Alabama to ban abortion, including for rape and incest cases

Governor Key Ivey signed off on the abortion ban in Alabama, setting the stage for a battle that could end up in the US Supreme Court. Several states are seeking to overturn the landmark abortion ruling Roe vs. Wade.

Alabama passed the strictest abortion law in the United States on Wednesday, as Republican governor Key Ivey signed it into law. The bill is set to go into effect in six months.

"To the bill's many supporters, this legislation stands as a powerful testament to Alabamians' deeply held belief that every life is precious and that every life is a sacred gift from God," Ivey said in her statement.

The Republican-dominated Senate also backed the bill which outlaws nearly all abortions, including in cases of rape and incest.

Read more: White House, US states strive to limit abortions at home and abroad

Republican lawmakers and anti-abortion activists hope the legislation will lead to the Supreme Court overturning its landmark 1973 Roe vs. Wade decision legalizing abortion nationwide.

They have been emboldened after the top court swung conservative after President Donald Trump named two judges to it. In supporting the bill, Republican state Senator Clyde Chambliss admitted the whole point is "so that we can go directly to the Supreme Court to challenge Roe versus Wade."

The law, which passed 25-6, would make performing abortions at any stage of pregnancy a felony punishable by up to 99 years in prison. Women undergoing an abortion would not be subject to punishment. There is an exception for when a women's health is at serious risk.

An amendment providing an exception for rape and incest was rejected 21-11, with four Republicans joining Democrats supporting the amendment.

All 27 Republican lawmakers in the 35-seat Senate are men.

Women's rights under assault

Opponents accused Republicans of trying to score political points and endangering women's health.

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"You don't care anything about babies having babies in this state, being raped and incest," Democratic Senator Bobby Singleton said after the amendment's defeat. "You just aborted the state of Alabama with your rhetoric with this bill."

Singleton pointed out that those who perform abortions could get more prison time than a woman's rapist.

Democratic state Senator Linda Coleman-Madison labeled Republicans hypocrites for demanding small government that does not interfere in private matters: "now you want in my womb; I want you out."

Staci Fox, CEO and president of Planned Parenthood Southeast, said Republicans were endangering women's health.

"This is nothing but a political game and women are the pawns," she said. "Let's be honest, banning abortion does not stop abortion. It stops safe and legal abortion."

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Legislation in other states

The Alabama bill goes further than other legislation introduced by Republicans in 14 states seeking to restrict abortions.

Read more: US actress Alyssa Milano calls for sex strike over Georgia abortion law

This year, Georgia, Kentucky, Mississippi and Ohio have outlawed abortion once a heartbeat is detected. Abortion rights supporters call the "heartbeat" legislation a de facto ban on abortion because fetal cardiac activity can be detected as early as six weeks, before a woman may know she is pregnant.

cw,dj/sms (AP, Reuters)

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