Should the Alabama Abortion Act be repealed

Alabama prohibits abortion

The US state of Alabama is making abortion a criminal offense. But the Conservatives have a bigger goal: they want to overturn abortion law across the country.

Washington / Vienna. 99 red, heart-shaped balloons move across the computer screen. A tinny woman's voice belts out Nena's eighties hit “99 Luftballons” with a modified text: “Have a heart, don't let them kill. Help us pass the heartbeat bill "(" Have a heart, don't let them kill. Help us to get the heartbeat law through. ") Then the female voice asks the audience to let a red heart balloon rise as a sign of support.

The anti-abortionists in the USA are fighting for support even with such modest means as this simple Internet video. Since President Donald Trump took office, they have seen a strong boost. Six US states have tightened their abortion laws in the past few months and passed the so-called Heartbeat Bills (heartbeat laws). This rule excludes termination as soon as the first heartbeat of the fetus can be detected - i.e. from around the sixth week of pregnancy. At this point, however, most women do not even know that they are pregnant.

Doctors face life imprisonment

The ultra-conservative, deeply religious Alabama is the state that has gone the furthest: a law was introduced there on Wednesday that almost completely prohibits abortions. Even after rape or incest, a pregnant woman is not allowed to have an abortion. The only exception is when the mother's life is in danger. Doctors who perform an abortion face prison terms of between ten and 99 years. The text of the law now has to be signed by Republican Governor Kay Ivey for it to take effect.

Alabama's Democrats failed with their proposal to introduce a clause that would allow abortions at least in the case of rape, especially of minors. It is only about political maneuvers, for that one would lightly sacrifice the fate of women in need, so the criticism of the opponents. Proponents call it a "strong measure to defend the rights of the unborn".

Human rights organizations have already announced their intention to challenge the Alabama law. In fact, it violates a 1973 landmark ruling that states that women in the United States have the right to have an abortion. But that's exactly what the Conservatives are after. Their bigger goal is to shake abortion laws across the United States by putting the Supreme Court over the 46-year-old ruling. After President Trump has ensured that the court is predominantly occupied by conservative judges, opponents of abortion hope to be able to overturn the fundamental judgment. The Republican Terri Collins, initiator of the law in Alabama, made it clear from the start that it was about more than just "her" state: "With this law, we will get exactly where we want to go."

"Abortion Tourism"

In 1973, the judges in the Roe versus Wade case allowed termination of pregnancy until the fetus was viable (up to the 24th week of pregnancy). The constitutional guardians argued that the encroachment was covered by the right to privacy. Since then, the Supreme Court has stuck to this decision, even in times of conservative majorities. Abortion law has been one of the most contentious issues in the United States for decades. Donald Trump won the 2016 election thanks in part to support from the religious right. And one of their core concerns is the abolition of this right to abortion.

But the debate is also moving in liberal states: Restrictions have been lifted in New York, and constitutional amendments are being considered in Vermont to enshrine abortion law.

Experts agree: Stricter laws will encourage “abortion tourism” in liberal states. However, this cannot be afforded by those who, statistically speaking, have the most frequent abortions: 75 percent are women from low-income strata of the population.

("Die Presse", print edition, May 16, 2019)