POLITICS

Alabama Sen. Richard Shelby Won't Say If He Supports Bill Outlawing Abortion

The GOP senator said he has “always supported the Hyde Amendment," which prohibits federal funding of abortions except in cases of rape or incest.

Sen. Richard Shelby (R-Ala.) on Wednesday dodged several questions about whether he supported or opposed far-reaching legislation approved by the Alabama state Senate that would enact a near-total ban on abortion.

The Alabama Republican told reporters he has “always supported the Hyde Amendment,” which prohibits federal funding for abortions except to save the life of the woman, or if the pregnancy arises from incest or rape.

“I think that would change that,” he said of the Alabama legislation, which is now awaiting a possible signature by Gov. Kay Ivey (R). 

Asked if that meant he opposed the bill, Shelby said, “I don’t oppose any of that because I’m not in the legislature.”

The bill passed in a 25-6 vote on Tuesday evening after a lengthy and rancorous debate in the Alabama Senate. It makes no exceptions for victims of rape and incest.

Ivey has not publicly made up her mind on the bill. If she signs it into law, it would become effective within six months. 

Sen. Richard Shelby (R-Ala.)
Sen. Richard Shelby (R-Ala.)

Civil rights groups like the American Civil Liberties Union have already pledged to challenge the measure in court, saying it violates a woman’s right to an abortion under the U.S. Constitution and the landmark Supreme Court ruling Roe v. Wade.

But sparking a Supreme Court review of abortion rights is likely the whole point, as Eric Johnston, who drafted the legislation as president of the Alabama Pro-Life Coalition, has acknowledged.

“That might be the question. It’s a good question,” Shelby said when asked if the Supreme Court might have to rule on the matter in the future.

Democrats and abortion rights groups slammed the bill as “inhumane,” and a number of candidates vying for the Democratic presidential nomination in 2020 condemned it as unconstitutional.

“I refuse to believe that these Republican men represent the views of most Alabamians,” Sen. Doug Jones (D-Ala.), the state’s junior senator, tweeted Tuesday after GOP lawmakers approved the bill. “Their action is both unconstitutional and shameful. The people of Alabama deserve to be on the #rightsideofhistory - not the side of extremists. Women deserve better.”

Other Republican senators were not as willing to weigh in on the matter, however.

“I’m focused on my work here,” Sen. Martha McSally (R-Arizona.) said when asked about the bill on Wednesday.

“I’m going to leave it to folks in Alabama to figure out how to govern that state and we’re going to have to see how it goes up through the courts,” added Sen. Thom Tillis (R-N.C.).

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