape and sexual abuse go unreported.
Alabama state Sen. Bobby Singleton (D), who sponsored the amendment to add rape and incest exceptions to the bill, made this point during floor debate Tuesday, inviting three rape victims to the Senate and lamenting the fact that doctors who provide abortions face more jail time than rapists.
“Something is wrong with that,” he said.
“This is a sad day in Alabama,” Singleton added. “What you just said to my little girl, that it’s okay for a man to rape you and you got to have his baby if you get pregnant … you just said to my daughter, ‘you don’t matter. You don’t matter in the state of Alabama.’”
The only exceptions in the bill are for cases in which the pregnancy poses a health risk to the pregnant person. The measure now moves to the desk of Gov. Kay Ivey (R), who has not indicated whether or not she will sign it into law.
Democrats also sought to include an amendment that would have made it a felony for a man to receive a vasectomy, but the proposal failed.
“This bill isn’t about life or pro-life,” said Sen. Linda Coleman-Madison (D) on the Senate floor Tuesday. “This bill is about control…The sin to me is bringing a child into this world and not taking care of it; the sin to me is this state does not provide adequate care for this child. We want to bring them here but we don’t want to take care of them.”
Advocacy groups have vowed to challenge the ban and lawmakers who support the bill have admitted that they hope such a lawsuit will make it to the Supreme Court, where conservative justices could act to eliminate the constitutional right to abortion. If the bill is signed by the governor, the legislation is unlikely to take effect while legal challenges against it wind through the court system.
This is not Alabama’s first time venturing into national controversies related to abortion and sexual assault. The state nearly elected Republican candidate for U.S. Senate Roy Moore in a special election in 2017. Moore — who is staunchly anti-abortion and once said the United States would be better off if the 17 constitutional amendments that followed the original Bill of Rights were repealed — had reportedly sexually abused multiple women, many of whom said they were teenage girls when he assaulted them in his 30s. Moore ended up losing the election to Democrat Doug Jones.