Proposed bill would repeal law allowing criminal penalties regarding abortion

By WVUA 23 News Reporter Savannah Denton

Alabama Rep. Chris England has pre-filed a bill for the 2023 Legislative Session that would repeal an old law allowing for the criminal prosecution of anyone attempting to get or providing an abortion in Alabama.  

England said the reason he wants this repealed isn’t to protect abortion providers, but to protect women who may be seeking or getting an abortion.

“Everybody I’ve heard from, the attorney general on down says that the intent is never to prosecute a woman,” England said. “Everybody is saying that women should not be prosecuted for terminating a pregnancy.”

But the current law does not differentiate between providers and recipients, England said, and no one who’s already dealing with such a difficult decision should have to fear being prosecuted for a crime.

For nearly 50 years, Roe v. Wade guaranteed the right to an abortion in the United States. It was overturned by the U.S. Supreme Court in 2022.

Alabama is one of 11 states where abortion became illegal as a result of the Supreme Court decision, and the state has among the strictest laws surrounding ending a pregnancy.  

The decision, known as Dobbs v. Jackson, ended federal funding and protections for women’s clinics providing abortions no matter what other services they provide. Funding for more prenatal care did not follow.  

With limited Medicaid reimbursement for prenatal care, decreasing donations and little to no support from the state, clinics including the West Alabama Women’s Center in Tuscaloosa are struggling to keep their doors open.

“We are trying to stay open as long as possible to offer as much care as we can until the point where we just can’t do it anymore,” said WAWC Operations Director Robin Marty.

Currently, WAWC provides patients with prenatal care and family planning services.

The shifting legal landscape has created fear and confusion for residents, including questions regarding miscarriage or treatment when a pregnancy is not viable.  

“Right after Roe v Wade was overturned we saw maybe three or four patients a week, which was alarming but also not surprising,” Mardy said. “People were scared to come to a clinic because they were afraid that people were going to think they were trying to do something illegal.”

Under the existing Alabama law, any person who induces or attempts to induce an abortion, miscarriage or premature delivery is guilty of a misdemeanor.

The 2023 Legislative Session starts Tuesday, March 7 in Montgomery.

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