Alabama lawmakers on Thursday postponed a vote on a proposed abortion ban after anger erupted in the state Senate when some Republicans stripped exceptions for rape and incest from the bill.
Shouting broke out in the Senate when the exemption for rape and incest was removed from the bill, which would make performing an abortion at any stage of pregnancy a felony, without a roll call vote.
Democrats and at least one Republican objected to the motion being quickly gaveled through on what they said was an important exception to the proposed abortion ban.
“You’ve got 27 men over on the other side ready to tell women what they can do with their bodies,” Democratic Sen. Bobby Singleton said. “You don’t have to procedurally just try to railroad us.”
Republican Lt. Gov. Will Ainsworth said legislative procedures were followed properly.
Senate President Pro Tem Del Marsh, the Republican leader of the GOP-dominated Senate, suggested lawmakers go home for the weekend to cool off and resume debate next week. Marsh said he supports an exemption for rape.
The anger over the procedural dispute underscored simmering tensions over the proposal that would be the most stringent abortion restriction in the country if approved.
Emboldened by conservative justices who have joined the Supreme Court, abortion opponents in several states are seeking to spark a legal challenge that could eventually lead the court to revisit Roe v. Wade, the 1973 decision that legalized abortion nationwide.
The Alabama bill comes soon after Kentucky, Mississippi, Ohio and Georgiaapproved bans on abortion once a fetal heartbeat is detected, which can occur in about the sixth week of pregnancy.
The Alabama bill, which was approved by the House of Representatives 74-3 last week, goes further by seeking to outlaw abortion outright.
“This bill goes directly to the question of personhood,” Republican Sen. Clyde Chambliss said.
Chambliss said the bill was not about the right of privacy, referring to the legal basis behind Roe but about “the right of an unborn child to live.”
“That child has the right to develop and be delivered without its privacy being invaded, invaded by forceps and scalpels,” Chambliss said.
Opposed senators said supporters were grandstanding in a political fight that will cost the state legal fees that could be spent on health care and other needs.
“I hope that the 27 men on the other side of the aisle are able look at the women in their family in the eye, or the women who are in their district, and be able to explain away their votes to them,” Singleton said.
The bills signal a shift from some conservative states attempting to chip away at the edges of abortion access to a go-for-broke strategy of pushing outright abortion bans.
Critics have promised a swift lawsuit to challenge the ban if enacted and people on both sides say they expect lower courts to block the measure from taking effect. They differ on their expectations of what will happen when an appeal gets to the Supreme Court.