Alabama Senate delays vote on what could become nation's strictest abortion law

Alabama state senators on Thursday postponed a vote on what could become the nation’s strictest abortion ban when the chamber erupted into chaos over a procedural vote.

Some Republicans hastily tried to remove exemptions for rape and incest from the bill without holding an official vote, according to local news reports.

Lawmakers then tabled the final vote until at least next Tuesday.

The bill, the Human Life Protection Act, would make it a felony for a doctor to perform an abortion. The act would be punishable by at least 10 years in prison.

The state House passed the bill last week. The version passed in the House did not include exceptions for rape or incest, only permitting abortions if the pregnant woman’s life would be in danger.

The Senate version of the bill included an amendment with exceptions for rape and incest. Republican legislators attempted to remove those exemptions at the last minute on Thursday, which led to the abrupt postponement of the vote.

According to Senate Minority Leader Bobby Singleton (D), state Lt. Gov. Will Ainsworth (R), who presides over the chamber, tried to quickly table the amendment using a voice vote.

Singleton had called for a full roll call vote on the amendment, so that it could be on the record. Singleton said that three members, which is required under the chamber’s rules, had raised their hands to sustain a motion for a roll call vote. But Ainsworth had already begun the voice vote.

After a shouting match among the lawmakers, Senate President Pro Tem Del Marsh (R) moved to table the vote until next Tuesday.

Singleton said that Ainsworth “refused to respect the Democratic side” of the chamber, and accused him of “a plot and a scheme to run over” the legislative process.

“We’re not going to stand back and just be pushed around,” Singleton told HuffPost.

Gov. Kay Ivey (R) has not made it clear whether she would sign the bill into law.

The bill’s sponsor, state Rep. Terri Collins (R), previously said the goal of the legislation is to trigger a legal challenge to Roe v. Wade, the landmark 1973 Supreme Court decision that ensured a woman’s right to an abortion.

The court’s conservative majority under President Donald Trump has sparked fears that the justices could overturn that decision.

Numerous states with GOP-dominated legislatures have passed abortion restrictions in recent years.

In 2019 alone, state lawmakers have introduced more than 250 abortion restriction bills so far, according to a March report from Planned Parenthood and the Guttmacher Institute, a reproductive rights research organization.

However, many previous bills have been blocked by federal judges.

On Tuesday, Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp (R) signed into a law a so-called “heartbeat” abortion bill, banning abortions at around six weeks of pregnancy, when some say a fetal heartbeat can be detected — but when many women do not even know they are pregnant.

A federal judge blocked a similar bill in Kentucky earlier this year.

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