Conservative lawmakers in Alabama are pushing one of the country’s most disturbing anti-abortion bills yet.
Earlier this week, Republican state Rep. Ernie Yarbrough introduced HB454, which would allow law enforcement officers to prosecute certain abortion patients for murder or assault. Yes, you read that correctly.
As AL.com reported, the bill proposes expanding the state’s definition of “person” to begin at fertilization, thereby granting fetuses the same rights as living homicide victims. In other words, people who get abortions could be prosecuted as if they’d committed “homicide or assault of a person born alive.”
As if that weren’t appalling enough, HB454 would also permit the prosecution of people whose pregnancy ends as a result of “negligence” or “reckless” behavior. That opens the door for the criminalization of miscarriages too.
Abortions are already illegal in Alabama at all stages of pregnancy. However, a 2019 state law called the Human Life Protection Act prohibits prosecution of abortion patients. If HB454 becomes law, it would override this, further endangering pregnant people who need abortions in the Yellowhammer State.
“From the moment a person is pregnant — whether they are aware or not — that person will now be in immediate danger of being accused of a murder,” Robin Marty, director of operations for the West Alabama Women’s Center, told Abortion, Every Day. “For a state with no sex ed, no birth control, no insurance and no hospitals to now order them to give birth to a healthy baby or go to jail is unconscionable. We cannot let this happen.”
The bill now goes to Alabama’s House Judiciary Committee, who will determine whether it should return to the state House for a vote.
This legislation is only possible because Roe v. Wade was overturned.
This shocking legislation is a byproduct of last summer’s reversal of Roe v. Wade, the landmark Supreme Court ruling that protected abortion access nationwide for nearly 50 years. Now, states are able to implement abortion bans or restrictions — and 19 already have, according to Axios.
Post-Roe, one-third of pregnant Americans who need an abortion now have to travel more than an hour away to reach their nearest abortion provider. Some even have to venture into neighboring states.
Alabama is the latest U.S. state to introduce anti-abortion legislation.
Abortions are safe, common, and nothing to fear, but the GOP has turned this basic medical procedure into a political wedge issue. Anti-abortion bills are now proliferating across the United States — and since many states have already banned the procedure, these legislative attacks are becoming increasingly insidious.
Just last month, Idaho lawmakers introduced an alarming bill that would allow the prosecution of adults who help minors get an abortion. Since Idaho has also barred abortions, this bill could plausibly be used to punish people who help pregnant minors travel across state lines.
On the federal level, a Texas lawsuit is also targeting the FDA’s longstanding approval of mifepristone, one of two drugs commonly used for medication abortions. If the plaintiffs get their way, this safe and effective medication will no longer be available nationwide.
The fight to defend abortion access continues.
This war on reproductive rights is upsetting, yet there are reasons to have hope. The Biden-Harris administration has stated its commitment to defending abortion access across America.
Just this week, advisers for the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) unanimously voted in favor of approving Opill, a daily birth control pill, for over-the-counter sale. If the FDA formally approves it this summer, Opill will become the first contraceptive of its kind available OTC in America, as CNN reported.
Making birth control more widely accessible could help people in abortion-hostile states prevent unwanted pregnancies in the first place.
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