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Alabama’s abortion bill could put doctors in prison for life: Here’s what to know

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Alabama’s abortion bill could put doctors in prison for life: Here’s what to know

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Several states have passed controversial “heartbeat” abortion bills, and several more are considering similar legislation.
USA TODAY

MONTGOMERY, Alabama — The Alabama Senate has passed a near-total ban on abortions that would essentially prohibit the procedure statewide.

If the bill becomes a law, performing an abortion would be considered a Class A felony, which carries a sentence of life or 10 to 99 years in prison. 

The bill, sponsored by Rep. Terri Collins, R-Decatur, was passed by the Alabama House last month. 

The Alabama vote comes just more than a week after Georgia passed its own “fetal heartbeat” bill, which is now one of the most restrictive anti-abortion laws in the nation. 

Here’s everything you need to know about Alabama’s abortion bill, what it contains and what happens now that it’s passed in the Senate. 

More: Alabama abortion bill: Senate sends near-total ban to governor

What are the details of the Alabama abortion bill?

Rep. Terri Collins, the bill’s sponsor, says the abortion bill aims to create a legal challenge to Roe v. Wade, the 1973 U.S. Supreme Court decision that struck down state bans on abortion in the first trimester of pregnancy.

Alabama state law currently outlaws abortion after 20 weeks into the pregnancy, unless it’s to protect the women’s health or in cases involving rape or incest. The new bill would remove that 20-week restriction, essentially outlawing abortions entirely. 

In addition to making performing an abortion a Class A felony, the bill would also make attempting to perform one a Class C felony. The resulting penalty for an attempted abortion under the new law would be a prison sentence of one to 10 years. 

Does the bill include exceptions for rape and incest? 

Earlier this week, Senate Democrats introduced provisions to the bill that would allow for exceptions in cases involving rape or incest. Those provisions were rejected in the Senate on Tuesday, though, meaning the bill will move forward without any such exceptions. 

In the House, Republicans also rejected an amendment to provide exceptions for victims of rape and incest. 

The bill does include exceptions for when the life of the mother was at risk; when the fetus had a lethal anomaly that would result in stillbirth or death after childbirth, or when a mental illness could lead to the woman’s death or that of her child. 

Lucia Hermo, with megaphone, leads chants during a rally against HB314, the near-total ban on abortion bill, outside of the Alabama Statehouse in Montgomery, Ala., on Tuesday May 14, 2019.

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Sen Clyde Chambliss speaks as debate on HB314, the near-total ban on abortion bill, is held in the senate chamber in the Alabama Statehouse in Montgomery, Ala., on Tuesday May 14, 2019.

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Debate on HB314, the near-total ban on abortion bill, is held in the senate chamber in the Alabama Statehouse in Montgomery, Ala., on Tuesday May 14, 2019.

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Sen Rodger Smitherman speaks as debate on HB314, the near-total ban on abortion bill, is held in the senate chamber in the Alabama Statehouse in Montgomery, Ala., on Tuesday May 14, 2019.

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Sen. Vivian Figures speaks as debate on HB314, the near-total ban on abortion bill, is held in the senate chamber in the Alabama Statehouse in Montgomery, Ala., on Tuesday May 14, 2019.

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Sen. Bobby Singleton speaks as debate on HB314, the near-total ban on abortion bill, is held in the senate chamber in the Alabama Statehouse in Montgomery, Ala., on Tuesday May 14, 2019.

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Sen. Del Marsh, left, and Sen. Clyde Chambliss chat as debate on HB314, the near-total ban on abortion bill, is held in the senate chamber in the Alabama Statehouse in Montgomery, Ala., on Tuesday May 14, 2019.

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Laura Stiller, left, chants during a rally against HB314, the near-total ban on abortion bill, outside of the Alabama Statehouse in Montgomery, Ala., on Tuesday May 14, 2019.

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Lucia Hermo leads chants during a rally against HB314, the near-total ban on abortion bill, outside of the Alabama Statehouse in Montgomery, Ala., on Tuesday May 14, 2019.

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Rep. Merika Coleman speaks at a rally against HB314, the near-total ban on abortion bill, outside of the Alabama Statehouse in Montgomery, Ala., on Tuesday May 14, 2019.

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Anti abortion ban bill protestors, dressed as handmaids, from left, Bianca Cameron-Schwiesow, Kari Crowe, Allie Curlette and Margeaux Hartline, wait outside of the Alabama statehouse after HB314, the near-total ban on abortion bill, passed the senate in Montgomery, Ala., on Tuesday May 14, 2019.

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Lt. Governor Will Ainsworth, right, talks with Sen. Greg Reed during debate on HB314, the near-total ban on abortion bill, is held in the senate chamber in the Alabama Statehouse in Montgomery, Ala., on Tuesday May 14, 2019.

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Sen. Bobby Singleton speaks as debate on HB314, the near-total ban on abortion bill, is held in the senate chamber in the Alabama Statehouse in Montgomery, Ala., on Tuesday May 14, 2019.

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Rep. Terri Collins, right, chats with Rep. Chris Pringle on the house floor at the Alabama Statehouse in Montgomery, Ala., on Tuesday May 14, 2019. Rep. Collins is the sponsor of HB314, the near-total ban on abortion bill.

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Speaker of the House Mac McCutcheon in the house chamber at the Alabama Statehouse in Montgomery, Ala., on Tuesday May 14, 2019.

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Rep. Terri Collins, right, chats with Rep. Alan Baker on the house floor at the Alabama Statehouse in Montgomery, Ala., on Tuesday May 14, 2019. Rep. Collins is the sponsor of HB314, the near-total ban on abortion bill.

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Lt. Gov. Will Ainsworth looks on as debate on HB314, the near-total ban on abortion bill, is held in the senate chamber in the Alabama Statehouse in Montgomery, Ala., on Tuesday May 14, 2019.

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Sen. Del Marsh during debate on HB314, the near-total ban on abortion bill, is held in the senate chamber in the Alabama Statehouse in Montgomery, Ala., on Tuesday May 14, 2019.

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Lt. Governor Will Ainsworth greets Senators during debate on HB314, the near-total ban on abortion bill, in the senate chamber in the Alabama Statehouse in Montgomery, Ala., on Tuesday May 14, 2019.

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Travis Jackson during a rally against HB314, the near-total ban on abortion bill, outside of the Alabama Statehouse in Montgomery, Ala., on Tuesday May 14, 2019.

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Bianca Cameron-Schwiesow, left, chants during a rally against HB314, the near-total ban on abortion bill, outside of the Alabama Statehouse in Montgomery, Ala., on Tuesday May 14, 2019.

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Laura Stiller hands out coat hangers as she talks about illegal abortions during a rally against HB314, the near-total ban on abortion bill, outside of the Alabama Statehouse in Montgomery, Ala., on Tuesday May 14, 2019.

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Lucia Hermo leads chants during a rally against HB314, the near-total ban on abortion bill, outside of the Alabama Statehouse in Montgomery, Ala., on Tuesday May 14, 2019.

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Sen. Clyde Chambliss speaks as debate on HB314, the near-total ban on abortion bill, is held in the senate chamber in the Alabama Statehouse in Montgomery, Ala., on Tuesday May 14, 2019.

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Debate on HB314, the near-total ban on abortion bill, is held in the senate chamber in the Alabama Statehouse in Montgomery, Ala., on Tuesday May 14, 2019.

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Sen. Cam Ward looks on during debate on HB314, the near-total ban on abortion bill, is held in the senate chamber in the Alabama Statehouse in Montgomery, Ala., on Tuesday May 14, 2019.

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Lt. Governor Will Ainsworth, right, chats with Sen. Larry Stutts as debate on HB314, the near-total ban on abortion bill, is held in the senate chamber in the Alabama Statehouse in Montgomery, Ala., on Tuesday May 14, 2019.

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Republican Senators group together as debate on HB314, the near-total ban on abortion bill, is held in the senate chamber in the Alabama Statehouse in Montgomery, Ala., on Tuesday May 14, 2019.

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Rep. Merika Coleman speaks during a rally against HB314, the near-total ban on abortion bill, outside of the Alabama Statehouse in Montgomery, Ala., on Tuesday May 14, 2019.

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Laura Stiller discusses illegal abortions during a rally against HB314, the near-total ban on abortion bill, outside of the Alabama Statehouse in Montgomery, Ala., on Tuesday May 14, 2019.

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A rally against HB314, the near-total ban on abortion bill, outside of the Alabama Statehouse in Montgomery, Ala., on Tuesday May 14, 2019.

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Margeaux Hartline, dressed as a handmaid, during a rally against HB314, the near-total ban on abortion bill, outside of the Alabama Statehouse in Montgomery, Ala., on Tuesday May 14, 2019.

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Bianca Cameron-Schwiesow chants during a rally against HB314, the near-total ban on abortion bill, outside of the Alabama Statehouse in Montgomery, Ala., on Tuesday May 14, 2019.

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Dana Sweeney chants during a rally against HB314, the near-total ban on abortion bill, outside of the Alabama Statehouse in Montgomery, Ala., on Tuesday May 14, 2019.

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Laura Stiller discusses illegal abortions during a rally against HB314, the near-total ban on abortion bill, outside of the Alabama Statehouse in Montgomery, Ala., on Tuesday May 14, 2019.

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Anti abortion ban bill protestor Bianca Cameron-Schwiesow, dressed as a handmaid, waits outside of the Alabama statehouse after HB314, the near-total ban on abortion bill, passed the senate in Montgomery, Ala., on Tuesday May 14, 2019.

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Anti abortion ban bill protestors lay out signs outside of the Alabama statehouse after HB314, the near-total ban on abortion bill, passed the senate in Montgomery, Ala., on Tuesday May 14, 2019.

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Sen. Clyde Chambliss reacts to the passage on HB314, the near-total ban on abortion bill, in Montgomery, Ala., on Tuesday May 14, 2019.

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Rep. Terri Collins reacts to the passage on HB314, the near-total ban on abortion bill, in Montgomery, Ala., on Tuesday May 14, 2019.

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Rep. Rich Wingo reacts to the passage on HB314, the near-total ban on abortion bill, in Montgomery, Ala., on Tuesday May 14, 2019.

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Sen Clyde Chambliss sits alone during debate on HB314, the near-total ban on abortion bill, in the senate chamber in the Alabama Statehouse in Montgomery, Ala., on Tuesday May 14, 2019.

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Will Governor Kay Ivey vote ‘yes’ on the bill?

Now that the bill has passed the Senate, it will go to Governor Kay Ivey’s desk for her approval. 

The governor hasn’t said anything regarding whether or not she will sign the bill, or what conditions she might attach to it. 

“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,” Lori Jhons, a spokeswoman for Ivey, wrote in an email on Monday. 

Still, Republicans hold 27 of 35 seats in the Senate, so even if Ivey vetoed the measure, the Legislature can override any veto by simple majority votes. 

How would an Alabama abortion law compare to Georgia’s ‘fetal heartbeat’ law?

The Alabama law is more restrictive than the “fetal heartbeat” bill passed in Georgia last week. 

Under the new Georgia law, abortions would be illegal after about six weeks of pregnancy, which is when a heartbeat can be detected in the womb. Mississippi, Ohio and Kentucky have all passed similar laws that ban abortions after a heartbeat is detected. 

Alabama’s bill goes further. If passed, the provision would ban abortions entirely, except in particular cases such as if the mother’s life is at risk. 

What abortion access is currently available to Alabama residents? 

 If Gov. Ivey does sign the bill into law, it won’t take effect for six months. That means, that time, Alabama residents will still have the same access to abortion resources as they do now. Here’s what that looks like. 

There are just three abortion clinics left in the state, according to the National Abortion Federation’s database: The Alabama Women’s Center for Reproductive Alternatives in Huntsville, the West Alabama Women’s Center in Tuscaloosa and the Reproductive Health Services of Montgomery in Montgomery.

Alabama-based groups such as P.O.W.E.R. House and national organizations like Planned Parenthood and Pro-Choice America also offer additional information and resources. 

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