Alabama's House of Representatives passed four abortion bills that, should they pass the majority Republican Senate, will give the state some of the strictest abortion laws in the country and make most abortions illegal.
The four bills are:
- HB489, which increases the mandatory waiting time from 24 to 48 hours
- HB490, which bans abortions after a fetal heartbeat is detected
- HB 493, which bans abortions for lethal birth defects until the doctor has informed the woman about "perinatal hospice services" that are an "alternative to abortion" (maddeningly, as Planned Parenthood Southeast's vice president for public policy Nikema Williams pointed out, Alabama doesn't actually have any perinatal hospice services)
- HB494, which requires parents giving consent for their underage daughters to have abortions to provide proof that they are the girl's legal guardians.
HB490 is the most controversial bill, as fetal heartbeats can be detected as early as six weeks into the pregnancy. Democrats proposed amendments allowing exceptions for pregnancies caused by rape or incest. They were rejected, as was an amendment that would give extra funding to sex education and adoption aid.
North Dakota has a similar law, though a federal judge issued an injunction preventing it from taking effect until it is challenged in court. The same is true of Arkansas' generous by comparison 12 week ban. Should HB490 be signed into law, this will probably be the case there as well.
The bills were discussed for several hours on the House floor. At one point, according to Anniston Star reporter Tim Lockette, this happened:
Rep. John Rogers: "I'm not retarded. I just look this way." In abortion debate on floor of the Alabama House. #alpolitics— Tim Lockette (@TLockette_Star) March 4, 2014
According to the AP, Speaker of the House Mike Hubbard said: "In Alabama, we will fight tooth and nail to preserve and protect the life of the unborn until the liberal, activist Supreme Court decision making abortion legal in the United States is overturned."
Another representative, Napoleon Bracy, said the bill was pointless and bound to be struck down as unconstitutional after costing the state money in legal fees.
The House voted 73-29 to heed Hubbard's words over Bracy's.
Later this month, another new Alabama law will take effect that requires abortion doctors to have admitting privileges at a local hospital. This will close three of the state's five abortion clinics.