Outrage at 25 men who voted for near-total ban on abortion in Alabama

Andy Wells
Freelance Writer
Pro-choice supporters protest in front of the Alabama State House as Alabama state Senate votes on the anti-abortion bill (Reuters)

Pro-choice campaigners have reacted with fury after 25 male Republicans in Alabama’s senate passed a near-total ban on abortion in the state.

The Republican-dominated Alabama Senate voted 25-6 for the bill that would make performing an abortion at any stage of pregnancy a felony punishable by up to 99 years or life in prison.

The only exception to the law would be when the woman's health is at serious risk.

Democratic Senator Bobby Singleton reacted angrily at the vote - and at the gender of those who passed the bill.

He fumed: “You’ve got 27 men over on the other side ready to tell women what they can do with their bodies.”

Senator Rodger Smitherman (D) waits to speak as Senator Bobby Singleton (D) speaks during a state Senate vote on the strictest anti-abortion bill in the United States at the Alabama Legislature in Montgomery, Alabama, U.S. May 14, 2019. REUTERS/Chris Aluka Berry

Senators also rejected an attempt to add an exception for rape and incest. The amendment was voted down 21-11, with four Republicans joining Democrats in the seeking the amendment.

Senator Singleton added: "You don't care anything about babies having babies in this state, being raped and incest.

"You just aborted the state of Alabama with your rhetoric with this bill.”

Others on Twitter - including Democratic Presidential hopefuls Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren - reacted angrily at the group of men deciding on what women are allowed to do with their own bodies.

Following the vote, the title of Margaret Atwood's novel The Handmaid's Tale began trending on Twitter, with many opponents drawing comparisons to the dystopian classic.

The story focuses on an imagined future when an authoritarian government named Gilead attains control of the former United States.

With fertility rates falling, those women able to conceive become Handmaids, forced to submit to ritualised rape to bear children for powerful men and their wives.

Writer Caitlin Moran shared an image of the 22 male senators who voted against an exception for rape or incest, adding: "Gilead is being brought to you by the following people."

Lawyer Dr Ann Olivarius posted: "They all read The Handmaid's Tale and thought it was a set of instructions?"

Emmy Bengston, a communications worker for Democratic presidential hopeful Kirsten Gillibrand tweeted a picture showing "Alabama" trending on Twitter, alongside a host of sport-related topics.

Along with it, she wrote: "I keep thinking about the flashback scene in Handmaid's Tale when the women characters lose their jobs and bank accounts and instinctively know what it means and what's coming, and most people - especially the men - are kind of oblivious and don't take it seriously."

Emboldened by conservative justices who have joined the Supreme Court, abortion opponents in several states are seeking to challenge abortion access.

Kentucky, Mississippi, Ohio and Georgia have approved bans on abortion once a foetal heartbeat is detected, which can occur in about the sixth week of pregnancy.

The Alabama bill goes further by seeking to outlaw abortion outright.

"Our bill says that baby in the womb is a person," Republican Representative Terri Collins, the bill's sponsor, said on Monday.

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There would be no punishment for the woman receiving the abortion, only for the abortion provider.

Supporters said the bill is intentionally designed to conflict with the US Supreme Court's landmark 1973 Roe v Wade decision legalising abortion nationally, because they hope to spark a court case that might prompt the justices to revisit abortion rights.

Democrats, who hold just eight seats in the 35-member Senate, criticised the proposed abortion ban as a mixture of political grandstanding, an attempt to control women and a waste of taxpayer dollars.

Pro-choice supporters protest in front of the Alabama State House as Alabama state Senate votes on the strictest anti-abortion bill in the United States at the Alabama Legislature in Montgomery, Alabama, U.S. May 14, 2019. REUTERS/Chris Aluka Berry

"You don't have to provide for that child. You don't have to do anything for that child, yet you want to make that decision for that woman," Democratic Senator Vivian Davis Figures said.

"It should be that woman's choice.”

Randall Marshall, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Alabama, said a complaint is being drafted to challenge the ban.

Marjorie Newman-Williams, President of Marie Stopes International US, told Yahoo News UK: “The Alabama abortion ban is cruel and unconstitutional. We hope that it will be blocked by the courts, and we’re deeply alarmed to see states attempt to punish women for making choices about their own bodies, lives and futures.”