Alabama Senate bans nearly all abortions, including rape cases

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(Reuters) – Alabama’s state Senate passed a bill on Tuesday that would outlaw nearly all abortions, creating exceptions only to safeguard the health of the mother, as part of a multistate effort to have the U.S. Supreme Court reconsider a woman’s constitutional right to an abortion.

The bill was previously approved by the Alabama House of Representatives and will now go to Republican Governor Kay Ivey, who has withheld comment on whether she would sign it but generally is a strong opponent of abortion.

The law would take effect six months after being signed by the governor, but is certain to face legal challenge from the American Civil Liberties Union and other groups who have vowed to sue.

Legislation to restrict abortion rights has been introduced in 16 states this year, four of whose governors have signed bills banning abortion if an embryonic heartbeat can be detected.

The Alabama bill goes further, banning abortions at any time. People who perform abortions would be subject to a felony, punishable by 10 to 99 years in prison, although a woman who receives an abortion would not be held criminally liable.

The Republican-controlled Alabama Senate also defeated a Democratic amendment that would have allowed legal abortions for women and girls impregnated by rape and incest.

Anti-abortion advocates know any laws they pass are certain to be challenged, and courts this year have blocked a restrictive Kentucky law and another in Iowa law that was passed last year.

But supporters of the Alabama ban said the right to life for the unborn child transcends other rights, an idea they would like tested.

Republican Senator Clyde Chambliss, arguing in favor of the Alabama bill, said the whole point was “so that we can go directly to the Supreme Court to challenge Roe versus Wade.”

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The high court, now with a majority of conservative justices after Republican President Donald Trump appointed two, could possibly overturn Roe v. Wade, the 1973 landmark decision establishing a woman’s right to an abortion.

Just this year, Georgia, Mississippi, Kentucky and Ohio have outlawed abortion after a doctor can detect an embryonic heartbeat.

Opponents call the “heartbeat” legislation a virtual ban because embryonic cardiac activity can be detected as early as six weeks, before a woman may be aware she is pregnant.

Reporting by Daniel Trotta in New York; Editing by Cynthia Osterman and Lisa Shumaker