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Figures: Bills targeting abortion law designed to send a message

Figures said she doesn’t expect to succeed in the Republican Legislature, but wants to send a message that Democrats are still fighting.

Sen. Vivian Davis Figures, D-Mobile, holds a press conference on two bills targeting Alabama's abortion law. Jacob Holmes/APR
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Sen. Vivian Davis Figures, D-Mobile, has no illusions about the odds for two bills she has filed for the upcoming session taking aim at Alabama’s abortion law.

One of the bills seeks to repeal Alabama’s Human Life Protection Act, one of the nation’s strictest abortion laws, in its entirety. Repealing the law is a priority of the Democratic platform, even if its a nonstarter.

In lieu of a total repeal, the other bill would carve out exceptions for cases of rape and incest, two of the most agreed upon exceptions to abortion law.

“I introduce these bills to reignite the conversation around the issue of women’s rights,” Figures said. “When the Human Life Protection Act was passed, it took away the rights of women to choose and to make individual medical decisions concerning their bodies.”

Alabama Republicans still hold the same supermajority in the Legislature that they did when the bill passed in 2019, making passage of either bill highly unlikely as the abortion law is viewed as a big victory for the party.

“I thought it was apropos to let this legislature know that women are still crying out loudly to have the right to choose what they want to do with their bodies,” Figures said.

Logistically, Figures said the legislature would have to come up with how to verify cases of rape and incest, as it is a sensitive issue and asking women to prove their circumstances could potentially be invasive.

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Eric Johnston, the Birmingham attorney who crafted Alabama’s abortion law, has said that the Alabama Constitution now enshrines unborn life as constitutionally protected, and crafting exceptions for rape and incest would legally go against that.

Figures said that’s the problem with bringing the issue into the state constitution.

“When you just make it an outright law, it’s up to the legislators in the House and the Senate to enact it,” Figures said. “Whereas when you do a constitutional amendment, it has to go back to the people, and we know what the voting has been like in Alabama.”

Co-sponsor Linda Coleman-Madison, D-Birmingham, said the law effectively “gives a rite of passage for people to go out and rape and commit sexual incest on children.”

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

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