Alabama’s Extreme Abortion Ban Has Feminists Nationwide Fired Up

After postponing a vote on what has been called the most restrictive of recent bans on abortions attempted by state lawmakers, the Alabama State Senate passed HB 314 on Tuesday—and today, it was signed into law.

(Victoria Pickering / Creative Commons)

Every vote in favor of HB 314 was cast by a white Republican man; the measure passed in a 25-3 vote. Set to take effect in several months, the law will outlaw abortion from the moment of conception, and threaten doctors who provide abortions with up to 99 years in jail and felony charges.

“As a physician serving the families of Alabama for 15 years, I know that abortion is health care,” Dr. Yashica Robinson, Board Member of Physicians for Reproductive Health, said in a statement. “It is inappropriate for lawmakers to insert their own belief systems into complex, personal health decisions that could affect my daughter and the people I take care of in Alabama,” Robinson said. “We must protect the health and lives of our loved ones and the future generations of our families.”

While the law does contain exceptions for cases where the mother’s life is at risk, there are no exceptions for cases of rape or incest. Last week, the Senate vote was postponed after a shouting match erupted on the Senate floor between Republicans and Democrats over whether to keep or do away with a provision allowing exceptions for survivors.

“I know you are all for this bill,” Sen. Vivian Davis Figures, one of the only woman in the state Senate, said to her male peers during the initial hearing on HB 314 Thursday, “and I know this bill is going to pass. You all are going to get your way. But at least treat us fairly and do it the right way.”

HB 314 comes on the heels of Georgia’s “backdoor ban” on abortion that criminalizes women who seek out abortion care, even across state lines, after six weeks. It also comes after years of targeted anti-abortion legislation that has left clinics shuttered and providers at risk. That’s because it’s part of a larger effort by anti-abortion forces to punish women and end legal abortion access.

“The threat against women’s rights is not theoretical,” Stephanie Schriock, president of EMILY’s List, said in a statement. “It’s here, it’s real, and it has dire consequences for American women and families. We must act to protect women and their rights. Stop these bans.”

But abortion bans do not end all abortion—they only end legal and safe abortion. Restrictive abortion policies—which disproportionately affect low-income women, rural women and women of colorput the health of pregnant women and entire communities at risk. Obtaining abortion through illegitimate and dangerous channels was commonplace before Roe, and it sentenced many women to death.

“Let me make this clear: these bills are a direct attack on Roe v. Wade.,” Joy Ikekhua, an HBCU and Southern Organizer with the Feminist Majority Foundation’s Feminist Campus program, said in a message to supporters. “They are an attack on every womxn, trans and non-binary person’s reproductive rights. They are an attack on all of our rights to choose what happens to our own bodies.”

In a statement on Thursday, Lt. Gov. Will Ainsworth laid out plainly the goal conservative lawmakers have been hinting at since the confirmation of Justice Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court. “Now that President Donald Trump has supercharged the effort to remake the federal court system by appointing conservative jurists who will strictly interpret the Constitution,” he declared, “I feel confident that the U.S. Supreme Court will overturn Roe and finally correct its 46-year-old mistake.”

But Ainsworth’s underestimates the energy of feminists nationwide. NARAL Pro-Choice America immediately partnered with Alabama’s Yellowhammer Fund for abortion access after the bill was signed by Gov. Kay Ives; the ACLU has already promised to sue the state in order to keep abortion access intact. Robin Marty’s “Handbook for a Post-Roe America,” which lists all the groups working to protect women’s reproductive rights throughout the country, directs women to abortion clinics in Alabama that will stay open until the law goes into effect.

“Now is the time to resist, mobilize and organize,” Ikekhua declared. “We must show our state legislators that we will not be silent and sit by while they put our lives at risk.”

National Asian Pacific American Women’s Forum Executive Director Sung Yeon Choimorrow also vowed to continue fighting. “What remains clear and important to note is that today, and for the immediate future, abortion remains legal in Alabama and every other state,” she said in a statement. “NAPAWF will not stop fighting for our agency to make decisions about our lives, our families and our communities. We demand that the courts do the right thing and listen to communities of color to stop this draconian law in its tracks.”

While women’s rights are under attack, anti-abortion lawmakers are about to be hit twice as hard—by feminists who are fired up and unwilling to go backward.

“When women stood up in record numbers to fight [Supreme Court Justice Brett] Kavanaugh’s nomination, propelled by his alarming record and Trump’s promise to nominate jurists committed to criminalizing abortion and punishing women, we were told we were ‘hysterical’ because Roe was settled law,” NARAL President Ilyse Hogue said in a scathing statement after HB 314 was passed. “Not six months later, we are battling measures where the stated goal is exactly that: outlawing abortion. It’s time to listen to women, not punish us for trying to make critical decisions about our own families and our own lives.”


Ashley LeCroy is an editorial intern for Ms. and a passionate self-identified feminist who aims both to advocate and make space for the world's most marginalized communities. Ashley is currently pursuing a dual degree in Political Science and English with a minor in Anthropology at UCLA—where she writes for FEM, the student-run feminist news magazine, and works on the Art Series staff for the Cultural Affairs Commission.