A near total ban on abortion won approval Wednesday in an Alabama legislative committee, as U.S. lawmakers in multiple conservative states have begun passing bills aimed at overturning the Supreme Court decision that made the procedure legal.
The Senate Judiciary Committee voted 7-2 for the bill making it a felony to perform an abortion.
The committee added an exception for rape and incest. The bill’s sponsor, Republican State Representative Terri Collins, objected to that addition, saying that allowing it could weaken the goal of creating a court case to weigh whether embryos and fetuses are people with rights of personhood.
“Is that baby in the womb a person? And if so, that baby has a right to life. That baby has a right to be,” the Decatur, Ga., lawmaker told the committee. “I believe science shows that baby is a person.”
The proposal is expected to go before the full Senate on Thursday, Senate rules chairman Jabo Waggoner said.
Emboldened by conservative justices who have joined the Supreme Court, abortion opponents in several states are seeking to spark a legal challenge that could eventually lead the court to revisit Roe v. Wade, the 1973 decision that legalized abortion across the country.
The Alabama bill comes soon after Kentucky, Mississippi, Ohio and Georgia approved bans on abortion once a fetal heartbeat is detected, which can occur in about the sixth week of pregnancy.
The Alabama bill, which was approved by the House of Representatives 74-3 last week, goes further by seeking to outlaw abortion outright.
“This is the most egregious bill we are seeing in the country despite what Georgia signed into law yesterday,” said Staci Fox, president and chief executive officer of Planned Parenthood Southeast.
The bills signal a shift from some conservative states attempting to chip around the edges of Roe and abortion access to a go-for-broke strategy of pushing outright abortion bans.
The rape and incest exception would be in addition to another exception protecting the mother’s health that was already in the Alabama bill. The newest amendment was approved on a voice vote.
Senator Tom Whatley said he thought the bill “may not survive the Senate” without the amendment. But Ms. Collins said she will ask the Senate to strip the amendment.
The committee approval followed a sometimes emotional public hearing.
Samantha Blakely, who said she had an abortion after she was raped, said a ban would endanger women’s lives because women would seek them anyway.
“If abortion was not legal, I would still have one, somewhere, somehow. Or, I just would not be here because there is no way that I would be able to carry my rapist’s child,” Ms. Blakely said.
Christy Harmon, who works with a Christian adoption agency, said there are families waiting to adopt unwanted children.
She said an embryo is a person.
“We were embryos who were given the time and protection to be born,” Ms. Harmon said.
Obstetricians spoke for and against the bill. Some called for keeping abortion available while others described patients who were relieved they did not choose abortion.
“I remember the stories of folks that were considering abortion, and now they are coming back and showing me pictures of their children graduating and what a joy that is,” said Dr. Lance Radbill.
Senator Linda Coleman-Madison, who voted against the bill, unsuccessfully proposed an amendment that would require the state to provide financial support to women who are forced to give birth and raise children against their will.
“I wish God for one day would flip the switch and say the men would be able to become pregnant and have the children,” the Birmingham Democrat said.
Republican Governor Kay Ivey has not publicly said whether she will sign the bill if it’s approved by lawmakers.
“As this legislation is still making its way through the legislative process, the governor intends to withhold comment until it makes its way to her desk for signature,” deputy press secretary Lori Jhons wrote in an e-mail.