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Sen. Figures introduces bills to repeal, add exceptions to Alabama abortion law

One bill would create exceptions for rape and incest, which were specifically excluded when the law passed in 2019.

Sen. Vivian Figures, D-Mobile

Alabama House Democrats announced their intent to repeal Alabama’s abortion law when they announced their agenda before the session, and now there’s a matching bill to that effect in the Senate.

Sen. Vivian Davis Figures, D-Mobile, filed two bills relating to abortion last week, one that would bring a total repeal of the law, and another that would add exceptions for rape and incest.

Gov. Kay Ivey, meanwhile, touted the law in her state of the state address, expressing pride that Alabama has one of the toughest abortion laws in the country.

The Alabama GOP has also emphasized the reversal of Roe v. Wade as a major victory as Republicans have been looking to end abortion for decades.

Where there appears to be little path forward for a complete repeal, there might be some more room to create exceptions for rape and incest.

A recent PRRI poll shows only 12 percent of Alabamians believe abortion should be illegal in all cases, whereas a majority of Alabamians (55 percent) believe abortion should be legal in most or all cases. 

Rep. Terri Collins, R-Decatur, told last May that she would support new legislation that creates exceptions for rape and incest, which were purposefully left out of her 2019 Human Life Protection Act that now serves as the predominant abortion law in the state.

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“I do think those are circumstances that would require (women) to make some choices that I personally would not choose,” Collins said. 

Eric Johnston, a Birmingham attorney who crafted the law, said exceptions for rape and incest don’t fit with the state’s stance that unborn children are due equal protection.

“It doesn’t matter how the child was conceived, it is still a human life that has to be protected,” Johnston said.

Figures did not respond to requests for comment.

While Democrats are looking to soften or completely repeal the state’s abortion law, at least one lawmaker has lofted the idea of a law that would allow for charging women getting abortions with homicide.

Rep. Ernie Yarbrough, R-Trinity,has announced legislation dubbed the “abortion as murder act” that would add abortion under Alabama’s homicide law.

The bill is being drafted by End Abortion Alabama, an organization founded by DJ Parten in Prattville.

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The organization’s website highlights a gap in Alabama’s abortion law, noting that women can still use medications to have abortions themselves. Because the Human Life Protection Act explicitly excludes the women getting abortion from criminal or civil prosecution, those abortions are not prosecutable.

“Women who are victims, who are in difficult situations and maybe pressured to commit an abortion, we’re working on some things to protect those women,” Parten said. “But women who intentionally terminate their child should not be granted blanket immunity. There certainly are exceptions where we don’t want them to face prosecutions. But women openly boasting about abortions, using that language, those women are not victims. Nobody by nature of being a woman should be immune from prosecution.”

Although Johnston said he couldn’t comment on the exact bill since it hasn’t been filed yet, he challenged the idea at its core.

“That’s a very uninformed and inexperienced approach to this issue,” Johnston said. “Those that are supporting this have a very closed mind to the issue and what needs to be done.”

Johnston said the issue of whether to prosecute women has been debated for decades, and the anti-abortion movement has come down definitively on not prosecuting women.

The regular session is expected to resume on March 21, when these bills can begin to move forward.

Jacob Holmes is a reporter at the Alabama Political Reporter. You can reach him at [email protected]

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