This past week the Alabama Senate debated on a near total abortion ban, creating some of the most restrictive legislation in the country that sought to ban abortions in the state with no exceptions for cases of rape of incest. The only legal option for those seeking an abortion would be if the pregnant person’s life were at risk, and doctors who perform an “illegal” abortion would face decades in prison.
It’s a controversy that has swept America, and then the rest of the world, for days. Internationally, celebrities are condemning the growing movement in the United States to reconsider landmark abortion ruling Roe v Wade, all of it a culmination of months of controversial decisions across America regarding the procedure.
The controversial Alabama decision is being called the most extreme abortion law in America, but it’s not enforced yet – there’s still six months before it comes into effect.
In that time, it’s very possible that the law will be challenged in court. The Alabama Women’s Centre has already confirmed it plans to challenge the bill in court, and even Alabama Governor Kay Ivey admitted it was all but certain to be challenged when signing the legislation.
“No matter one’s personal view on abortion, we can all recognise that, at least for the short term, this bill may similarly be unenforceable,” she said in a statement.
All of this boils down to Roe v Wade, a decision made by the US Supreme Court in 1973, ruling state laws that banned abortions were unconstitutional. Ever since that judgement, legal abortion has been seen as a constitutional right in the United States.
Recently, particularly with the growing influence of hyper-conservative Republicans, there has been a push to overturn this historic judgement.
The mess around this particular law in Alabama has been bubbling for a while. A shouting match erupted on the chamber floor earlier this month after an amendment was removed that added exceptions in cases of rape and incest. It was done quickly and farcically on a voice vote.
Watching the footage, it’s all pretty fucked. You don’t need to know much about the law or Alabama or the United States to know that this isn’t the way democracy works:
TAKE A LOOK: Lawmakers were discussing this bill that would have banned nearly all abortions. The Senate removed an amendment that added exceptions in cases of rape and incest. Right after a quick voice vote to strip the amendment chaos broke out. pic.twitter.com/rygpucN0s2
— Alabama Politics (@AlabamaPolitics) May 9, 2019
There has been a concerted effort across the United States to put pressure on the country’s abortion laws. Multiple states have passed bills that would ban abortion once a fetal heartbeat can be detected – which can be as soon as six weeks into a pregnancy, before many people even know that they’re pregnant. These pieces of legislation have been called “heartbeat bills.”
But none of this stuff has gone into effect just yet. Bills have been blocked, have faced challenges, or will face challenges.
It’s worth noting, as reporter Rossalyn Warren points out, that regardless of legality abortions will always be available to those that can afford, financially, to make them happen.
just to say: wealthy women will still be able to afford access to a safe abortion, in secret, regardless of a ban. This happens all the time, around the world.
Yes the law in Alabama is an attack on women – but more specifically, it’s an attack on poor and marginalised women.
— Roz Warren (@RossalynWarren) May 15, 2019
Earlier this week, actor Busy Philipps shared the story of when she chose to have an abortion, seeking to “end the shame” around the procedure. She has been joined by other celebrities in condemning the Alabama decision, and America’s movement towards making the procedure illegal in general.
Abortion is technically still legal in all 50 U.S states. This is just the early stages of what will be a controversial debate point for American politicians and lawmakers for months, if not years, leading up to the next election.