A lawmaker in Alabama has introduced a bill that would ban abortion after a fetal heartbeat is detected, which would effectively ban abortion as early as six weeks into a pregnancy, before a woman may even know she is pregnant.
The bill includes an exception for treatment of a condition that, absent an abortion, is likely to result in the death of the pregnant woman or in substantial and irreversible impairment of a major bodily function of the pregnant woman, not including psychological or emotional conditions.
It does not, however, provide exceptions in cases of rape or incest.
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While a pregnant woman may not be prosecuted for a violation of the law, a physician who violates the law could be charged with a class C felony, which carries a minimum prison sentence of one year and a maximum of ten years.
Alabama Reproductive Rights Advocates said in a statement that the bill is an attempt to eradicate a woman’s constitutional right to obtain a safe, legal abortion across the state.
“These attempts have nothing to do with women’s health and everything to do with interfering with women’s reproductive health care choices, as most women are not even aware they are pregnant before a heartbeat might be detected,” the statement said.
Abortion care in the state is already highly restricted, and under current law abortions are banned after 20 weeks.
Collins has already secured 42 co-sponsors, including Speaker of the House Mike Hubbard (R-Auburn). During her time in the state legislature, Collins has compiled a staunchly anti-choice voting record. Collins co-sponsored a similar abortion ban during the 2014 legislative session, but it failed to pass the GOP-controlled Alabama legislature.
Collins was also a co-sponsor of HB 494, which was passed by lawmakers and signed into law by Gov. Robert Bentley (R). The law changed the judicial bypass process to allow the court to appoint a guardian for a minor’s fetus. The American Civil Liberties Union and the ACLU of Alabama have filed a lawsuit challenging the law.
Similar heartbeat bans have been introduced in several states in the past few years. This year heartbeat bans have been introduced in Michigan, New York, Oklahoma, and South Carolina. A heartbeat ban was recently passed by lawmakers in the Ohio house.
Both Arkansas and North Dakota passed heartbeat ban legislation in 2013, and both laws were challenged in court and blocked. Arkansas’ law was permanently blocked by a federal court in 2014. North Dakota’s law was temporarily blocked while a legal challenge to the law’s constitutionality proceeds in court.