SALT LAKE CITY — The Alabama Senate voted Thursday to table a controversial bill that would effectively outlaw abortion in the state and subject doctors who perform the procedure to up to 99 years in prison.
The Senate is expected to vote next week on the bill, which would be the most restrictive in the country if passed, according to The Washington Post.
The Alabama bill is the latest in a series of legislative efforts that aim to bring the issue of abortion back before the Supreme Court and challenge the 1973 ruling in Roe v. Wade, which protects a woman’s right to abortion up until the point that the fetus can survive outside the womb.
As the Deseret News previously reported, President Donald Trump’s appointment of conservative judges Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court has sparked fear on the left that federal abortion protections could be rolled back, leading a group of left-leaning states to consider legislation that would expand the abortion rights codified in Roe v. Wade.
At the same time, the Supreme Court’s conservative majority has sparked a series of right-leaning states to introduce legislation that would significantly restrict abortion rights, with the aim of eventually overturning the Roe v. Wade ruling, The New York Times reported.
Here's a closer look at the abortion bills that states across the country are considering or have passed and the role they play in the ongoing abortion debate.
1. Alabama's bill was crafted with the intention of coming before the Supreme Court
The original bill, which was sponsored by Republican state Rep. Terri Collins, would make it a felony to get an abortion, with an exception only in cases where the woman’s life was at risk, and not in cases of rape or incest, The Washington Post reported.
The bill passed the House with a vote of 74-3, but when it arrived at the Senate it was amended to include exceptions for rape or incest. The amended version was tabled Thursday.
Collins said that the original bill did not include exceptions in the case of rape or incest because the bill would be more likely to come before the Supreme Court that way, the Post reported.
Because 27 of 35 seats in the Alabama Senate are controlled by Republicans, the bill is likely to pass, although Republican Gov. Kay Ivey has declined to comment on whether she would sign the bill, according to the Post. Planned Parenthood has already announced its intention to sue the state if the law is passed.
2. A slew of other states, including Utah, have moved to restrict abortion rights
Other states have taken a variety of measures to restrict abortion access, none of which are as drastic as Alabama's.
On Tuesday, Republican Gov. Brian Kemp of Georgia signed into law a “heartbeat bill,” which would ban abortions at six weeks, when doctors can first begin to detect a fetal heartbeat. "Heartbeat bills" been passed or are under consideration in 16 other states, according to the Post. However, those laws have already been struck down in Kentucky, Iowa and North Dakota.
Other states have incrementally reduced the legal time frame for abortions. Arkansas, for example, reduced the time frame in which a woman can legally seek an abortion by two weeks, the Times reported. And Republican Utah Gov. Gary Herbert in March signed a bill that bans abortion after 18 weeks. Previously, abortions were legal in Utah up until 22 weeks, the Deseret News reported.
3. Other states have enshrined abortion rights in their constitutions
As the Deseret News previously reported, New York and Virginia have led the charge to significantly expand abortion rights. In January, Democratic New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed the Reproductive Health Care Act into law, which widens the circumstances under which women can legally obtain an abortion — including up until the moment of birth.
A similar bill was proposed in Virginia, but ultimately did not pass. However, a federal judge on Monday ruled that non-physicians are legally permitted to perform first-trimester abortions in Virginia on the grounds that the procedure is safe enough to be performed by other medical professionals. Once the ruling goes into effect, midwives, nurse practitioners and physician assistants will be legally able to perform first-trimester abortions.
Other states have moved to enshrine abortion as a constitutionally protected right. Abortion is currently protected by the state constitutions in Alaska, California, Florida, Iowa, Kansas, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Montana, New Jersey and New Mexico, and is protected by statutory law in an additional nine states, the Post reported. Vermont is also considering a constitutional amendment that would protect the "right to personal reproductive autonomy."
4. The Supreme Court could take up an abortion rights case as early as next fall
Organizations including the American Civil Liberties Union and Planned Parenthood have launched or plan to launch lawsuits against restricted abortion laws in Georgia, Utah, Alabama and a variety of other states on the grounds that they are unconstitutional.
If any of these cases come before the Supreme Court, it's unclear what the fallout would be. As the Deseret News previously reported, neither Kavanaugh nor Gorsuch has offered clear insight into where they stand on Roe v. Wade.17 comments on this story
And the Supreme Court has not yet decided if it will hear arguments in a high-profile abortion case involving an Indiana abortion law signed by then-Gov. Mike Pence, the Hill reported. (The Indiana law prevents abortion on the grounds of the fetus' gender, race or disability, and portions of the law were blocked by a federal judge.)
According to the Hill, the Supreme Court's term is set to end in June, which means the justices are likely to decide by then which cases they will begin hearing in the fall.