A bill prefiled by 23 Republican lawmakers in Alabama mirrors a near identical Texas law and aims to ban abortions if a fetal heartbeat is detected, and would allow anyone to file a civil lawsuit against anyone who provides an abortion, or who helps in any way a woman have one.
Rep. Jamie Kiel, R-Russellville, sponsored the bill, which is nearly identical to a Texas law, which went into effect in September.
Kiel’s bill does not make exceptions for abortions sought after incest or rape, and only excludes the possibility of a lawsuit for abortion providers “if a physician believes a medical emergency exists that prevents compliance with this act.”
If successful, plaintiffs who file suit against abortion providers or anyone who aided in an abortion would be eligible for $10,000 or more in damages, according to the bill’s language.
The U.S. Supreme Court on Friday ruled that the Texas law could remain on the books while litigation in a lower court continues.
Asked by APR who wrote his bill, Keil in a written response Wednesday said he asked the Alabama Legislative Services Agency to draft a bill that as closely resembles the Texas bill as possible.
“The TX law is still in effect even though the Federal Appeals Courts, including the US Supreme Court as late as Friday, have had opportunities to overturn it,” Keil said. “To date, those courts have not done that.”
Keil noted a Dec. 10 NPR story on the Supreme Court’s Friday decision that included a portion of a statement by a spokeswoman for Texas Right to Life in which she said the Texas law will “continue saving between 75-100 preborn children from abortion per day.”
“That’s what I want for Alabama. To protect the right to life of the 16 babies who are murdered here daily,” Keil said.
It’s unclear where the spokeswoman got the “75-100” estimation from. A question sent to her went unanswered Wednesday.
“This is going to open up every person to some sort of potential investigation going forward, because anybody can be accused of having helped with an abortion,” Robyn Marty, operations director for the West Alabama Women’s Center in Tuscaloosa, told APR by phone Wednesday.
Marty said the burden of proof in these potential lawsuits would be on the defendants, and such lawsuits are “inherently going to be used as harrasment.”
“Either on people who are obtaining an abortion, people helping people have an abortion, or it can just be used as harassment in general,” Marty said. “We already see people who are known to call authorities of health protective services on ex’s. We see people who harass, abuse, and in other ways will try to cower a person that they have a grievance against, so this is another tool that they can put in the arsenal in order to do that.”
Asked if he spoke to any women who had an abortion about their experience prior to sponsoring the bill, Keil did not include an answer to that question in his response.
Marty said who’s being left out of the conversation about these sorts of bills are the poor in Alabama, people of color, women and the uninsured.
“We’ve seen here at the clinic that many, almost all of the patients who come in here, are patients who are uninsured. We see so many people who come in because they are unable to access birth control because it’s too expensive, because they cannot get into the very, very, very minimal places where a person can access free birth control that is really reliable , like your IUD,” Marty said.
The same uninsured people who don’t have the ability to access preventative care also often go without annual exams.
“When you have an entire community of people who are both low income or moderate income, have no access to any form of health care, other than essentially emergency rooms, you have a much poorer health outcome population,” Marty said. “And when those people get pregnant, whether they want to remain pregnant or not, there is a far higher possibility for a miscarriage, and every miscarriage will now look like it could have been a potential abortion.”