In one of the poorest states in the nation, the Alabama House passed harsh anti-abortion legislation on Tuesday. The state already had a long list of reproductive health restrictions, including parental consent for minors, state-mandated counseling and ultrasounds, a 24-hour waiting period before receiving an abortion, and limited access to public funds for treatment. Adding to those, this week Alabama lawmakers passed the so-called “heartbeat ban,” which would ban abortions after six weeks of pregnancy—once there is a detectable heartbeat—without exceptions for incest or rape. The bill also increases the waiting period for an abortion to 48 hours, requires women to consider perinatal hospice care if there are abnormalities in the fetus, and makes it even tougher for young women to obtain abortions.
Pro-choice advocates have strongly opposed this type of legislation particularly because many women don’t yet know they are pregnant at six weeks. Similar legislation was considered last year in Ohio and North Dakota. The deliberations also became racially charged when State Rep. Alvin Holmes (D) stated, “99 percent of the whites that are sitting in here now, if [their] daughter got pregnant by a black man, they gonna make their daughter have an abortion.” More than a quarter of Alabama residents are black, and the Latino population has also been steadily increasing. And of the 542,770 women in Alabama who need access to contraceptive services and supplies, 19 percent are black, 4 percent are Latina, and 19 percent live below the federal poverty level.